New car review: Audi S3 Sedan 2.0 TFSI S Tronic Quattro
Petite prestige sedan a properly punchy performer.
Launched here in 2013, the current generation Audi A3 range is nearing the end of its life cycle with the new model already revealed in Europe and expected here by the end of this year.
In a bid to keep the popular sporty variants competitive against newer rivals from BMW and Mercedes-Benz, Audi announced a features upgrade for the S3 in October last year.
The changes added about $9000 of previously optional equipment, including 19-inch Audi Sport alloy wheels, metallic paint, a Bang & Olufsen surround sound system, sports seats in Nappa leather, wireless smartphone charging, magnetic ride suspension, lane assist, high-beam assist and adaptive cruise control, to name a few.
Within the 15 model A3 range the S3 sits towards the top of the tree, just below the fire-breathing turbocharged five-cylinder RS3 ($83,800).
It’s available in three body styles – sportback, sedan and cabriolet – with this sedan variant splitting the trio on price at $65,800.
Common to all three body styles is a 213kW/380Nm turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine that drives all-four wheels via a seven-speed dual clutch transmission.
Performance is suitably strong, with the benchmark 0-100km/h sprint dispatched in a rapid 4.8 seconds. This compares favourably with newer rivals like the Mercedes-AMG A35 sedan (4.7secs) and the BMW M235i (4.9secs).
Styling-wise the S3 has aged well and is still a handsome and contemporary looking machine.
The body’s sheet metal appears to have been stretched taut over its muscular frame, while strong character lines and fine detailing add a sense of presence and prestige.
Its sporting credentials are also readily apparent in the bold red brake calipers that peek out from behind its five-spoke 19-inch alloy wheels and the quartet of exhaust pipes emerging from beneath its deep rear apron.
Inside, you sit snugly encased in handsome diamond-quilted Nappa leather sports seats, gripping a satisfyingly-thick perforated-leather steering wheel, with racing-style flat bottom.
The driving position is low and comfortable, if a little snug for larger-framed folk, with all the major controls well laid out and easy to reach.
Materials quality is to Audi’s meticulously high standards, with all the major touch points clad in quality leather or polished alloy.
Ahead of the driver is Audi’s 12.3-inch digital dash, dubbed the “Virtual Cockpit”, with crisply rendered graphics and the ability to expand or minimise the instruments, so that mapping and other useful information can be displayed in the space between.
At the centre of the dash, a smaller multimedia screen emerges on start-up, offering additional navigation and vehicle information, as well as connectivity for Apple Carplay and Android Auto.
The S3 feels taut and athletic on the road, its reflexes sharpened by a combination of quick steering, disciplined suspension and crisp throttle response.
The now-standard magnetic ride system is designed to automatically adjust the suspension to your driving style but the ride is generally quite firm, as you’d expect of such a sports model.
Corners can be taken with real confidence, given the satisfyingly high level of all-wheel grip, neutral cornering stance and near complete absence of body roll.
Acceleration off the mark or when overtaking is also suitably attention grabbing, with the transmission’s selectable sport mode providing an entertaining soundtrack of exhaust pops during gearshifts.
Manual shift control is available via the stick itself, or using small paddles tucked discretely behind the steering wheel.
Front-seat accommodation is comfortable if a little snug for larger frames, with the rear seats proving even more so, especially if seated behind a taller driver.
Rear-seat headroom may also be an issue for taller adults, but this is a compact-sedan after all, not a Commodore, and four-up accommodation over short hauls is perfectly acceptable.
Incidentally, at 390L the sedan offers about 50L more boot space than the sportback, so may well be the better choice for anyone planning to ferry a young family.
Safety-wise the S3 is well-equipped with standard features like adaptive cruise control with stop and go function, lane-keep assist, LED headlights with high-beam assist, reversing camera, rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring, front parking sensors, and autonomous emergency braking.
There are also front airbags for driver and passenger, side airbags for the front seats, a driver’s knee airbag and head level curtain airbag for the front and rear seats.
Overall, the S3 is a handsome and impressively well-finished machine that’s also an exhilarating drive.
It’s a thoroughly polished performer and as a sporting option is likely to satisfy all but the most demanding of enthusiasts; for the latter, the more hard-core RS3 beckons.
MLP: $65,800 (plus on-road costs)
ENGINE: 2.0-litre intercooled and turbocharged four-cylinder
ANCAP SAFETY RATING: 5 Star (2013)
TAILPIPE CO2 (g/km): 151g/km
Handsome styling, nicely finished, strong performance, crisp handling.
Tight interior accommodation, firm ride, new model coming soon.