Audi’s refreshed S3 has grown up in the looks department. Resembling its ‘older’ A4 sibling, it is also nearly as comfortable to pilot and sit in. Let’s go for a drive.
Photos Joel Tam
Step up to the new S3 sedan (or any A3 for the matter) and you’ll immediately notice that the front face is 80% similar to that of the A4. The headlamps with the ‘cut-in’ design is the most obvious feature found on both models. This is most likely why the new A3 is doing so well with Singaporeans; for the price of an A3, you’ll get and ‘A4’. On that not, did you know that the new A3 (or S3 in this case) is only 3 inches shorter than the 2006 Audi A4 (B6)? How modern cars have grown eh?
The S3 sedan - which is also available in Sportback form - is a handsome car, with a sporty single-frame grill with matt grey inlays contrasting against the black paint. The lower air inlets have slightly more pronounced lines and a RS-styled honeycomb grill, giving the new S3 a meaner stance. While the black exterior is certainly safe, perhaps a more impactful colour for the test car would have been nice - Misano Red maybe?
While you seat yourself nicely onto the sports seats covered in Nappa leather, you’ll also notice that the side sills light up with an ’S’ motif. A new flat-bottom steering wheel that takes its design cues from the new R8 invites you play. Press the ignition button that is rimmed with a red outline and the S3 roars to life. But before you move off, take notice of the new Audi virtual cockpit that’s standard on the S3 and available as an option on the A3. This 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster will display all the data you need, including the navigation map, car info, media data and more. At the lower corner, the S3’s virtual cockpit also renders a boost pressure indicator for the turbocharger. Way cool!
No drive is complete without music. Tap into the Bluetooth function and sync your phone so that you can get full access to your music and iTunes library. There’s even a USB port now in the centre armrest compartment. Now you’re ready to go.
Press the Drive Select button on the dash and flick the dial to Dynamic mode, then shift the gear lever to ’S’ mode. The S3 is now at its most brutal setting. The exhaust note is a low but audible hum and the car vibrates a little - begging for you to give it the full beans.
Packing 292 bhp and 400 Nm of torque, the S3 will dispatch the 100 km/h sprint in a mere 4.8 seconds. This power and speed are made all the more fun with a new quick-shifting seven-speed S-tronic transmission - which also comes with a coasting function that can be activated at speeds between 55 and 160 km/h.
But let’s forget coasting and efficient driving for a bit. We’re interested to see what this 2.0-liter turbo inline-four engine can do. Hit the accelerator and you’ll be rewarded with a forceful thrust forward accompanied with a satisfyingly guttural growl. This is one quick car, complete with an exhaust crackle and pop soundtrack. It definitely feels every bit the specs claim on paper.
Grip from the Hankook tyres coupled with the quattro system proves to be rather astonishing. The only letdown is a rather light steering feel. Which despite the stiffening up at higher speeds, still lacks somewhat in feedback and feels too light for the mad speeds this car is capable of.
Perhaps this is due to the fact that this is still very much a souped up A3, and not the full-blown RS3 (with an extra cylinder and about 100 bhp). Therefore the setup is engineered for the softer side. If that’s the case then the S3 really meets the brief.
Because for an ‘entry-level’ sedan, it feels really grown up. Quiet, refined and smooth, the S3 in Comfort or Normal mode is tamed and calm - making it the perfect balance of a weekday workhorse and weekend 'hooning' tool.
When I approached the new S3, I was wondering if it could be the next (granted quite a bit more costly) upgrade for someone who might have been driving a Mitsubishi Evolution or a Subaru STI. The answer to that is yes and no.
No, if that person still craves a raw and hard-edged drive, which can only be satiated with an RS3. Yes, if that person still enjoys having blistering performance, but is done with ‘crashy’ rides and wants to be able to float in comfort after a tired day at work - because the new Audi S3 offers both, that’s why it’s worth your dollar. Our pick? An S3 Sportback in blue.