Where will it all end? Twenty years ago, it was almost unheard of for even the fastest hot hatches to boast more than 200PS. In contrast, in 2015, Audi brought us a second generation RS3 model boasting 376PS, a thumping 465Nm of torque and a sprinting capability that could see the 62mph benchmark flash by in only 4.3s en route to a top speed that if unrestricted, would reach 174mph.
Once, these would have been supercar stats, but with this original MK2 model RS3, you could get them packaged into an ordinary five-door family hatch. We say that but of course in reality, any RS3 is anything but ordinary. Its original £40,000 price tag certainly wasn't. Still, don't dismiss the car simply because it's expensive if already, you've one eye on high performance shopping rockets from the 2015 to 2017 era like the Volkswagen Golf R, the Honda Civic Type-R or the BMW M135i: remember that during this time, Audi offered its 2.0-litre turbo S3 model to directly target hot hatches such as those. The 2.5-litre RS3 Sportback sits in the more exalted 'super-hatch' class above. For rivals here, think instead of manic models like Ford's Focus RS or the Mercedes-AMG A45. It's cars like these that this Audi would count as its contemporaries.
It's worth recalling that it was the original version of this car, the 341PS first generation RS3 of 2012, that initially established the concept of a hot hatch with supercar-style performance. Customers loved it and Audi sold four times as many as it thought it was going to. Journalists though, didn't, criticising the car's soul-less dynamics, lifeless steering and general lack of agility. A model of this kind, they told Audi, had to be about more than just ultimate grip and prodigious speed. The 'RS' 'Racing Sport' badge deserved something better.
In response, the engineers at the Ingolstadt brand's performance division, quattro gmbh, brought us this second generation version in 2015. Changes made over the original design included more power, more torque and, to aid agility, lighter weight and faster reactions from the S tronic auto gearbox and the quattro 4WD system. On top of that, buyers got the option of adaptive damping, so they wouldn't be stuck with an over-firm ride when it wasn't wanted. Plus the brakes were better and the more efficient 2.5-litre turbo crackled its way through the S tronic auto transmission's seven speeds with an even more characterful howl. This original MK2 design sold for less than two years before it was replaced by an uprated 400PS model in mid-2017.