These days, the upper echelon of the hatchback segment is a veritable arms race between just two high-end superpowers: Mercedes-AMG and Audi Sport. Ever since Mercedes made its first attempt at entering Audi RS3 territory in 2013 with the first-generation A45 AMG, it’s been an eye-for-an-eye exchange between the mad scientists in Affalterbach and Neckarsulm, as both compete to make the most Quick. five gates on the planet.
This year, the competition gets especially hot. Audi’s newly released fourth-generation A3 landed in Australia in early 2022 with the launch of the RS3 flagship last month, while the second-generation Mercedes-AMG A45 has been patiently waiting for its old rival to show up since mid-2022. 2020.
In Australia, the two striking hatchbacks come with a very high level of standard specification, with little on the options list that you, as a driving enthusiast, really want or need to add. As well as being German C-segment small cars, the two also align very closely on things like power, torque, driveline setup, and driving modes, and their performance metrics are remarkably close.
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Now suppose you don’t have a brand loyalty that influences you one way or another, which one is the most worthy? These cars were never cheap, but now they’re more expensive than ever, so if you’re looking for the one that will give you the best bang for your buck, you’ll need to read on.
Price points are an easy starting point, and for most of us, the size of our budget is the biggest limiting factor. Now, since these are top predators of their kind, neither of these cars is what you’d consider affordable: You’ll need to extract $99,895 before road costs from your wallet for the Mercedes-AMG A45 S 4Matic, and $91,391 for the RS3 Sportback.
But even if you add $2500 to get the RS3 in four-door sedan form, the Audi has a useful advantage over the A45 and leaves a bit more change in your pocket for customization. Speaking of which, the RS Styling Package ($2,150) brings contrast stitching and two-color upholstery in green or red, and the Carbon Limited Package ($6,100) adds a carbon fiber roof spoiler, mirror caps from carbon, carbon and gloss side skirt details. -Black decorations for the exterior.
Honestly, though… you don’t need them. The RS3 looks aggressive enough without those things, which neatly brings us to the next section.
This is perhaps the area where the RS3 and A45 differ the most. AMG’s hatch looks comparatively understated when lined up with the Audi’s chiseled edges, shrinking into the background thanks to bodywork that, at fifty paces, doesn’t look THAT different from an A35 thanks to subtle widening of its arches and a sleeker design. Similary. issues to your plastic bumpers. Were it not for the spoiler above its liftgate and the distinctive vertically slatted Pan-American grille, the A45 would easily blend into traffic.
And some may like that, but extroverts will probably gravitate towards the RS3’s wilder personality. The RS3 is 168mm wider than an Audi S3 (the A45 is just 54mm wider than an A35), and there’s further visual differentiation between the two courtesy of the RS3’s matte center grille, checkered flag DRL pattern , the shovel-shaped rear bumper graphic, chrome exterior trim, and prominent fender vents behind the front wheel wells.
The RS3 also has the benefit of a brighter color palette, with lurid shades of green, blue, yellow and red available (Kyalami Green and Python Yellow are the most eye-catching in the range, with Kyalami Green being exclusive to the RS). .
The A45’s color gamut is much more muted, with Sun Yellow being the only remotely flamboyant shade available. A dark red and a dark blue are also available, but the other six available colors are all monochromatic black, grey, white and silver – the full spectrum of the German rainbow.
Both are hitting $100,000 before the roads (the A45 certainly tops it when you factor in resupply and insurance), so both ship with plenty of gear for their hard-earned.
Common features are dual-screen cockpits (one in the center to handle media, the other in front of the driver as an electronic instrument panel), head-up displays, stereos, power-adjustable front seats, leather upholstery, active cruise control , launch control, and highly customizable drive modes that let you modify the behavior of the suspension, steering, gearbox, and drivetrain to your liking.
However, there is one feature that separates the two that is far less sexy, but arguably quite important from a roominess standpoint: trunk space. In the A45, you get a segment-average 370-litre cubic capacity with the seat up, but the RS3 Sportback only gets you a measly 282 litres. Even opting for the larger boot RS3 sedan only gets you 315 litres, so those who need to carry some gear on a regular basis may want to bring a tape measure on their test drive to see if the Audi will suffice for their needs.
Okay, this is probably the part that will REALLY matter to most of you.
Under the hood, both the AMG and RS are engineering marvels. In the Mercedes you’ll find the world’s most powerful production four-cylinder engine, a 2.0-litre inline four-cylinder engine that blows gasoline and pressurized air from a large turbo, reaching peak power and torque of 310kW and 500Nm respectively.
In the RS3, there is one of the most unusual engine configurations in the world: an inline five-cylinder engine. With a displacement of 2.5 liters and an additional piston, you can assume that the Audi has a power advantage over the A45. It doesn’t, with its peak power stat ‘only’ reaching 294kW and torque being in line with the AMG at 500Nm.
The AMG also has an extra gear to play with in its eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, so one could also assume that it will have a gear advantage over the RS3’s seven-speed transmission and thus be able to keep your engine within the meatiest part. from your powerband most of the time. Right? Not quite.
Audi’s factory zero-to-hundred acceleration claim for the RS3 is 3.8 seconds, a tenth quicker than what Mercedes quotes for the A45 S. How? The secret may lie in the torque: while the A45 and RS3 put out the same number of Newtons, the AMG achieves that number within a narrow rpm window between 5000 and 5250rpm, while the RS3 makes a full 500Nm from 2250 rpm up to 5600 rpm. Given torque is what gets cars off the line, that’s probably the secret ingredient here.
But it goes even further than that. Testers in the UK have recorded the RS3 Sportback as capable of covering a quarter mile in under 12 seconds, and various outlets around the world have recorded 0-100km/h times that are at least two or three tenths of a second faster than those of Audi. Claim of 3.8 seconds. Those brainiacs from Neckarsulm have been sandbagging.
For drivetrain technology, the two cars take similar paths. The A45 S adopted a smart rear differential when it transitioned to the current generation two years ago, bringing with it a set of clutch packs for each rear wheel that allow the car to distribute torque from the left wheel to the right wheel based on driving conditions. conditions. and driver demand. With torque vectoring doing its job, the car can turn faster and resist understeer through intelligent power distribution, and it’s also unlocked something you’re all sure to love: a dedicated drift mode.
Interesting stuff! Unfortunately for Mercedes, Audi stole the same strategy from its playbook, equipping the RS3 with a rear diff that can do the exact same tricks, with the only difference being that Audi is a bit shy about drifting, rather than tag your rear diff that improves slippage. “RS Torque Rear” capability instead of AMG’s much simpler “Drift Mode.” Both cars will definitely drift big time if you have a skid or racetrack to play with, and both can be driven on the throttle like a rear-wheel drive car.
Adjustable damping technology is fitted to both vehicles, but Audi has added dynamic brilliance thanks to a very fast variable-ratio rack with less than two turns lock-to-lock. The Mercedes has a few more degrees of wheel spin, which means drivers will be able to turn from left to right quicker in the Audi, in theory.
The Audi also comes with the option of carbon ceramic brakes, which replace the front steel rotors with a pair of carbon elements. Does it stop stronger than the A45? We haven’t gotten out our tape measures yet, but experience with the carbon-steel brakes on the RS3 suggests spending the extra $13,000 to get them (they’re included with the RS Dynamic Package, which also increases speed). limiter to 290 km / h), it is not exactly money well spent. The Audi’s steel stoppers are more than enough, and perhaps Mercedes has chosen wisely not to offer a similar carbon brake package for its hyper hatch.
One thing Audi doesn’t have, and perhaps should, is a decent set of seats. The standard front seats in the RS3 are good enough for the occasional squirt on a public road, but lack upper-body support when cornering particularly tight. The Mercedes has similar seats as standard, but at least it gives you the option to upgrade to Performance Seats that really hug the body as part of the AMG Performance package, which brings in a few extra aerodynamics, an engine sound enhancer and the aforementioned chairs. . At $5,790 it’s worth the expense for the seats alone, and we wish the RS3 had a similar option.
Are you a fan of track days? Both cars should delight you on a track, and both manufacturers will sell you a set of ultra-grippy Pirelli Trofeo R tires as a dealer option. With both cars attacking the same circuit with the same tire compound, the results would surely make for an illuminating and definitive back-to-back test, don’t you think? Now there is an idea for a comparison…