The new Audi RS 3 on the test track at the new Audi customer experience centre

Beauty of the beast


We head to Bavaria to visit Audi’s customer experience centre – and put the powerful new RS 3 Saloon through its paces on the test track

Audi’s gleaming new customer experience centre, and the home of Audi Sport and customer racing, is located in Neuburg, amid the low-lying farmland of the Danube Valley. It’s stylish in that considered Audi way, and so attentive to detail that the fire extinguishers here are white instead of red (a deviation that had to be sanctioned by the authorities).

Today Klaus Demel, Head of Audi Driving Experience and International Motorsport Marketing, is the gatekeeper to my happiness. ‘When the quattro was launched back in 1980, the technology was so progressive, our customers didn’t really know how to use the car to its full potential – and that was the origin of today’s Audi Driving Experience,’ he explains. ‘This is a state-of-the-art facility that’s all about customer enthusiasm. We demonstrate what Audis are capable of and teach you the skills to make the most of this. As a result, you’ll be able to enjoy your car to the max, and drive it more safely too.’

In a minute, Klaus is going to hand me the keys to Audi’s brand-new, five-cylinder, turbocharged 400PS RS 3 Saloon. ‘Would I like a cup of coffee first?’ he asks. I politely decline – I’m excited enough without caffeine.

Gleaming Audi rings on the side of the new Audi customer experience centre

The Audi RS 3 Saloon being driven on the test track at the new Audi customer experience centre

I climb into the cabin, settle into the Sport seat and start the engine. The beast springs to life, revving up menacingly before settling into an ominous burble reminiscent of a 1980s rally quattro. I take it easy for the first lap or two, getting to know the track and the car – but then I start to push a little bit more. There’s an awesome force under my right foot that is quick to be unleashed: 480Nm of pulling power is available from just 1700rpm, and it shows. The car obeys my every command as I drive at speed into a corner, braking late but decisively, turning in, then accelerating at the apex and hurtling towards the next bend. It also stays perfectly neutral and – thanks to the latest quattro technology – its front never once feels in danger of running wide, even when it begins to rain.

Inside the new Audi customer experience centre

After a set of tight corners comes the long straight. I accelerate hard, unleashing the full power of the 2.5-litre engine and flying towards the horizon like one of the Tornado jets at the nearby NATO base. The rain starts falling harder, but the RS 3 remains unfazed, ensuring that the fun continues whatever the weather. It has plenty still to offer as I hammer round and round the track, asking more and more of it without ever being disappointed.

Finally, it’s time to go. Reluctantly, I get out of the car, take one last look, thank Klaus for a fantastic day and make towards the exit. ‘Can I have the keys, please?’ ‘Oh, of course!’ I say, digging in my pocket. How could I possibly have forgotten? Must be a Freudian thing.

 

Words by Alfred Rinaldi. Photographs by Steffen Jahn

 

Find out more about the new Audi RS 3 Saloon

Two Audi racing cars in the showroom at the new Audi customer experience centre

The rear of the new Audi RS 3 Saloon