It’d be easy to look upon Audi celebrating 40 years of Audi Sport - or just quattro GmbH, as it emerged in October 1983 - at the Nurburgring as a cynical marketing ploy. Everybody knows the ‘ring, and it’s never more popular than N24 weekend - job jobbed for some anniversary promo. But that would be doing its motorsport achievements a disservice: in the GT3 era of the Nurburgring 24-Hour, an R8 has taken six overall victories and three additional GT3 class wins at the endurance epic, making Audi the most successful manufacturer (even if Ferrari rained on its parade this year).
It only seemed right to mark the big Audi Sport 4-0 with our own celebration, too. It had to be a five-cylinder car, of course, because here would the four rings be without their five-pot fascination? We’re playing to glory days past in some capacity, too, with a very muted but very fast Audi saloon like they used to make. And which certainly aren’t going to happen any longer. It’s - drum roll, please - an RS3 saloon.
It's a specific RS3 saloon, however, and more interesting than some might give it credit for. Most notably it’s not the most recent version, the best-driving RS3 that’s now off-sale. It’s a proper riot, but with its cheap interior and OTT looks the 8Y generation isn’t without its drawbacks. The fact that this is a four-door RS3 is notable at all is because it was actually only introduced later in the old 8V’s life: there were a couple of hatch-only years from 2015. The 2017 update was more than the introduction of a boot up the backside, too, with the 2.5-litre turbo overhauled for 33hp more and 26kg less plus further revisions to the Quattro all-wheel drive. It still wasn’t deeply thrilling to drive, but it was improved - the 2017-on RS3 is the one you want from that era.
But only before the filters, of course. The RS3 was taken off sale in 2018 for a petrol particulate filter to be fitted and keep it compliant with the incoming Euro 6b emissions rules. It was back in showrooms in 2019 as broadly the same car with identical power and torque, but the warble had been muffled, never to return. This saloon is on a 67 plate, so the sonic signature of the five-cylinder should be alive and well.
Gets better, too. It’s an Audi RS car that isn’t grey, black, or white, which is cause for celebration, and on silver wheels as well. The glass isn’t tinted, magnetic ride has been optioned on and even the rear badge is gone; to very nearly everybody, this is just another A3 saloon, not a 400hp Audi Sport rocket. Which is quite cool. The interior is similarly subdued, and we’d take that all day over flashy.
The RS3 now sits on 47,000 miles, with three Audi dealer services to its name and a new MOT to come when it’s sold. The £35,995 asking price is comparable with similar cars (there are only a couple of facelifted cars at less than £35k) and it looks in good order for six years of driving. Maybe not the most exciting birthday gift ever, but then 40 is quite a grown-up celebration. And it looks like perfect transport for next year’s N24.
SPECIFICATION | AUDI RS3 SALOON (8V)
Engine: 2,480cc, 5-cylinder turbo
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic, Quattro all-wheel drive
Power (hp): 400@5,850-7,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 354@1,700rpm
Top speed: 174mph
Year registered: 2017
Recorded mileage: 47,000
Price new: £43,765 (before options)
Yours for: £35,995
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