I GOT my hands on Audi’s latest all-wheel drive, compact saloon version of the quick and lightweight S3. Audi may have accidentally stumbled into creating a remarkable small sports saloon – seems promising. Powered by the latest EA888 2.0-liter TFSI (Turbo Fuel Stratified Injection) long stroke engine – shares also with its cousins VW Golf R – a completely redesigned direct-injection, balancer shaft power unit featuring raised injection pressures, variable valve timing, intelligent cooling and an integral exhaust manifold kicks out an impressive 296 bhp (300 horsepower).
It can be coupled either to a six-speed manual or Audi’s popular choice, quicker six-speed DSG S-tronic paddle-shift automatic transmission that shortens the 0-62 miles per hour (99 kilometers per hour) sprint time by 0.4 second to 4.9 seconds, with slightly lower 159 grams per kilometer emissions, coupled to Audi’s famous Quattro four-wheel drive system.
Audi engineers made the S3 lighter by cleverly integrating the use of aluminum in all points possible such as the engine block putting out 35 bhp more than the previous S3, entire front sub-frame, suspension components, bonnet and front wings. Interior pieces not seen by naked eye are adored in alloy as well, allowing a base weight of 1,430 kilograms.
Interestingly, the saloon rides on a 35-millimeter longer wheelbase and a fractionally broader track. Distinct features are the actively adjustable magneto-rheological dampers as standard adding an impressive array of driver aids like Audi’s Dynamic mode, a Drive Select interface offering Comfort, Auto, Sport and tailored Individual modes.
Distinguishable traits from its past counterparts comprises – 19in alloys, large 340-millimeter disc brakes, an aggressive front diffuser, additional air intakes, sill extensions, four exhaust outlets and boot-lip spoiler with a 25-millimeter lower ride height. Laid out in Alcantera leather you feel you’re in such premium luxury. The S3 sport seats were comfortable and very supportive with a well-placed driving position. Although inside feels a tad bit stifling for me, it’s the interior that has more potential to deliver you a visual blast. A strikingly new addition is the trendy pop-up screen that hides in the middle of the dash where the infortainment system is controlled by an aluminum dial mounted just before the gear lever. The dials are epitomes of clarity, the switchgear and controls are laid out in such a simple, intuitive manner you wonder why all cars don’t follow suit.
Day-to-day drives with the S3 are enjoyable because it is quick to blast through all its six gears, sounding like a distant touring car racer even when the four-tip exhaust is quieted to its subtle setting. The drama is in the gearshifts, which are a do-it-all-over-again pleasure to hear, and the pounding rate at which where you are heading becomes where you have been. That said, there’s something curiously undramatic about the engine’s delivery as its linear torque curve provides a buildup gathering of power that’s faintly saddening. Prod deeper, and hold it a second, say, to observe the engine’s pull from 1,100 rpm, and you’ll discover a turbo that needs a pause to spool up. However, the six-speeder’s broad gear ratio’s spread and narrow spacing conceals this deficiency well.
On the track, not that the car feels unbalanced, nosing into tight bends with authoritative composure, and feeling terrifically stable through fast sweepers. It’s a fluent mover, and the more so with the DSG transmission. For the most part that applies to its ride too, which in Comfort or Auto mode – musters adequately, if firm – provides solid flexibility over most surfaces. Sport induces more vertical hopping though the bumps.
All-wheel drive adds a directional security and freedom from torque-steer, channeling all the power through all four wheels, using a Haldex clutch rather than a more sophisticated Torsen differential to parcel torque to the axles. So you don’t get the 60-percent torque bias to the rear axle that longitudinally engined Quattros provide.
Despite these shortcomings, the S3 is an alluring proposition. It looks handsome inside and out, its urge is as satisfying as it is effective and the accompanying soundtrack appropriately stimulating. And its dimensions are perfect for our short and narrow roads.
Typically grippy, fast and offering top-notch quality, the Audi S3 Saloon is one of the smart-guy fast Audis with plenty of character for a compact saloon, and a handsome and consistent everyday driver. If you like the idea of an old-school-sized fast saloon with intense hot rally all-wheel drive pace, the S3 is one of the best value, well-built performance and finely finished compact saloon in the market.
Specs: Audi S3 Saloon 2.0 TFSI S-tronic
0-62 mph (99 kph) 4.9sec; top speed 250 kph; Economy 10-11 kilometers per liter (combined); CO2 159g/km; Kerb weight 1,430kg; Engine four-cylinder in line, 2.0liter turbocharged; Power 296 bhp (300 hp) at 5,500-6,200rpm; torque 280 pound-feet (379 Newton-meters) at 1,800-5,500rpm; Gearbox six-speed DSG.