Today’s automotive industry is a crowded place full of models that aim for the same market position and a place in the hearts of the drivers around the world. However, in this highly competitive environment, only the best engineered and most interesting cars can achieve legendary status and become widely known just by their model designation. If a car is recognized by only two letters, you know that you are dealing with a truly special model. This is exactly the case with Audi’s RS model lineup.


For those not up on their auto industry lingo, you can think of RS models like Audi’s answer to BMW’s M Division or Mercedes’ AMG offerings. However, the truth is that the RS lineup is much more than that. In the past few years, BMW has been putting M badge on virtually everything that rolls of the company’s assembly line, including some models that do not warrant the M distinction. Mercedes has AMG versions of almost all of its cars, even minivans or full-size SUVs.

Audi, on the other hand, doesn’t makes that mistake and handpicks models to receive the RS treatment, turning them into ultimate examples of engineering excellence and street legal performance. This makes RS models much more exclusive, unique, complete and valuable than anything similar on the market today.

A Brief History of the RS Line

The history of the RS lineup started in the ‘80s after Audi won numerous rally championships with the iconic Audi Quattro, which boasted one of the first truly competent all-wheel drive systems in production cars. The quattro drivetrain was so influential that Audi chose to install it in all of its top of the line models.
However, speed-oriented engineers wanted to see this feature in performance cars as well. The concept of unbelievable grip coming from an intelligent all-wheel drive system powered by a strong turbocharged engine was so appealing that Audi’s management had little choice but to approve the project.

The first proper RS model was introduced in 1994, and it was in a league of its own, displaying outstanding performance unrivaled in the market. Called the RS2, with RS standing for RennSport, it was a station wagon version of Audi 80, which looked like any other wagon on the road in the early ‘90s.
However, beneath that unassuming exterior beat the heart of a true performance car, powered by a 2.2-liter turbocharged five-cylinder engine with 315 HP. With a six-speed manual transmission, the RS2 was brutally fast and achieved 0 to 60 MPH in just 4.8 seconds, thanks to quattro all-wheel drive.

Even today, those figures are highly respectable, and 25 years ago, it was superior to most supercars, much less standard production cars. Despite limited production, the RS2 proved to be very influential and heralded the arrival of RS performance in the best way.

The Audi RS Line Today

To date, Audi has produced a dozen RS models with amazing levels of power, performance and precision engineering. Interestingly, over the years, American buyers have only had six RS models available to them, four of which are currently on sale.

The first RS model to come to the US was the 2003 Audi RS6 sedan, which introduced the line’s legendary performance and philosophy to the American market. Below, we’ll introduce the Audi RS lineup and highlight what exactly makes these cars so desirable.
Audi RS 3 Sedan

Unveiled at the New York Auto Show in 2013, the Audi A3 sedan caused a stir amongst car enthusiasts because it offered premium, distinctive Audi characteristics in a compact, four-door package at an affordable price. Sadly, performance car fans had to wait for 2017 and the introduction of Audi RS 3 to witness the release of the most powerful model in its class. The 2017 RS 3 model marks a new chapter in RS performance lineage and represents the entry-level model in the exclusive RS range. However, in this case, entry-level doesn’t mean slow or cheap, and the new RS 3 sedan is every bit as fast and luxurious as its bigger brothers.

From the exterior, you could mistake the new RS 3 sedan for a regular A3 four-door, as this model retains the elegant proportions that were the standard sedan’s hallmark. However, there are several important and subtitle design differences that help differentiate the two related, but separate models.

The front of the RS 3 sedan is dominated by new, larger Singleframe grille with “quattro” script on the lower bar. The front bumper is dominated by two massive air intake ducts that help cool the brakes while feeding cold, dense air into the turbocharged engine. The fenders are wider and more muscular since they need to accommodate larger 19-inch wheels, and Audio outfitted the car with massive 14.6-inch disc brakes in the front and 12.2-inch brakes in the rear.
The rear of the car is dominated by LED tail and brake lights, a unique double exhaust design and a discrete but functional rear lip spoiler on the trunk.

The RS 3 sedan is available in several unique colors, any of which deliver a stunning powerhouse capable of outrunning sports cars while carrying four adults with their entire luggage.

The RS 3 sedan’s technical layout is one of the most interesting aspects of the vehicle.  Audi’s signature turbocharged five-cylinder engine represents a unique offering on today’s market, as it combines immense power, the smoothness of an inline design and manages to offer surprising fuel economy. The 2.5-liter unit delivers 400 HP and 354 lb-ft of torque making it the most powerful car in its class.
Power is sent to all four wheels via the signature electronically controlled quattro AWD system, which ensures outstanding traction and grip in all driving conditions. There is only one transmission choice and that is a seven-speed dual clutch automatic gearbox.
All of this translates to incredible performance and the RS 3 sedan is capable of reaching 60 MPH in just 3.9 seconds. The vehicles top speed is a whopping 174 MPH. Standard models are limited to 155 MPH, but removing the limiter is optional.
In truth, the numbers do not tell the whole story. With compact dimensions, a powerful turbocharged engine and perfect stability, the RS 3 sedan is a street legal missile capable of delivering incredible driving dynamics and rewarding the most ambitious drivers.

Of course, Audi didn’t forget the interior design, or creature comforts. Throughout the RS 3’s cabin, buyers will find premium materials, advanced technology and an advanced infotainment system.
The basic dashboard design is very straightforward with easy to see gauges and controls that can easily be reached. All models received a new, fully customizable digital dashboard that can also be turned to navigation, as well as big eight-inch infotainment screen on the central console.
The front seats are unique to the RS model and are upholstered in the finest Nappa leather with RS stitching on the headrests. All models come with dual-zone automatic climate control, a panoramic sunroof and ambient LED lighting. Since this is a RS model, you will find numerous subtle details to remind you that you are driving something special, like the RS design steering wheel, carbon trim on the dashboard and stainless steel pedals.

Audi has paid a lot of attention to both passive and active safety for the new RS 3 sedan, and the car received the highest scores on passenger safety as well as for pedestrian protection. Standard equipment includes front airbags, side airbags, knee protection and head-curtain airbags. The electronic systems like ABS and EBD are standard too, and so is electronic stability control (ESC) with a secondary collision brake assistant and traction control (ASR).

Starting at $54,900 MSRP, the Audi RS 3 sedan is an affordable performance car. Not only is this the most powerful and fastest sedan in its class, but it is also the most capable car in the segment. Buyers will not only receive bragging rights and incredible 0 to 60 acceleration figures, but also a highly competent, immensely stable and safe performance sedan. Of course, there is also the RS 3’s undeniable elegance and understatement, as well as the stealth appeal of Audi’s styling.

Audi RS 7

Despite the fact that the full-size SUV craze has swept the world, there are still a few interesting automotive classes where elegance and presence count more than the number of cup holders or cubic inches of trunk space. One of those is the four-door coupe segment, which offers highly stylized alternatives to regular full-size luxury sedans.
The concept of a coupe with four doors might seem a bit strange, but in recent years, several manufacturers have presented elegant and powerful variants of their regular models with fresh coupe-like styling, but with the practicality and comfort of four doors and a regular-sized trunk. The idea behind these models is pretty straightforward, and the goal is to introduce a driver-oriented machine with the road-holding capabilities of a sports car, the luxury appointments of a premium sedan and the appearance of a thoroughbred Gran Turismo coupe.
As one of the industry’s leaders, Audi presented its first A7 four-door coupe in 2010, but the model of most interest to all car enthusiasts is the fantastic RS 7 presented in 2014.

What exactly makes the RS 7 so interesting? First, let’s start from the exterior and explain the aesthetics of the RS 7 in detail. At first glance, this model resembles the A7 sedan but a closer examination reveals a number of differences that emphasize the unique design of the car.
The RS 7’s main design feature is the low, sloping roofline which works perfectly with the aggressive front end and elegant rear of the car. This not-quite-fastback design is not only aerodynamically efficient, but it is also a nod to Audi’s famous racing past, especially the Grand Prix racers of the 1930s.

Of course, the RS 7 has signature RS design cues like the famous Singleframe grille. It also features wider wheel arches, bigger wheels and a more aggressive front and rear bumper design. Even though this is an extremely powerful car, there are no vulgar spoilers, wildly colored body inserts or gaudy badges.
Audi decided to present the RS 7 as an understated machine for true enthusiasts who appreciate the power, technology and bespoke quality of the package more than unnecessary attention. An interesting detail is that the rear spoiler is invisible when the car is stationary or traveling at low speeds, but rises when needed to help generate downforce and improve overall stability.

 What makes the RS 7 truly one of the fastest sedans on the planet is the 4.0-liter turbocharged V8 engine mated to an eight-speed tiptronic automatic gearbox and Audi’s signature quattro intelligent all-wheel drive system. The engine comes in two performance tuned options: the standard RS 7 delivers 560 HP while the RS 7 Performance offers 605 HP. Both versions have the same 516 lb-ft of torque, but the performance is not identical for both models.

The regular RS 7 achieves a 0 to 60 MPH time of 3.7 seconds and a top speed of 174 MPH, while the RS 7 Performance can do the same in just 3.6 seconds and achieves a top speed of 190 MPH. Of course, even though the massive power coming from the 4.0-liter V8 is the main reason for such impressive performance, the intelligent quattro all-wheel drive system with launch control is responsible for delivering that power to the front and rear wheels.
An adaptive suspension system is standard, and if you are looking for more comfort, an air suspension system is an option. Efficient braking is provided by massive discs and the RS 7 Performance has advanced ceramic brakes as standard equipment.

Since the RS 7 is also a luxury sedan, Audi paid special attention to the interior and premium appointments. Apart from distinctive Valona leather and carbon fiber trim on the dashboard, drivers can enjoy the premium Bose sound system with 14 speakers and 630 watts of power, an MMI voice-controlled navigation system and even an MMI central display with handwriting recognition technology. However, if you choose the RS 7 Performance model, Audi offers a design selection package that includes more color choices, Alcantara leather and several unique details exclusive to this version. Buyers a have selection of 10 body colors and optional carbon-fiber exterior trim.

Releasing such a powerful car to the market without the highest level of passive and active safety would be irresponsible and Audi takes its responsibility to driver, passenger and pedestrian safety very seriously. The RS 7 comes with the absolute latest in dynamic stability control, traction control and passive passenger safety.
Among standard features like ABS, ESC, EBD and multiple airbags to protect occupants, there is also Audi’s pre-sense headlight system. This system scans the road ahead for vehicles and pedestrians, and alerts the driver if it detects danger ahead. Along with adaptive cruise control, this feature makes highway driving safer even under difficult conditions and in heavy traffic.

The base price of 2018 Audi RS 7 is $113,900 MSRP and for that kind of money, buyers will be receive one of the fastest and most competent sedans in the world. The RS 7’s elegant appearance, comfortable interior and world-class road-holding capabilities make this one of the most advanced models on the market.
Audi TT RS

The third generation of Audi’s entry-level sports coupe, the popular TT, was introduced in 2014. With an improved design, advanced technology and better drying dynamics, the TT has continued to be one of the best choices in its class and an affordable driver’s machine with the road manners of an expensive exotic.
Audi offers a range of engine options and trim packages for the TT, and buyers will receive a competent coupe or convertible with satisfying performance and a premium feel. However, there is one model in the TT range that is a true sports car. That is, of course, the mighty Audi TT RS.

 Presented in 2016 as a 2017 model, Audi TT RS is a recent addition to the prestigious RS model range offered on the American market. In contrast to the RS 3 sedan, which is a performance sedan in compact package, and the RS 7, which is a luxury high-speed cruiser, the TT RS is a pure sports car with minimalist dimensions, an ideal power to weight ratio, a race-tuned suspension and unbelievable driving dynamics. Simply put, if you want the purest RS feel, the TT RS is the option for you.

The regular TT design is already aggressive enough with sharp LED headlights, a wide stance and low roofline, but in RS guise, the car looks even sportier thanks to the signature Singleframe grille featuring the quattro logo on the bottom. It also boasts wider fenders and a special RS front and rear bumper. The TT RS offers a fixed rear spoiler, and on this car, it is pretty much obligatory since the coupe is capable of reaching 174 MPH.

Buyers can choose between seven elegant, yet sporty colors to further enhance the aesthetics of this coupe. Interestingly, TT RS only comes as a coupe, and a convertible isn’t an option. Also, the RS package comes with unique seven-spoke wheels and numerous other details to further distinguish this limited production coupe from other RS models on the market.
Of course, the main feature of every RS car is its drivetrain layout and engine, and the TT RS excels in this field. With a 2.5-liter turbocharged five-cylinder that delivers 400 HP and 354 lb-ft of torque, the TT RS is perhaps a touch less powerful than its bigger brother RS 7, but it has a better power to weight ratio and delivers even better performance.
The 0 to 60 MPH sprint takes just 3.6 seconds and its top speed is electronically limited to 155 MPH. However, there is the option to remove the limiter, in which case the TT RS is capable of reaching 174 MPH. The power is sent to all four wheels thanks to the intelligent quattro AWD system which makes the TT RS handle like it is on rails. The quattro system is capable of recognizing the potential loss of grip at one wheel and sending additional power to others to compensate and keep the car on the track.
Every TT RS comes with magnetic ride shocks as standard equipment, but a fixed sport suspension is optional. This means that you can have a performance-oriented suspension with comfort settings as standard equipment, but if you are looking for that extra edge and handling sharpness, Audi has the solution.

An important part of this car’s dynamics is the seven-speed dual clutch transmission, which delivers lightning fast shifting. Between the powerful engine and high-performance transmission, the TT RS can outrun much bigger and more expensive cars with consummate ease.

Since the RS designation is also about distinctiveness and luxury as much as it is about speed and performance, the TT RS is a well-appointed coupe with premium features and high-quality materials. The most interesting and innovative interior feature is the Audi’s advanced virtual cockpit. This system will be an available option for all Audis in the future.
The virtual cockpit is a big 12.3-inch display that replaces the classic instrument panel in front of the driver. It is fully customizable and capable of displaying all kinds of relevant information, as well as navigation with directions and even Google Maps. The system has multiple settings and even a G force meter and a track mode that can show your lap times. The TT RS is a performance car with track abilities and many owners will take it to the nearest circuit where they can fully explore the potential of this car in safe environment.

 The front seats are specially designed RS sport seats featuring the finest Nappa leather, diamond stitching and the RS logo. They grip perfectly and offer strategic support during hard cornering, as well as during longer drives. Despite the perfectly raspy, exciting soundtrack of the inline turbocharged five-cylinder engine, Audi included a premium audio system with nine speakers and 155 watts of power as standard equipment.
Safety is also one of Audi’s most important goals and the new TT RS is a perfect example of a well-designed, well-equipped sports coupe. All occupants are protected by six airbags as well as side curtain airbags. The electronic braking, stability and control systems such as ABS, EBD and ESC are all standard equipment.

The 2018 Audi TT RS starts at $64,900 MSRP and it makes this coupe a striking value for money. With 400 HP, a quattro AWD system and driver-oriented suspension, and an advanced gearbox, the TT RS is the ultimate affordable sports car. In contrast to some other high-priced supercars that are often unusable on the street, the TT RS is the perfect everyday vehicle with racecar DNA. Balancing the uncompromising, handling-oriented track car persona with that of the everyday coupe makes this car a true triumph of Audi Sport’s engineering and arguably the most desirable of all current RS models.

Audi RS 5 Coupe

The newest member of the highly exclusive RS model range is the recently presented RS 5 coupe. This car represents the new generation of RS models and further polishes the original RS philosophy, while introducing newly developed engines, transmissions and drivetrains. In short, the RS 5 brings the idea of a performance coupe to a whole another level, clearly distinguishing itself from the competitors, not only in terms of styling but also in engineering and quality.
RS packaging features powerful engines, the extremely capable quattro all-wheel drive system and uncompromised performance. With the new 2018 RS 5, all of those important features have been amplified, re-engineered and presented as one coherent, driver-oriented package.

The RS 5 has a new front end with full LED headlights, a steeper hood angle, a special bumper with the unmistakable honeycomb Singleframe RS grille, and quattro logo on the bottom. The same design language is continued on the sides with dynamic rocker panels and carbon inserts emphasizing the athletic elegance of the car’s profile.
The rear is graced by large twin tailpipes, an RS rear bumper and discrete but effective lip spoiler on the trunk. With an elegant two-door body, classic coupe proportions with a long hood and a short rear end, the RS 5 is a handsome coupe with supercar capabilities, equally at home in front of the opera hall and on the racetrack. Every RS car is designed as a pure driver’s machine, but the RS 5 is a coupe for those who want the comfort of a four-seater car and the privacy of two-door design combined with unquestionable performance.

 The new 2018 RS 5 is the perfect blend of quality and precision engineering. This model features a brand new 2.9-liter twin turbo V6 engine with 444 HP and a whopping 443 lb-ft of torque. This particular unit is engineered by Porsche and it is significantly lighter than the previous 4.2-liter V8. With 444 horsepower on tap, the new RS 5 can jump to 60 MPH from a standing start in just 3.78 seconds, making it one of the quickest cars in its segment.
However, there is much more to the dynamics of this car than just the numbers. The new RS 5 has a newly developed and improved quattro all-wheel drive system, which is rear biased with up to 85% of the power going to the back wheels in normal driving conditions. This is an important change to neutral driving setup of the quattro and intended to deliver a more dramatic driving experience while still retaining the safety and control of the traditional all-wheel drivetrain. The optional sport differential is another interesting improvement, and it is capable of distributing torque between the rear wheels to achieve improved traction and performance in high-speed cornering by eliminating understeer and oversteer.
Another significant component is the new eight-speed ZF automatic transmission. This is not the double clutch unit you would find in the TT RS, for example, but a standard automatic gearbox. Purists could argue that the new automatic is slower than the previous double-clutch transmission and that is true, but the difference isn’t noticeable since the RS 5 shifts gears with surprising speed. The main advantage of the new box is the fact it is superior in predicting a driver’s intentions and works with drivers in achieving the best performance and lap times, if you take it to the track.

The interior RS 5 is equally impressive and features an all-new dashboard architecture and Audi’s unique virtual cockpit, which consists of a 12.3-inch display replacing the classic instrument panel. Enthusiasts love the new feature since the it brings a whole new dimension and manages to display much more relevant information in a precise manner. The system is also customizable and can be used as a navigation system, as well. The information displayed changes based on driving settings, adapting to individual driving style and needs. The RS 5 borrows heavily from Audi’s racing heritage, and the virtual cockpit includes a G force meter, lap timer and several other interesting track-related features, as well as head-up display to show you important data without disturbing your concentration.

The interior of the RS 5 features the same refinement and performance-nods as other models within the line. Occupants are cradled in RS seats upholstered in finest Nappa leather with a signature honeycomb pattern and RS logo on the headrests. The seats are designed to provide outstanding comfort and support, whether cornering on the track, or heading out on the daily commute. You will also find a premium audio system, advanced climate control capabilities, and a central display that allows you to control everything easily.

The safety is another department in which new RS 5 coupe excels. Cabin occupants are protected by eight airbags, including knee bags and side curtain airbags. Audi included a wide range of important electronic systems as standard equipment, as well as Audi’s pre sense predictive headlight safety system. Finally, despite the fact that the standard suspension gives more than enough grip, buyers can choose the optional dynamic ride control system, which offers more control and precision. Adaptive cruise control and emergency braking systems are included in the package.

The all-new 2018 Audi RS 5 Coupe has just been introduced to the US market starting at $69,900. The RS 5 Coupe is a welcome addition to the RS fleet for the North American market, since it brings unrivaled driving dynamics, recognizable style and uncompromising power while clearly distinguishing the coupe as a new member of the RS family.
In Conclusion

Currently, Audi USA offers four RS models, all of which are listed above. The Audi Sport division also produces the RS 4, RS 6 and RS Q3, but these vehicles are not available to US buyers. The RS 4 and RS 6 are the higher-end versions of A4 and A6 station wagons and the RS Q3 is a performance-oriented compact SUV.
The current RS lineup in America is uniquely structured with the RS 3 sedan marking the entry-level model with all important RS characteristics, but a lower price point and a less aggressive appearance. The RS 7 is a luxury cruiser with supercar capabilities, effortless speed and unique style. The TT RS is a sports car with direct driving feel, great performance and outstanding racecar-like handling capabilities. The RS 5 coupe is a modern performance two-door vehicle with race-inspired personality and performance but with unquestionable luxury and refinement.

In the future, US buyers can expect more RS products being introduced to the American market. The first of those eagerly expected models will be the 2019 Audi RS 7, a new generation of the recognizable four-door super coupe which will arrive late in 2018. There is also speculation that Audi may surprise American buyers with an as-yet unannounced RS option, as well. 

Categories: Fleet
Tags: audi rs