Audi’s new RS3 is here… well, sort of. Audi just revealed some of its specs but the embargo hasn’t been fully lifted. However, there’s enough public info to know that the 2022 Audi RS3 is going to be one helluva performance car and one that should make BMW M think twice about making a proper 1 Series M car.
BMW’s M Division has been adamant about not making any front-wheel drive car. The idea is that front-wheel drive isn’t as engaging or dynamic as rear-wheel drive. Even when equipped with all-wheel drive, a front-drive-based car isn’t as engaging as a rear-biased all-wheel drive car. However, Audi is sort of proving that wrong, at least on paper.
The 2022 Audi RS3 is an interesting car. It still uses a transverse-mounted 2.5 liter turbocharged five-cylinder, which makes either 394 horsepower or 401 horsepower (U.S. market gets the latter) and 369 lb-ft of torque. However, It ditches the traditional Haldex all-wheel drive setup it’s always used, with a transverse engine up front and a clutch pack that sends power to the driveshaft that turns the rear axle. Now, there’s a rear driveshaft that mates to a special rear differential, that Audi calls the RS Torque Splitter. This RS Torque Splitter is essentially made up of two multi-plate clutch packs, one for each output shaft. That allows the RS3 to send up to all of its engine power to just a single rear wheel. Which makes it the first non-R8 Audi to ever do such a thing.
That not only allows the Audi RS3 to be completely rear-biased in its power distribution, something that was impossible with the previous RS3, but it also allows it to have a drift mode, like the Mercedes-AMG A45. This all could make the 2022 Audi RS3 the most exciting front-drive-based car on the planet when it debuts. It also makes us wonder if BMW M should reconsider making a 1 Series.
You might be thinking “BMW M doesn’t need that, it will have the M2 Coupe.” Which is true, the BMW M2 Coupe will perform similarly to the RS3 and will likely have quite a bit more power. However, the M2 Coupe has a few disadvantages when it comes to competing against the RS3. For starters, the M2 is going to be rear-wheel drive-only, which makes the all-wheel drive Audi RS3 more usable all year long. Additionally, the RS3 is more practical, either being a four-door sedan or a five-door hatchback, making it the better daily driver. So while the M2 Coupe might eventually win track comparison tests, the RS3 could win on sales sheets for its better duality.
BMW M could solve that, though, if it just takes a page out of Audi’s book and develops a BMW 1M. If it can get around 400 horsepower out of its 2.0 liter turbo-four and come up with a clever rear-diff situation, similar to the RS3, it could have a mega hit on its hands. Sure, the purists will moan but customers likely won’t.
Of course, BMW might not want the M Division investing in a small performance car such as 1M, now that it’s trying to invest heavily into electrification, but if there’s some room in the budget, it might not be a bad idea.