Official images: Audi unleashes 340bhp RS3. BMW 1-series M Coupe set firmly in its sights

Audi has revealed its keenly awaited RS3 some four months before the rapid four door hatchback is due to reach European showrooms wearing a price tag of €49,900 – or a cool $68,090 on today’s euro/dollar currency exchange rate.
Running the same turbocharged 2.5-litre five-cylinder direct injection gasoline engine as the under rated TT RS, Audi‘s new performance model boasts an impressive 340bhp and 450Nm (332lb ft) of torque, pushing it well ahead of the already heavily lauded S3, whose turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder direct injection gasoline engine deliver 265bhp and 350Nm (258lb ft), for outright muscle.
Channeling the RS3’s prodigious reserves is a seven speed double clutch S-Tronic gearbox equipped with steering wheel mounted paddle shifters and a one touch launch control system for optimal getaways. The new gearbox is allied to a beefed up version of Audi’s Haldex multi-plate clutch four-wheel drive system providing a nominal 40:60 apportioning of drive front-to-rear.
At 1575kg, the new Audi tips the scales some 60kg above the S3. Not that it matters much. Official performance figures put its 0-62mph (100km/h) time at just 4.6secs – the same as that quoted for the significantly more powerful RS5, whose naturally aspirated 4.2-litre V8 kicks out 450bhp and 430Nm (317lb ft) of torque. It's also 1.1sec faster than Audi claims for the S3. Top speed, like all models that hail from Audi’s increasingly busy Sport division, is limited to 155mph.

Further images and info after the jump

Chassis tweaks adopted by the RS3 include widened tracks (the front goes up by 42mm over the S3 at 1564mm, while the rear is up by 22 at 1528mm), a 25mm lowering of the MacPherson strut and multi-link suspension, firmer springs and dampers as well as the inclusion of 19-inch alloy wheels wrapped with 225/35 (front) and 235/35 (rear) tires.
The new Audi also runs 370mm discs up front and 310mm discs at the rear. Audi Sport, the same in-house division responsible for the R8, has also recalibrated the RS3’s ESP (stability control program) to include a new sport mode providing delayed intervention for what its engineers describe as more agile handling.
It'll need to be agile if it is to get close to the upcoming BMW 1-series M Coupe - just one of the RS3's percieved rivals. Planned to be unveiled at the Detroit auto show in January, Munich's new price leading M-car is claimed to pack up to 340bhp from its twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder engine. Unlike the RS3, though, it boasts a traditional six-speed gearbox and rear-wheel drive.
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