Coinciding with the recent launch of Audi’s blisteringly fast RS6 Avant was the launch of the new, third generation Audi S3. This hot hatch benefits from a completely new 2.0-litre TFSI petrol engine, this turbocharged unit produces 300hp and 380Nm of torque, resulting in a 0 to 100km/h time of 4.8 seconds (S tronic). As with its predecessor the new S3 is equipped as standard with quattro permanent all-wheel drive, which gives it an advantage over some of its competitors.
The quattro system is notable when accelerating from a standstill, there’s endless grip felt in both dry and wet conditions. The engine pulls strong throughout the rev range, it’s at its best high up the rev range around 6,000rpm. There’s a somewhat unusual but satisfying engine note transmitted into the cabin, it sounds more like a natural aspirated five-cylinder engine than a turbocharged four-cylinder unit. Audi has installed an electromechanical sound actuator which enhances the noise and adds to the occasion under acceleration. There’s a six-speed manual transmission fitted as standard, unfortunately it lacks the precision required in a car of this class, the gear change is too long, a shorter shift would be preferably. The pedals are set quite high and far apart which makes it difficult to heel and toe on down changes. Our choice transmission would be the six-speed S tronic unit. This is a gem of a gearbox, the dual-clutch transmission really suits the S3’s character, providing near-instant gear changes. There’s hefty paddles tucked neatly behind the petite, chunky flat-bottomed steering wheel which allow you to change gears manually, you can also use the gear lever if you prefer.
It’s great to see Audi’s drive select fitted as standard in the S3. We’ve experienced this across a few models within Audi’s line-up and it’s an intelligent piece of electronic equipment that works with simplicity for the end user. Through the simple press of a button beside the steering wheel the driver can choose from varying driving modes, from comfort to dynamic, each one altering the characteristics of the S3 with a noticeable difference evident in the steering weight, throttle sensitivity and engine response. This system truly enables the S3 to become such a useable vehicle for daily use, you can extract plenty of driving thrills and experience much of its copious power with ease. The interior is well appointed with leather sports seats, cruise control, park assist and MMI connectivity all fitted as standard. The driving position is excellent, however there’s a boost gauge within the instrument cluster that shows how much boost the engine is producing, it illuminates constantly under acceleration and is of no real benefit, we would much rather see a water temperature gauge in place of this.
The exterior styling has been more evolutionary than revolutionary, up front there are new Xenon plus headlights with LED daytime running lights, full LED headlights can be specified. The now customary aluminium-look door mirrors signify the S3 over its regular A3 siblings. The rear of the car now has a more purposeful look thanks to the fitment of four oval tailpipes complete with chrome tips, in place of two on its precursor. We quite like the subtle styling of the S3, it’s sporty without shouting out its presence in a laree way, the Volkswagen Golf R also fits this bill.
Pricing for the new Audi S3 commences from a respectable €44,460 for the six-speed manual variant and €46,860 for the S tronic version. With a generous amount of standard specification on offer, this new S3 is well worth a closer look. There will also be a saloon and Sportback model of the S3 launched in the coming months.
The Audi S3 is pretty unique within its class, although cars such as BMW’s M135i may excite you more due to its rear-wheel-drive setup, the practicality of having all-wheel-drive for an Irish climate makes sense. It will be interesting to see how Mercedes-Benz’s new A45 AMG stacks up against these two, it will have an all-wheel-drive setup and 360hp.
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