Fast enough from a standing start to trouble your blood flow; fast enough even to almost convince you that your phone is dropping 4G because the radio waves can’t keep up. Strapped to a V-Box in 2015, the last model clocked 3.9sec to 60mph while two-up under road test conditions - Lord knows how many fractions the latest iteration has ousted from its sprint time.
Whether or not its visceral savagery is actually soul-movingly immersive is another genuine question, yet it is made to feel of middling importance by the sheer heft of the end result. Certainly, as before, the car feels huddled around its monster powertrain - although it is to the chassis’ considerable credit that it never feels remotely overawed by the additional effort.
Indeed, 30-odd horsepower of additional forcefulness is folded impassively into the workings of a reportedly quicker-witted and lighter clutch-plate-based quattro system. It makes itself felt in a similar fashion to the latest RS5; in low-speed corners, a bulkhead-finding amount of throttle input will have the torque manifestly vectoring to the outside rear wheel, conferring (in the wet, at least) the fleeting impression of a more sophisticated front-to-back balance.
Given the RS3’s previous preference for understeer, any effort to draw dynamic attention away from the (optionally) fatter front tyres is to be cheered. So, too, is the mostly benign temperament of the (standard) passive suspension. Very slightly more forgiving in the saloon than in the Sportback, the car rides firmly and energetically, but is rarely incessant despite an unambiguous vertical stiffness. The optional Sport set-up, complete with Audi’s familiar adaptive dampers, makes life more pleasant still with a slower-rate ‘Comfort’ mode, although its sportiest setting is arguably too rheumatic for UK roads – making suspension choice a mildly contentious issue.
More contentious still are the RS3’s unresolved irritations. The steering remains a vague bugbear: over-assisted in its easier setting and still a bit fudgy in ‘Dynamic’, the rack never feels a notch above adequate. That’s a shame for the most obvious reason: if the car steered like a Renault Mégane 275 Trophy-R, it would be exponentially more involving than it currently is.
The seven-speed S tronic gearbox has its moments, too. It has supposedly been made quicker, but it’s still not beyond the occasional bungled downshift or scatterbrained pull away; also, its paddles are too small and not nearly mechanical enough in feedback to properly punctuate the kind of extravagant, full-bore upshifts that are taking place beneath you.
Elsewhere, the model is handsomely equipped – in the UK, Audi’s Virtual Cockpit system is standard; but charging £1000 for the crucial RS Sports exhaust seems a little mean and the pop-up infotainment screen is plainly of a lesser standard than the latest Golf R’s touchscreen.