The Audi RS3 saloon - a Valyrian fist in a Gucci glove
FEW cars are capable of covering ground as outrageously fast or as competently as Audi's RS3, writes William Scholes.
In fact, so massive are its abilities that there is an argument that it is a little bit, well, too much for Irish roads - at least that's what I grudgingly came to conclude after alternately thrilling and scaring myself in one for a week last year. An S3 would do the job just as well, I reckoned.
Audi, on the other hand, obviously think the RS3 was neither scary nor thrilling enough.
To coincide with adding a saloon bodystyle to the existing five-door hatch, Audi has also given the RS3's engine a boost in power
That means a jump from 362bhp to a whopping 395bhp - around 10 per cent, in other words, in a car which already felt over-powered... - while torque moves from 343lb/ft to 354lb/ft.
The 0-62mph time is now just 4.1 seconds and the top speed can be limited to 174mph but that only tells part of the story of the way the RS3 goes about its business of scaring driver and passengers - power is delivered with a rare ferocity and relentlessness, aided by quattro four-wheel-drive grip, massive brakes and a lightning-shifting double-clutch gearbox.
The 2.5-litre turbocharged engine, unusual for its five-cylinder architecture, is one of the car world's most charismatic powerplants, with a sub-race car soundtrack.
The current RS3 Sportback, with the less powerful engine, costs just under £41,000, so it seems reasonable to expect a hike in prices when the new engine and saloon body join the range.