New car review: Audi S3 SportbackMotor News Motor Reviews New Car Reviews
Audi S3 Sportback
Audi S3 Sportback.
Audi has thrown down the gauntlet to potential hot hatch rivals from BMW and Mercedes with a new S3 that is significantly more powerful and better performing than the model it replaces.
Faced with stiff competition from the BMW M135i and upcoming Mercedes A45 AMG – not to mention a bevy of cheaper hot hatches from the likes of Volkswagen, Opel, Renault and Ford – the new S3 will come out fighting when it lands in Australia in December this year.
Based on the latest A3 Sportback is expected to be priced between $65,000 and $70,000, the new S3 packs a 221kW punch from its 2.0-litre turbocharged engine. That’s an increase of 33kW over its predecessor and torque, or pulling power, has also been lifted from 330 to 380Nm.
Combined with a kerb weight that has been lowered by 70 kilograms, Audi claims scintillating performance with the dual-clutch automatic version doing the 0-100km/h sprint in 5.1 seconds. It’s the same as what BMW claims for its more powerful M135i, but about half a second slower than the more expensive A45.
The S3 will initially arrive in Australia in five-door Sportback guise with the recently announced sedan to follow, whereas Europe also gets the slightly shorter, lighter and quicker three door version. Seeing as the Sportback hasn’t actually been launched yet, it was the three-door that Drive had a crack at on Audi’s home turf on the roads outside Munich.
There’s no doubting Audi has delivered more performance because the S3 delivers hearty acceleration whether from a standing start, where its Quattro four-wheel-drive system gets power down to the ground even in slippery conditions, or when piling on the power out of corners and on the move.
The extra shove is accompanied by a somewhat snarly engine note and some popping and banging from the exhaust when the throttle is closed.
Both six-speed manual and dual-clutch automatic transmissions are being offered: we drove the latter version which was admirably precise on country roads, whether in normal or sport modes and there’s steering wheel mounted paddles for manual shifts.
As well as being feisty in a straight line the S3 is an agile handler with oodles of grip, the ability to find traction coming out of corners, and the steering is well weighted and precise.
Audi’s magnetic damper system, which uses metal particles in the shock absorber fluid to alter damping stiffness, will be offered as an option on the S3.
From the outside the S3 is distinguishable from lesser A3 models by its body kit including a rear wing, its metallic door mirrors, a 25mm lower ride height and no fewer than four tail-pipes exiting the rear diffuser.
The interior is available in any colour as long as it’s black and features white on grey instruments, a steering wheel with a flatted bottom section, hip-hugging sports seats and the choice of either brushed aluminium or black trim sections.
Despite its bountiful performance potential the S3 promises better than average fuel consumption of 6.9 L/100km on the combined cycle.
That’s partly due to a relatively low kerb weight of around 1400kg for the Sportback, which like all A3 uses the VW Group’s MQB platform that also underpins the Golf.
The S3’s body is made mainly from high strength steels, but the front guards and bonnet are of lighter aluminium, while the new 2.0-litre turbo engine itself weighs five kilograms less.
Other measures such as stop-start idle control help lower fuel consumption, but the big caveat is that all performance and economy figures are achieved on a diet of more expensive 98 octane premium unleaded.
Despite the crowded nature of the premium hot hatch market, Audi expects the S3 to sell in the region of 200 units annually.
There’s a raft of premium hot hatches on the horizon, so does BMW’s M-fettled 135i have the pace to stay ahead?
- Syrupy turbo six punches hard and is a treat for the ears
- Agile and engaging handling
- Decent economy
- Pampering front-seat environment
- Not cheap
- Not many toys
- Tight back seat
- Unremarkable boot
- Badge Description
- Sports Automatic
- Engine Configuration Description
- Gear Num
- Build Country Origin Description
- Overall Green Star Rating
- Fuel Type Description
- Petrol - Premium ULP
- Drive Description
- Rear Wheel Drive