Performance. Power. Style. And it’s all wrapped up in a sensible saloon.
That’s Audi for you. Bristling with technology and look-at-me style, but the S3 is at its heart a sensible motor.
You quickly forget that it’s a supercar in everyday clothes. Sure, it will trundle around town happily but if you dab the throttle this hot machine will rip from 0 to 60mph in just over five seconds with a menacing howl.
The S3 performance versions date back to the 1990s but it’s only recently that it has become a five-door saloon, a proper grown-up car if you like. Earlier versions were three-door hot-hatches, and to be honest they still have the ability to turn heads.
Opportunities to savour the 300bhp in a compact, quattro all-wheel-driven Audi are now fourfold as the new S3 Saloon joins its three-door and five-door Sportback counterparts and the new S3 Cabriolet will be here soon.
It has a brand new long-stroke 2.0-litre TFSI engine which shares only its 1,984cc displacement with its predecessor is at the heart of the new S3 Saloon. It is a beast of an engine but it returns nearly 50mpg on a run.
It has new technologies which help to push the S3’s boundaries in terms of both output and economy. These include the use of both direct and indirect injection, the integration of the exhaust manifold into the cylinder head and the use of innovative thermal management for faster warm-up. Are you with me so far? It sounds complicated but the result is a fine blend of power and economy.
It sounds good, too. The aural experience is important with these kind of cars. The boy-racer or girl-racer in us loves the throaty scream as you shoot away from the lights (within the speed limit, of course).
Part of this success is down to a diet. Despite its complexity and high output, the new 2.0 TFSI weighs just 148 kilograms, five kilograms less than the previous engine.
Thanks to the modular transverse platform (MQB) which underpins the all-new A3 and S3 ranges, the front axle has shifted forward slightly compared with the previous model. This helps the handling, I’m told.
Agility and composure are of course also aided by sophisticated suspension systems. OK, so it feels a little firm, but you can adjust it electronically for a more supple ride.
Steering has been improved (it certainly feels perfectly weighted) and the ride and handling is pin-sharp.
Audi drive select is also standard. It allows the driver to alter the characteristics of the throttle pedal response, the boost of the progressive steering, the shift points of the optional S tronic transmission and the configuration of the suspension at the touch of a button. Subtle? Yes, but you can feel a difference between comfort, auto, dynamic, efficiency or individual modes.
But why would you want an S3 if you didn’t want it set up with a sporty ride?
The capabilities of the new S3 Saloon are subtly conveyed by its S model hallmarks such as the single-frame grille (only on S models) and front bumper, aluminium-look exterior mirrors, pronounced side sills and a redesigned rear bumper incorporating a platinum grey diffuser and cut-outs for the exhaust system’s four oval tailpipes, which feature chrome tips. Look at me, it shouts.
On a practical level, the car has more passenger and luggage space.
A flat-bottomed leather multifunction sports steering wheel with S3 logo and aluminium-look shift paddles in S tronic-equipped models continue the theme, as do the aluminium pedals and footrest and the heated, leather-upholstered sports seats.
Super sports seats with integrated head restraints and diamond quilting are also available from the options list.
It should go without saying that features such as dual-zone electronic climate control, Audi Music Interface iPod connection, DAB digital radio, a Bluetooth phone interface and preparation for SD card-based satellite navigation are standard.
If there is a simpler, better or more effective satellite navigation cum stereo system, then I have yet to try it. It’s beautiful to operate. There were some cynics who doubted that the five-door S3 would be as good as the three-door versions. But this car has everything you could want in a performance hatch with the benefit of seating five people in comfort.
Audi S3 2.0 TFSI 300bhp six-speed
PRICE: £32,420. Test version had extra features and cost £39,855. Features included: parking system (£595), Bang & Olufsen stereo (£750), panoramic sunroof (£950), LED headlights (£795), cruise control (£225) and glacier white paint (£525)
ENGINE: a 1,984cc, four-cylinder engine generating 300bhp
PERFORMANCE: Top speed 155mph, 0 to 60mph in 5.3 seconds
COSTS: town 31mpg; country 48.7mpg; combined 40.4mpg
INSURANCE: Not stated
WARRANTY: Three years’ warranty