The compact performer
The new Audi S3 models make their Australian debut.
Performance, technology and appointment in perfect proportions with a generous dash of practicality mark the latest iteration of Audi S3 models now prowling Australian roads.
18 March, 2022
The S3 new models, officially released to the Australian press last week, turn up the wick in all departments
Sedan or Sportback – that is the only real question when it comes to which of the new Audi S3 models will best suit the needs of someone looking for exciting driving dynamics, luxury, style and appointment in mid-sized car. In terms of pure performance and handling, ride and comfort, technology and connectivity, this is a model that has always delivered in spades right across the board, and the latest iteration – the fourth generation – does not disappoint. Rather the new models, officially released to the Australian press last week, turn up the wick in all departments, once again delivering a car in either five-door Sportback ($70,700*) or Sedan configuration ($73,200*) that does everything spectacularly well.
With the unholy combination of COVID-19 and international supply issues, the local arrival of the new S3 models has made for a frustrating wait for those looking for a truly accomplished performer in this part of the market. The A3 range in all its manifestations have become the brand’s most popular, non-SUV models in Australia, their size and differing performance offerings striking a chord with a large cross-section of Audi customers. Since its introduction in 1997, some 56,000 A3 models from the A3 family have been sold Down Under, with the S and RS variants accounting for nearly a quarter of that total. And it’s not hard to see why.
Constant refinement and improvements with each successive generation have seen the breed grow in popularity and this latest iteration is poised to top all those that have come before, with more performance, a higher level of specification and standard equipment and an even sharper, more distinctive design. Indeed the S3 takes the already arresting new design of the A3 models (more on those next week) and adds the subtle yet unmistakable S refinements that set these cars apart visually.
Whether in Sedan of Sportback guise, the sporting pretensions are obvious. Of course there are no garnish ‘towel rack’ spoilers, but there is real attitude in the S3’s stance, from the large Singleframe grille treatment flanked by Matrix LED headlights and large air intakes, to the signature quad exhausts and subtle rear lip and roofline spoilers respectively, they are both purposeful yet elegant. The sculpted flanks are more pronounced than before, the panels swooping in above the rocker line with dramatic results, and really accentuating the big 19-inch Audi Sport rims inside the flared wheel arches or ‘quattro blisters’. Daytime running lights further accentuate the new front end treatment and form part of a new arriving/departing light show that includes the rear light assembly.
Little touches that will be familiar to S3 aficionados abound, with the aforementioned quad exhaust tips, aluminium-look wing mirrors and subtle S badging, catching the eye. Customers can also option a black exterior styling package which blackens the Singleframe, front air inlet blades, side sill inserts and wing mirrors for even more visual impact – yet still in keeping with the subtle styling ethos.
The sculpted flanks are more pronounced than before, the panels swooping in above the rocker line with dramatic results
The new suspension arrangement, which sees the S3 sit 15mm lower than the standard A3, makes the most of the brilliant powerplant
Of course looking ‘all business’ is only part of the equation, and the S3 not only backs up its looks but does so better than ever before. Developing 228kW of power and 400Nm of torque, the new S3 models are the most powerful S3 variants ever offered Down Under, with 15kW and 20Nm increases over the previous models.
With peak torque available from right down as low as 2000rpm through to 5450rpm, the 2.0-litre TFSI is tremendously responsive, with instantaneous acceleration that rockets the car off the line to reach 100km/h from rest in 4.8 seconds. This acceleration makes easy work of a winding road, allowing you to brake late into the bends (thanks to 340mm ventilated rotors up front and 312mm discs coupled with a new electric brake booster) and slingshot out the other side, or balance the car using the throttle, all accompanied by a very satisfying exhaust note.
Whether you choose to use the seven-speed S tronic transmission via paddle shifts or simply ‘snick’ the all-new gear select back into S and let the car do the shifting for you, it is a wholly rewarding experience, and one that will tick all the boxes for those who really like to throw themselves into their motoring.
The new suspension arrangement, which sees the S3 sit 15mm lower than the standard A3, makes the most of the brilliant powerplant. The adaptive damper control replaces the former Audi magnetic ride and allows an even greater level of control, giving the driver the ability to varying the damping to best suit the conditions and the driving style.
Using the standard Audi drive select system, with its five profiles – efficiency, comfort, auto, dynamic and individual – in addition to adjusting the dampers, the driver can adjust everything from the steering and throttle response, to the quattro drive and even the engine note.
Just as impressive though, when not ‘pressing on’ you can still achieve extraordinary fuel figures for a performance-oriented car, with 7.4 litres per 100km for the S3 Sportback and a fraction less at 7.3 litres per 100km for the S3 Sedan.
Sadly, life is not one exciting race from point A to point B and there will be times when comfort, not performance, will be your main priority. Here too the S3 delivers the goods. Although classed as a compact vehicle, there is no shortage of room for occupants or their luggage in either the Sedan or Sportback – an overall increase in the car’s physical size translating to even more interior space for occupants in an interior that has always felt spacious. In real terms there is little difference in terms of luggage space between the two body styles, although the Sportback with its five-door configuration and taller, hatch rear is obviously better suited to carrying bulky items. With the rear seats (which adjust 40:20:40 for maximum versatility) folded flat, storage space measures an impressive 1145 litres.
Indeed the interior of the new S3s represents quite a departure from the last model, with a reimagined design that is more linear and minimalist in its execution than ever before.
Sadly, life is not one exciting race from point A to point B and there will be times when comfort, not performance, will be your main priority – here too the S3 delivers
The orientation of the dash layout means that everything is within easy reach of the driver and all vehicle systems can be viewed at a glance
Up front the orientation is very much towards the driver, in keeping with the sporty nature of the S3 and the whole ‘cockpit’ feel. You very much sit ‘in’ the S3, the electric heated front seats with four-way lumbar support are both supremely comfortable and supportive even after hours behind the wheel.
The orientation of the dash layout means that everything is within easy reach of the driver and all vehicle systems can be viewed at a glance.
The new design also features the aforementioned compact shifter – a result of the shift-by-wire system offered for the first time – which looks for all the world like a large switch. This can be easily operated with finger pressure – your hand resting on the central console where a new audio control for the cabin can likewise be operated with a fingertip (the volume controls on the multi-function steering wheel also remain).
Then there is the 10.1-inch MMI touch display, which has also received a significant boost in its computing power over its predecessor (10 times more to be precise) as well as the 12.3-inch Audi virtual cockpit plus with additional functionality including S Performance design for the instrument display, as well as ‘Dynamic’ and ‘Sport’ display options. These put all important car and infotainment information front and centre and allow easy adjustments at your fingertips.
Functions like free-text search and voice control are standard inclusions, while the latest Audi connect plus system adds online access to just about everything, be it weather, nearby car parking, restaurants, service stations as well as safety and traffic alerts.
Given the S3’s standing in the luxury ranks, a Bang & Olufsen sound system goes without saying – superb 3D sound with 15 speakers throughout the cabin – as well as inclusions like DAB+ Digital radio, Audi smartphone interface for Android Auto and wireless Apple Carplay.
In terms of safety and driver assistance systems, again the S3 covers all eventualities, with Audi pre sense front with Autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and pedestrian and cyclist detection
offered for the first time on S3, as well as Adaptive cruise assist with Stop&Go and hands-on detection, traffic jam assist and exit warning. Also included as standard is collision avoidance assistance, lane departure warning, cross traffic assist rear and parking system plus, as well as a high-resolution reversing camera and tyre pressure loss indicator.
The offering is comprehensive and impressive to say the least, effectively catering to all situations and occasions – whether that be enjoying the perfect ribbon of blacktop to making the most of the daily commute.
Equal parts driver’s car and luxury conveyance, the S3 is a genuine allrounder that doesn’t compromise in any department. Very much a case of being to have your cake and eat it too – which is of course the whole point of having cake.
This just leaves you with the decision of which body shape – Sedan or Sportback – best suits your style and lifestyle. Decisions decisions.
(*Manufacturer List Pricing [MLP] – excludes dealer delivery and government statutory charges)
Equal parts driver’s car and luxury conveyance, the S3 is a genuine allrounder that doesn’t compromise in any department
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