Audi S3 review - Engines, performance and drive
S3 delivers amazing quattro grip and strong performance, but the car is quite clinical in its delivery
Fast Audis have long been focused on effortless speed rather than driver interaction, and the S3 sticks to this formula. It serves up an unflappable driving experience, but it remains somewhat lacking in enjoyment when compared to the likes of the BMW M140i.
Lower and stiffer suspension is designed to sharpen the handling, although this can mean the S3 crashes over bumps and imperfections in the road. We'd recommend upgrading to Audi's Magentic Ride adaptive dampers so you can select a softer damper setting to help matters. A sports exhaust ensures the noise is more throaty than in a standard A3, but the steering could do with more feedback.
Even so, as it’s equipped with 25mm-lower springs than the standard A3, as well as quattro four-wheel-drive, the S3 sticks like glue through bends, and will only push wide with understeer if you try to carry too much speed through a corner.
All that grip means you can get on the throttle early out of the other side, and you’ll find the pedal response sharp and straight-line acceleration very impressive.
The manual S3 will be the keen driver’s choice, although as you can only get it with an S tronic automatic now, you'll have to look for a used example if you want a manual. However, the 7-speed S tronic twin-clutch auto is well suited to the car’s hi-tech character. It shifts incredibly quickly when you’re driving hard, although it can prove jerky and a little slow to react around town.
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As well as the sports exhaust, Audi has fitted a speaker in the bulkhead to pump artificial engine noise into the cabin, with surprisingly good results. The tone is bassy as the revs rise, and you get some fizzes and pops from the exhaust if you spec the S tronic box.
The steering is less impressive, though. While the variable ratio system is direct and prevents the need for armfuls of lock, it provides next to no feel.
The S3 is powered by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged TFSI engine, and this delivers 296bhp and 380Nm of torque across a wide rev range – 1,800-5,500rpm.
Tech developments include the use of new, stronger internal components, and a new lightweight alloy cylinder head. Audi says the current engine spec is 5kg lighter than the previous version, as well as being more powerful.
It revs to a 6,800rpm maximum, and when pressed the S3 hatchback will cover 0-62mph in 4.8 seconds with the optional six-speed S tronic gearbox fitted; with the standard six-speed manual, the sprint takes 5.2 seconds.
All bodystyles will go on to reach a limited top speed 155mph, although saloons are a tenth slower from 0-62mph, while the Cabriolet – which is only available with the S tronic box – takes 5.3 seconds, thanks to the extra weight of the roof and body strengthening it's carrying.
In this review
- 1Audi S3 reviewA turbocharged 296bhp powertrain, agile chassis and quattro four-wheel drive make the stylish Audi S3 a potent hot hatch.
- 2Engines, performance and drive - currently readingS3 delivers amazing quattro grip and strong performance, but the car is quite clinical in its delivery
- 3MPG, CO2 and Running CostsRunning costs are reasonable, but what makes the Audi S3 really attractive financially is its reputation for slow depreciation
- 4Interior, design and technologyThis is no stripped-out hot hatch; the S3 delivers a real premium feel and has the toys to match
- 5Practicality, comfort and boot spaceAudi offers the S3 in three body styles, all with class competitive practicality, giving buyers plenty of choice
- 6Reliability and SafetyWith the might of the VW Group behind it, the S3 benefits from robust engineering and cutting-edge safety equipment