Both cars pack punchy turbocharged engines but they’re very different in layout and configuration. The BMW M2 Competition uses a 3.0 liter twin-turbocharged inline-six to make 405 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque. While the Audi RS3 uses a 2.5 liter turbocharged inline-five to make 401 horsepower and 369 lb-ft. Both cars get seven-speed dual-clutch automatics but the M2 is available with a six-speed stick, while the RS3 is not. Being that the RS3 is based on a front-wheel drive chassis, its engine is also transversely mounted, rather than the M2’s longitudinal layout.
On paper, the RS3 is faster, with Audi claiming 0-60 mph in 3.8 seconds and BMW claiming 4.2 seconds for the same time. In reality, we can’t say which is faster, as no one has tested the RS3 just yet. However, the previous RS3 was usually quicker than the M2 Comp anyway, thanks to all-wheel drive launches.
Rear-Wheel Drive vs All-Wheel Drive
Speaking of all-wheel drive, the new Audi RS3 might finally be capable of taking on the BMW M2 Competition in a handling battle. With the last generation, the RS3’s terminal understeer and lackluster steering would fail it during comparisons with cars like the M2. Haldex all-wheel drive will do that to a car, just ask the BMW M135i. However, this new RS3 has a trick up its sleeve that seems like it could level the playing field.
The Audi RS3 is still front-wheel drive based but it now has a new all-wheel drive system and rear differential that not only can send one hundred percent of its power to the rear axle but will do so regularly. The rear diff is what Audi calls an “RS Torque Splitter” and is comprised of two multi-plate clutch packs, one for each rear axle. So it can vary the exact amount of torque it wants to the rear wheels, even sending all of its engine’s power to just one rear wheel, in the car’s new drift mode.
Obviously, the M2’s more natural rear-wheel drive layout is going to be more balanced, and likely a bit more enjoyable overall, but the RS3’s new rear diff and rear-bias all-wheel drive system should help get it closer to the M2 in terms of fun. If it can be 80-percent as fun as the BMW M2 but also provide the same incredible all-weather traction we’ve come to expect from the RS3, it will be a very compelling package for a lot of enthusiasts.
Here’s where a lot of BMW enthusiasts will cry about the lack of fairness in this comparison: the BMW M2 Competition is a two-door, four-seat coupe (2+2), while the Audi RS3 is either a four-door sedan or a five-door hatchback. While that’s true, this isn’t an apples-to-apples comparison, they both operate in the same performance category and both wear similar sticker prices. There’s no getting around the fact that the RS3 is more practical than the M2, however, the Bimmer does have better rear seat space than you might think.
Here’s where these two have an issue competing against one another — the Audi RS3 won’t go on sale until early 2022, while the BMW M2 is already ending its production. So the two won’t really get a chance to compete, head-to-head, one sales floors. However, there will still be a lot of M2 Competition’s on the road when the RS3 goes on sale. So owners will absolutely be able to compare their cars in the real world.
Is one of these cars actually better than the other? We won’t be able to tell until we can test the Audi RS3 in the real world. However, the two seem closer than ever before, in terms of performance and dynamics. What’s going to be even more exciting is to see how the 2022 Audi RS3 and the 2023 BMW M2 compare, when the latter car finally debuts.