More than a classic duel, pitting the BMW M2 Competition against the Audi RS3 feels like a farewell try. Both at the end of their careers, they will remain as the best high-performance compacts of recent years. In both cases, a sensational engine … and two very distinct ways of chasing the clock.
The Mercedes Class A 45 AMG, deliberately excluded because it is being renewed, was anyway quickly eliminated from the debate during a previous three-way comparison. While waiting for the imminent arrival of the new A 45 and its impressive 421 hp 4-cylinder (caricature of downsizing), the observation remains the same: the higher the displacement, the better. The 6 in line of M2, theatypical 5 cylinders of the RS3, ring and breathe true. Certainly the best and most endearing compact sports car lately.
Extract from the TURBO show of February 3, 2019
Obviously, the diametrically opposed design and architecture of our two Bavarians could precipitate the arbitration. The RS3, a boosted Audi A3, remains a compact 5-door whose platform is designed to be traction, by default. The transverse engine also technically prohibits having a “real” permanent Quattro. The Series 2, even in its wise versions, is the coupe variant of the defunct Series 1 … pure propulsion therefore.
M3 core against 5 cylinders
The technical sheet breaks down the prejudice in favor of the BMW. The Competition version, unlike the classic M2 that has disappeared from the catalog, receives the 6 inline 3-liter biturbo S55, well known under the hood of M3 and M4, and no longer the N55 shared with the M140i and others (much more civilized in its character). The carbon reinforcements are also used, in order to stiffen the engine cradle. Here, however, the power has been reduced to 410 hp compared to the M3. It’s always 40 hp more than the simple M2, and 10 hp more than the RS3.
The M2 Competition differs from the classic M2 by its grille, its shield … and the 6 in line of the M4! The RS3, for its part, is advancing the last 5-cylinder available on the market.
Audi side, it’s a little mechanical curiosity: the last 5 cylinders in the world, the 2.5-liter TFSI strong 400 hp. Less powerful and less torquey (480 Nm against 550 Nm for the BMW), which does not prevent it from largely standing up to the M2. Already, the Audi is surprisingly lighter despite its all-wheel drive, announced at 1,515 kg or 60 kg less than the M2. It is true that the whole engine-box of this one is more massive.
But first, the confrontation quickly turns into an escalation of sensations. To the hairy growls of the 5 cylinder, the M2 responds with a characteristic growl that emerges from the 6 in line Motorsport. Question of perception, we find the temperament of the Audi block more endearing, faced with the somewhat rocky rage and the hardly too present supercharging of the M2. In both cases, sacred concert! And in its defense, the M2 likes it more at high speeds than the Audi block … Up to 7,600 revs, it screams! The “five legs” of the RS3, him, vituperates and pushes hard everywhere, in a more linear register and stops earlier.
60 kg difference … in favor of the Audi RS3, surprisingly lighter despite its all-wheel drive. Efficient, but the dynamic balance suffers from the distribution of masses: a lot of weight on the front axle.
Cold chronos or total fun?
Fatally, the Quattro of the RS3 and its formidable traction allow it to take the lead in numbers. 3 tenths of gain from 0 to 100 km / h (4.1 s against 4.4 s), it is far from being insignificant. But the gap is reduced in revivals at higher speeds, where the M2 speaks its beefier couple, and both peak at 280 km / h. Depending on the field, talents differ. Not so much about the outcome as how to get there : at the wheel of the M2, the mobile rear, its propulsion balance logically give in the drift to the old, even without extreme provocation. A little tricky, sometimes. But the controls are in tune: the firm steering, easy to adjust brakes and biting (for once) … and the driving position, in the enveloping tubs inherited from the M4, invites you to get involved. More than on board the RS3, the environment of an A3 being more civil.
Still, there is something offbeat and completely crazy in the way the RS3 uses its 400 hp. Ultra-neutral, not really playful, but the passage of power to the ground is mind-boggling … Confidence builds quickly, after a few laps on the Pau-Arnos circuit. We disconnect the assistance without fear, unlike the BMW which invites you to take steps carefully.
Extreme ease against a purist temperament, 5 cylinders against 6 … All in music and brutality, in both cases!
User manual assimilated, the RS3 has almost as much fun. Quite different, quite simply. If you like to slide gently from the 4 wheels, in a very progressive way, the Audi is fun. However, the management of the gearbox is not always very responsive and the heavy weight on the front axle (the engine is more forward on the axle, compared to the BMW) limit the excitement. It’s physical: its tendency to understeer often requires placing the muzzle in turns “on the brakes”, and the endurance of the latter is not really suitable for intensive use on the circuit. Right where the M2 is the most generous, then!
The Evolution Competition of the M2 has above all had the good taste to modify the ESP and self-locking management parameters. A certain margin remains, the interventions of electronics are progressive. Result, we take advantage of a radical temperament, but relatively easy to access. Rare today.
A formidable Quattro, especially in our test conditions on the Pierre-Saint-Martin road. The BMW struggles to keep up.
Some will undoubtedly find their account in the logically superior versatility of the RS3. A big compact 5-door hatchback, against a coupe … Practicality can sometimes play a role, even in this closed circle of very high performance compacts. Let us realize that we are dealing here with compacts evolving in the sphere of 400 hp, a level of power still reserved recently for Porsche 911 and others!
Audi’s more affordable prices may also plead in its favor, in a very marginal way: the RS3 starts at € 62,820, compared to € 68,000 for the M2 Competition. The BMW having known a shorter career and a reduced production, one can easily predict a better behavior in front of the discount.