Audi is in the closing stages of development for its next RS3 Saloon, the swept-back version of the five-cylinder super hatch that calls the AMG A45 its arch rival. Seen here testing in Germany, the all-wheel drive model is due for launch later this year with an updated version of that much-loved 2.5-litre engine and a number of chassis alterations, set to unlock more dynamism so it can keep up the fight with Affalterbach's tail-happy monster.
It would also be a continuation of form for Audi Sport, which has been giving its models increasing amounts of throttle-adjustability to flip those dated accusations of blunt handling on their head. The RS3 and RS3 Saloon will share much with the Audi RS Q3, a car that - while not exactly the last word in engagement - has genuine playfulness embedded into its jacked-up chassis. The RS3's setup advantages could very well provide engineers with an opportunity to take this trait further.
As such, we'll make the following assumptions with optimism: the RS3's Haldex diff should be keener to send torque rearwards, the front axle drive will be tuned to negate understeer and the adaptive chassis tech will do its best to keep the body flat through the corners. It's a tried and tested formula in Audi Sport's larger models, such as the RS6 and RS7, of course, and one that's helped the marque encroach on its rivals' reputations for fun as well as outright pace. And let's face it, this is a division with products that've certainly never lacked in the latter.
On that subject, the turbocharged engine nestled beneath the RS3 Saloon's bonnet will be largely the same as the present car's, but with updates to ensure legality through the stringent twenties. As such, we're not expecting an explosion of extra power to come from its five inline cylinders; something just north of 400hp seems likely - enough to ensure it remains right on the toes of that aforementioned AMG competitor.
In reality, the technical restrictions of the VW Group all-wheel drive hardware might make it hard to offer the lunacy of the A45's driveline - that is a car with a drift mode, don't forget - but mixing that characterful five-pot and its enormous pace with a RS3 base more eager on the nose sounds like a winning combination.
With BMW's M135i having now switched from rear-drive six-pot to lesser-powered all-wheel drive four-cylinder, the upcoming RS3 arguably has an easier job of luring in buyers. And with that five-cylinder engine at the centre of its argument, it's got a very significant asset in its armoury, one that even the ballistic A45 might struggle to provide an answer for. That thought is at least something to look forward to when the world comes out of lockdown...