The hot hatch segment went up a notch when Audi introduced the waiting world to its stunning S3. With all the power you could dream of along with outstanding driving dynamics, this beauty carves up the Tarmac like no other.
The goodHandling and styling
The badWatch that speed – it’s that fast!
Audi S3 Sportback TFSI 300PS S tronic
Imagine the compact Audi S3 hatchback and then add some practicality to the mix with some extra length, plus two rear doors – the end result is the rather stunning S3 Sportback.
Then when you factor in the power of a 2.0-litre, 310PS four-cylinder turbo petrol engine delivering a whopping 400Nm of torque, it all becomes a little bit spicy with a 0-62mph sprint time of just 4.6 seconds and a top speed that is limited to 155mph.
The S3 Sportback is definitely quite a looker and guaranteed to gain attention wherever it passes. It looks muscular and dynamic in its styling with sleek streamlining, neat LED light clusters with sweeping rear indicators, a distinctive grille housing the Audi rings, tinted windows, plus five-spoke 18-inch alloys. Red brake calipers with an ‘S’ printed on them completed the styling on our test car.
Step inside and the premium, sporty theme is equally as impressive with the finest soft Nappa leather upholstery and lots of soft touch surfaces and smart decorative trim. The body-hugging sports seats have an ‘S’ embossed into the leather and there are sports pedals, along with a flat-bottomed multi-function sports steering wheel.
The quantity of on-board technology is plentiful with the likes of a navigation system, full smartphone connectivity via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, a pitch perfect Bang & Olufsen sound system, a wireless mobile phone charger, heated seats, dual-zone climate control and a neat colour infotainment screen that rises from the dashboard when the car is fired up.
There is a minimalist, clutter-free feel to the car with many functions controlled via the MMI rotary dial with extra buttons for instant access to the radio, navigation, media and telephone systems. The air conditioning functions are all easily controlled via practical buttons and there is a volume dial too. I mention this because too many modern cars are overcomplicated and you have to navigate touchscreen menus to complete a simple task such as increasing the temperature.
Not so the S3 Sportback though, which is just as well because the driving dynamics demand all your attention. The acceleration through the quick-firing seven-speed S tronic automatic dual clutch transmission is blisteringly fast and there are paddle shifts to take manual control of the gear changing if you fancy.
You can also select from different driving modes called Efficiency, Comfort, Auto, Dynamic and Individual that alter the way the car reacts with Dynamic really cranking up the power and noise.
The road holding is super-grippy meaning bends can be attacked with confidence and the S3 Sportback is also equipped with Audi’s quattro all-wheel-drive system for added reassurance.
Another feature worth mentioning is the performance sports suspension and the option of Audi Magnetic Ride (£1,395). This adaptive dampers system continually adapts the function of the shock absorbers to the driver’s style and the road conditions and it works very effectively. It can still be a little fidgety in Dynamic mode where you can expect to feel the full force of any minor pothole or uneven road surface, but in the other settings it seems to smooth out the creases really well.
At times it’s easy to forget the S3 Sportback is actually a practical family car with ample space in the back for passengers. Admittedly the rear leg room depends on how far the front seats are pushed back – you wouldn’t want to be sitting behind a six-foot-plus driver for too long, but there’s ample room for youngsters though. And a generous boot can swallow 340 litres of luggage, a capacity that can be increased to 1,180 litres by dropping the 60:40 split-folding rear seats flat.
When it comes to pricing, the S3 Sportback costs £35,775, but with the addition of a number of optional extras, the final price climbed to £42,430. On the fuel economy front, the car can deliver a combined 33.6-34.9mpg under the stricter WLTP guidelines with carbon emissions of 158g/km.
All in all, the Audi S3 Sportback is quite the all-rounder. It looks and drives like a performance car, but ticks all the right boxes when it comes to practicality too. It’s the sort of car any child will be proud to be seen in on the school run.
Audi S3 Saloon
If its power, precision and perfection you’re looking for then Audi’s super-fast new S3 Saloon could be the ideal choice of car.
It’s the company’s first compact S series saloon but it unmistakably oozes A3 DNA throughout.
It is lower, wider and has sharper design cues than the A3 hatchback and boasts greater storage capacity than the S3 Sportback, but most importantly in typical S style tradition it goes like a dream.
The S3 Saloon is priced from £33,240 and powered by a totally new 2.0-litre TFSI petrol engine delivering 300PS and 380Nm or torque with turbocharging and direct injection.
And buyers can choose from the manual or S tronic automatic transmissions – both with six speeds.
This car possesses a distinct visual styling with S3 badging throughout.
Eye-catching features include Xenon Plus headlights with LED daytime running lights, headlight washers and rear LED lights.
There is an S3 front diffuser and lower bumper with additional air intake funnels in place of fog lights. Side sills are body-coloured and the mirrors have an aluminium-looking design.
The grille is finished in platinum grey, there are black painted brake callipers with the S logo, a body-coloured S3 rear boot lid spoiler, 19-inch alloys, plus four oval tailpipes help to complete the look.
The luxurious and beautifully crafted interior is extremely driver-orientated with a wraparound dashboard set-off by matt brushed aluminium inlays. The leather sports seats are very supportive and the flat-bottomed three-spoke leather steering wheel screams “drive me” at you the second you take your seat.
As one would expect, there is an abundance of techno treats to be explored with all the latest multi-media connectivity features you could wish for.
The S3 Saloon has a lightweight aluminium and steel hybrid body construction to maximise efficiency and also boasts Audi’s quattro all-wheel-drive technology.
And needless to say, performance capabilities are certainly not for the faint-hearted.
I tested the manual S3 Saloon priced at £32,420 (£39,855 with some optional extras fitted) and it handled superbly well. It can sprint to 62mph from a standing start in just 5.3 seconds and on to a top speed which has been limited to 155mph.
And according to official Audi figures it can deliver combined fuel efficiency of 40.4mpg with carbon emissions of 162g/km.
But it’s all about the manner in which this car achieves those figures that cannot be ignored. The acceleration is blisteringly quick and there is always ample power on tap when an extra turn of pace is needed.
It’s very sure-footed and well planted which means the road holding is flawless and the tightest of bends can be attacked with confidence.
And the driving dynamics and handling can be adjusted via the Drive Select’s optional modes, which is another plus-point of note.
All in all, the S3 Saloon is another welcome newcomer to the extensive Audi range and once again it lives up to the premium car marker’s high standards and the buyer’s unwavering expectations.