THE new RS3 Sportback waits in the wings with spectacular performance and an evocative five-cylinder soundtrack,” said the email from Audi, “and we’d love for you to come and drive it in the Austrian Alps.”

And what better place to see if the new £40,000 Audi RS3 is worthy of its RS badge than the Turracher Hohe pass in the Nockberge range of mountains in southern Austria, the original testing ground of the first Quattro over 30 years ago?

Refusing such an invitation would not only be rude, it would have been stupid, for the 335bhp 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbo engine powers you from 0-62mph in 4.6 seconds - 1.3 seconds faster than a Ford Focus RS, six-tenths quicker than the four-wheel-drive Subaru Impreza WRX STi and a tenth faster than a manual Porsche 911 Carrera S.

We’re talking the sort of wallop you would expect from a supercar, but at a fraction of the price.

The only downside being that Audi have only allocated 500 cars to the UK market and they have all been sold in advance - meaning if you want one you will have to wait until they become available on the second hand market.

Either way, those shrewd enough to have snapped one up will be happy knowing the RS3 Sportback has the strongest residual values of any series production car currently available in the UK.

I drove the RS3 Quattro on a four-hour route from the picturesque lakeside town of Velden through the Nockberge mountain range, taking in that historic Audi proving ground en route.

Turn the key and the five-cylinder turbo-charged petrol engine delivers its superb exhaust note, a fabulous soundtrack that get better and better as you put your foot to the floor.

On the road the RS3 processes great road presence, the handling is responsive and agile. The car lays down its power through a seven-speed S tronic twin-clutch transmission that can be used in fully automatic mode, shifted with the gear selector or with steering wheel paddles.

Fuel consumption has been kept relatively low too - it returns 31mpg on a combined cycle and emits 212g/km of CO2.

The RS3 is pleasing on the eye. A deeper apron at the front of the car incorporates enlarged air intakes, while the side view is dominated by the flared front wings covering 19 inch alloy wheels.

But if I have one beef with the hot hatch from Germany it is the fact Audi are launching a new A3 in 12 months time - effectively making this RS3 look somewhat old before its time.

Inside is typical Audi, you can’t fault the high quality interior. The sports seats are upholstered in fine leather, while there is a flat-bottomed RS steering wheel and an exclusive design for the instruments.

The 500 UK residents who have already snapped up the RS3 are in for a treat!