The top of the range to the top of the mountain
Let us be very clear about what we did with the RS6 and the RS3. We took them for a long pursuit combining a highway and a mountain road to deliberately see how they would shine at their given strengths and crumble at their weaknesses. It would seem fairly obvious even to a crowd from the non-motoring fraternity that the 2 ton saloon will be delightful on the highway and cumbersome on the mountain pass compared to the RS3 which would certainly excel in the twisty mountain roads leaving the 4.8 meter long RS6 looking rather silly and out of place. We were wrong
I drove the RS6 first. Picked it up with the PR team and had the usual delightful coffee and a chat. It seems the RS6 as accrued a few fans, there is a clear preference for it over the whole fleet from the team. Having been in the R8+ recently I thought it odd. After all how could you choose a family estate car over an R8+ even with a new sexy name as ‘Avant’.
Walk around the RS6 and you notice every one of its 4.8 meters (let’s call it 5) that it takes to get to the back. This is large car and so is the boot swallowing my motorbike jacket, helmet and gloves with ease. All strapped down under a handy elasticated luggage net. This was a warning a family car that comes with a nylon cable net anchored to all four corners of the boot is not normal. Climb inside and the detail in the cabin is sumptuous. The cabin is dripping in carbon fiber and the crowning glory is the carbon fiber weave has been woven with blue – the same blue as the car. It is a fantastic toush and as the sunlight falls on to it shines. It is the first thing pointed out to all that ride as passenger and always greeted with a moment of appreciation
The dashboard is large and perfectly crafted. It has a arrows head style band of aluminum (we assume) which runs right into the door cards outlining the frame of the handle section which also happens to be carbon fiber woven with blue. This car came with the heads up display option which seems a bit of an afterthought from the wonderfully styled dashboard as it is quite bulky and sits on it just behind the steering wheel. Go less than a kilometer or two and you see how essential this heads up display is. For the first few kilometers the indicator just appears at 100. Such is the grace of the RS6 that learning to arrive to that figure and not shoot past it takes a little practice. If you have wanted to ride the space shuttle or are waiting for your turn on the Richard Branson space flight you can always buy an RS6 in the meantime and experience two large turbos clamped to 4 litre V8 for Nasa-space rocket boost whenever you like. Unlike a sports car expect your passengers to enjoy it too and if you haven’t strapped the dog down with the cargo net factor in a trip to the vet. The dash also holds the Audi Multi Media Infotainment screen that appears and disappears at the touch of a button with everything controllable from the center console. Here we would prefer the new Audi cockpit full digital screen as the MMI does distract from the well-crafted dashboard when up. The seats are black suede/leather in the Alacantara style with honeycomb pattern adding to the luxurious feel. A look in the back and the same level of detail continues with controllable air zones for the rear passengers to play with.
Driving the RS6 is easy the dynamic steering has become something of a favorite, it widens the steering angle at low speed and narrows it at highway speed giving you faultless positioning on the highway and a great turning circle in car parks and narrow exit ramps we are blessed with in UAE. On our way to Jebal Jais the RS6 shows you just how good a highway cruiser it is lapping up kilometers of road in no time at all.
Time to jump in the RS3. Straight away I’m sitting more upright, its cosy the cabin is Audi familiar with the Audi MMI screen that pops up from the center of the dash board. The engine start button is found on the center console and a quick depress and the engine barks into life like you have just stepped on a wild dog’s tail. Caution is the first thing that springs to mind. I may have just come from 605 horsepower RS6 Avant a flagship car by all means but this car sounds angry. The engine then resumes to idle with a very familiar warble from the exhaust of a large turbo charged engine. We hit the motorway and immediately the RS3 demands you have fun. It begs you to change lanes and make as much progress as possible whenever possible. The way this car handles is addictive the more you turn, accelerate and slow down the more you want to repeat it over and over again. The 367 horsepower is all at the top of the engines power band and absolutely loves exploding into the red changing up starting 5K rpm and exploding into the red again. No wonder this engine is a descendant to from Audis heritage in the rally world where they decimated all in the 1980’s.
We stop at a petrol station and swap thoughts on the RS6 and the RS3. First and foremost the brakes on the RS3 are incredible they bring the car to an immediate stand still it is like hitting an immovable object. A quick look and they appear to be exactly the same size discs and calipers found on the RS6. Maybe Audi didn’t want to make separate set of brakes for the RS3 and they found these would fit so on they go to a car weighing 500 kilos less. The results are spectacular
It appears you seem get more or less double car in the RS6 and of course for double the money. The RS6 is 499,000 aed with 26,000 aed worth of extras in the form of the carbon package and heads up display. The RS3 comes in just under half that and has a 5 cylinder 2.5 litre turbocharged engine. By contrast the RS6 has nearly double the engine capacity, not quite a full 5 litres but 4 litres however you do get 2 turbos rather than 1. The RS3 is not the roomiest in the back seats but it is adequate and good for a hot hatch. The boot is sizeable so no complaints here.
The RS6 on the other hand is practically 5 meters long (did we mention that) and is a luxury cruiser with 605 horsepower on tap. The space in the boot and in the cabin for passengers is large and comfortable. This is a car you would drive from Dubai to Salalah fully loaded with friends and luggage rather than fly. As for the horsepower the RS3 is 367 and the RS6 605 so the RS3 nips the overall value contest if we were to look at these two on paper alone
On the way to Jebal Jais I toggle through the RS3’s magnetic suspension and set it to comfort. The RS3 settles into its new suspension setting and becomes a more relaxed and composed companion for the drive. I think of how well this little car is settling in until I hear what for a fleeting second makes you think you have taken a wrong turn and are near an airport but no that is the sound of an RS6 powering past you. It is quite a sight and you don’t see it for long. The bonnet of the RS6 has risen up leaving gaps under the front wheel arches, the back of the car is squatting down doing the opposite the rear wheels disappearing in the arches. Make no mistake that is a lot of power being delivered and as I catch a glimpse of my colleague who you would think might be focused behind the wheel with 605 German horses under his right foot. He is focused – on leisurely drinking a cappuccino while nattering away on the hands free telephone system. Such is the luxury of the RS6 and the ease it puts the driver at
Reaching the base of the Jebal Jais and the RS3 becomes the road going rally car its snarling engine wants it to be. Greeted with blocks of slow moving 4×4’s the RS3 powers past them tucking in the spaces with miles of room and off out again as soon as the road permits. The RS6 is now no longer in sight the thought of waiting is soon over ruled by the empty road ahead. The twist and turns come thick and fast but the RS3 just keeps performing completely undisturbed. Select manual and then RS3 sings. Its perfection, sitting in second gear right into the corners powering out in the upper limit to change up into 3rd gear sending you flying through. We live in 2 and 3rd all the way to the top and hop out eyes wide, hands sweaty adrenalin pumping no sign of the RS6. Soon it appears and I try and convey what I have just been through and how good the RS3 is especially in manual. The words don’t sink in my colleague is trying to explain to me how good the RS6 is up the mountain but it can’t be a spot on the RS3. After trying to convince each other that their own car is the best (and failing) we head down and fully aware of break fade and instant death by rolling over the mountain it is with extreme caution all the way. Here the RS3 goes beyond my expectations dealing with downward forces through hairpins turning back on themselves provide with precise road manners. We run out of the mountain pass and I notice I had never actually lost the RS6 completely. We emerge from our cars and my neck hurts, the RS3 has injured me. The grip is so fierce and forces generated so strong I have slightly pulled a muscle in my neck from the experience. I jump into the RS6 and immediately fall into a large comfortable cabin oozing luxury. Just as well I don’t think my neck would have taken another round trip.
I follow the RS3 up the mountain pass and really have no desire to even attempt to keep up with it. After all I have driven it and there is no way a 2 ton 5 meter long car with no matter how much power can corner like that. Wrong – it can and does easily. I follow the RS3 up the pass and notice my colleague is corning in it like a go kart the rubber is chirping and it seems to be hopping round the corners I go in slow and come out with a bit of acceleration and the RS6 doesn’t falter. As the corners and chicanes come thick and fast I am now growing in confidence and sitting not far of the RS3 in fact he can’t get away and all I need do is apply a bit more power on the straight and I will come very close the RS3. I do not have the sweaty hands-adrenalin pumped sensation or the neck ache but I am very comfortable and consider listing to the radio where as in the RS3 it was all focus focus focus. The RS6 will take lot of hard corners far more than I am going to give it as I am aware the laws of physics have lied to me; there is no way I should be nipping at the heels of a bonafied road going rally car. The driver is a regular karter, has two of the most powerful sports bikes on the market and frequents the Autodrome track so I know he is trying where as I place myself on the upper end of average (driving skills) and can rack up as many brunches as he does weekends on the track but here I am carving up the mountain pass. In the past I have noticed a shuffling of power from previous Quattro systems when put under strain but not here. It is impossible to tell where the power is being diverted and with 605 horses a slight jolt or tell-tale sign would be understandable but nothing at all is phenomenal
At the top we meet each other and the roles have reversed I am now calm and relaxed while my colleague emerges from the RS3 declaring “it’s a go kart on steroids