The 2015 Audi RS3 is one ultra-powerful hot hatch, delivering more snap, crackle and pop than your average bowl of morning cereal. As we can imagine from just one days' driving, to sit behind the wheel of this beast every morning would never fail to bring the thrills.
Its 2.5-litre engine - delivering 367bhp - is, as such figures suggest, a total power trip. Albeit a bonkers expensive one. The RS3, specified as it was for our one-day UK road test and Shelshey Walsh hill climb, came with a price tag that scraped past the £50k barrier. Yep, fifty grand. You're going to need a wadge of serious income to contemplate buying into this Audi, not to mention an early-life-crisis mindset to reward your inner youth with the kind of power, snarl and attitude your 18-year-old self always dreamed about.
Not that it's entirely non-sensible, which is how the RS3 gets away with it. Based on the A3 Sportback body - which we've seen in its heavier hybrid electric e-tron guise - you do get an ample 180-litres of boot space and, perhaps surprisingly, enough legroom in the back to cart the kids around. All at ridiculous pace, of course.
Tucked under the RS3's bonnet is a 2.5-litre five-cylinder TFSi engine, delivering enough grunt to Audi's quattro four-wheel-drive system via the 7-speed S Tronic gearbox. It can roar away to 62mph in a face-pressing 4.3-seconds using the Launch Control function (a foot on the brake and accelerator, maintaining 4,000rpm for rapid acceleration minus the wheelspin). That's really fast: it'd even pip even the top-end Audi R8 (with its V8 engine, no less) in an off-the-line head-to-head.
So it's more hyper hatch than hot hatch, the kind of accolade that helps excuse the price tag. And it delivers enough of that hyper power to the road to bring on hypertension, as we felt when launching ourselves up the hill at Shelshey Walsh.
There were moments of crossing our fingers that we'd applied the brakes in quick enough time to not go sliding off the road into a field of cows - as much as they'd appreciate the metallic white paint finish of our test model (£550) - but the disc brakes on offer (here complete with red-paint and RS3 logo on the callipers (£325); carbon fibre reinforced options will also be available from 2016) always brought us to a safe, firm stop.
In the straights, set to Dynamic via the drive select mode, the RS3's engine roars with a satisfying hum and gurgle that can not only be heard but also felt in the cabin. Slip a foot over to the brake and the snaps, crackles and pops that emanate from the rear twin exhausts are considerably fatter than the skimmed milk that met our familiar cereal packet stars earlier that morning. It certainly puts a smile on the face.
However, and while flinging the RS3 around the bends of England's countryside is certainly fun, with that high-raised rear and near-1.6-ton unladen weight there's a little understeer.
And so on to the competition. You could pick up an altogether better behaved Merc A45 AMG for similar cash, a BMW 5-series for even less, or - and particularly if you're determined to go down the hyper hatch route - then come 2016 we'll see the latest Volkswagen Golf R take hold of "most powerful hot hatch" crown.
Yet a few figures here and there aren't likely to be realised to their fullest on the British roads (the RS3's 174mph maximum can only be realised by paying Audi extra to lift the 155mph electronic limiter, for example). We've felt the hyper power during rapid overtakes, with the S Tronic box hankering through those gears at pace, and it's as much - and, let's face it, probably far more than - you're ever likely to need.
When the engine sounds all gets a bit too much the drive select - which comes as standard and has its own dedicated dash button - can be used to toggle between Dynamic (rowdy), Comfort (less burble), Economy (sensible) and Individual (customisable) modes. For motorway driving you'll want to deactivate Dynamic as its additional torque isn't necessary and the added cabin noise as a result isn't really desirable for long periods of time.
Not to mention the fuel consumption that Dynamic pulls, which given the typical behaviour of this car (and, ahem, driver), was never close to the 34.9mpg maximum claim. We were managing closer to 20mpg, which even Porsche would have a chuckle at. After longer and more casual drives, however, we snuck the consumption past the 25mpg barrier.
And yet you can drown out the back-of-the-mind fuel costs with the Bang & Olufsen sound system (well, should you opt for the comfort and sound package, costing £1,150). At first we thought it sounded a little too mid-section heavy, but tinkering with the equalisation, subwoofer output level, dynamic volume and front/back positioning made for a rip-roaring road experience. Some brawling bassline tracks were enough to massage us from the inside out.
On the tech front we were somewhat perplexed with the RS3's offering though. Unlike the latest Audi TT there's no giant screen beyond the steering wheel, in Audi's latest cockpit format, but the older pop-up 7-inch display instead (as part of the technology package, £1,795).
That seems a little backwards for a car that's available for pre-order now and will be on the roads in July. Surely it should have the latest and greatest tech to lure in that demanding audience? We'd actually prefer to press pause on buying an RS3 to ensure the latest tech was available, that's how much we think it'll reflect in resale value. Sure, there's MMI satellite navigation, the easy-to-use touch-sensitive control dial, on-board hotspot and phone sync, but we want that little bit extra at this price point.
There's plenty of extras to spend on too. The RS3 we took on the road came with dynamic package plus (£2,495), adding sports suspension and exhaust, which we didn't find too stiff on the road thanks to independent management. Drive over a bump on the passenger side and you won't feel it to excess as the driver. Pimp out the interior with high gloss (£695) and carbon fibre accent inlays (£750) and it's easy to see how the total price adds up quickly - almost as quickly as the car's 0-62mph time.
There's no doubting the Audi RS3 is a whole lot of fun. But an expensive lot of fun. And it's that price tag that leaves us with the lingering question: who, exactly, is this car for? There's the inner boy racer, there's the smart driver who wants to show off with the occasional added growl, and, we suppose, there's the enthusiast and horsepower-counters too.
We don't quite fit into any of those categories. But if we came across £50k cash stashed in a black sack in a bush somewhere, while it'd be criminal to not turn it in, it'd be equally criminally not to at least ponder going and splashing it on a brand new RS3. In a fetching metallic blue coat we should think, as a nod to those blue coats who otherwise would be chasing us… and, behind the wheel of this Audi beast, probably unable to catch up.