When Audi UK rolled out the latest additions to their A3 range in March, the A3 Cabriolet and the S3 quattro Saloon, UK motoring media concentrated on the Cabriolet but now it’s time to give the S3 2.0 TFSI quattro 300PS Saloon an airing.
The A3 range now of consists of the three door Hatchbacks, the four door Saloons, the five door Hatchbacks and the two door soft top Cabriolet.
The A3 range as a whole is Audi’s best selling line-up accounting for over 30,000 annual registrations which regularly now appears in the UK’s top ten new car sales chart driven by fleet and business car sales of the Hatchback and Sportback variants.
The A3 Saloon, priced from £22,825 is expected to sell around 3,500 units in the UK this year with the high performance S3 quattro Saloon being a niche version selling around 10% of that total with retail customers taking up to 70% of sales.
The four door S3 quattro Saloon is priced from £33,245 for the manual and £34,725 for the S tronic auto. It joins the S3 quattro three door Hatchback priced at £30,645 and £31,265 for the five door S3 quattro Sportback line-up and arriving soon is the new S3 quattro Cabriolet priced at £38,910.
Like the S3 quattro Hatchback, Sportback and Cabriolet versions the S3 Saloon uses a totally new 2.0-litre TFSI long-stroke, twin balancer shafts, four cylinder, combining direct and indirect injection, turbocharged, lightweight petrol engine pushing out 300PS (296bhp) of power and 380Nm (280lb ft) of torque from 1,800rpm. It is available with six-speed manual or S tronic twin clutch transmissions and all have quattro all wheel drive.
Both versions have a top speed restricted to 155mph with the more popular auto variant having a zero to 62mph acceleration time of 4.9 seconds, 0.4 seconds faster than the manual model. The Combined Cycle fuel consumption is 40.9mpg auto and 40.4mpg manual. CO2 emissions are 159g/km auto and 162g/km manual which means VED road tax is £180 for both versions.
My first very short test drive in March gave me the overall impression that the S3 Saloon’s ride was firm, the quattro grip immense, the ride could be choppy over some poorer roads but the acceleration was stunning, the price high and the cost of the extra options out of this world.
The price of the auto version I have just tried for a longer spell behind the wheel is £34,725 on the road rising just a fast as the car goes to a monster £41,565 with options. Hot prices for hot performance indeed!
The S3 is exceptionally talented which will make less talented drivers look and feel good. The design with its well known Audi S model hallmarks of discreet badging, single-frame grille, bold front and rear bumpers connected by pronounced side sills, a grey rear diffuser, four chrome tipped oval tailpipes and smart 18-inch alloys looks purposeful but not brash.
It’s one of the rare four door sports saloons that combine abilities to be an everyday useable saloon with the facility to be something a lot more when the enthusiast requires it to be so.
It is marginally longer than an A3 Sportback which seems to have become a popular company car so it will appeal to a discerning but small group of drivers who want something more than volume sales model.
It short is just looks right with its 25mm lower stance, wider tracks and chunky appearance without any sign of brashness.
Inside the classy theme continues with all the usual S level sports instruments and the flat-bottomed multifunction sports steering wheel (right) and where the must-have S tronic 6-speed auto transmission is fitted there are the usual aluminium look shift paddles either side of the wheel.
Aluminium foot pedals continue the sporting theme. Front heated sports seats and the folding rear seats are upholstered in Nappa leather.
It goes without saying that the S3 Saloon has as standard dual zone climate control, DAB digital radio, iPod connection, Bluetooth and so on. But it wouldn’t be an Audi, even an S3 if there wasn’t a host of extra cost options which range from SD card based sat-nav and their Driver Assistance Package costing £1,450 which includes adaptive cruise control, active lane assist, high bean assist, park assist, automatic lights and wipers and acoustic windscreen. A brilliant Ban & Olufsen sound system will add yet another £750 to the price.
The S3 four door Saloon as I’ve said looks less of a rep-mobile than the five door Sportback and is vastly more user friendly than the three door Hatchback models.
The rear seat legroom is more generous than other A3 siblings and the 390-litre boot actually offers 50-litres more space than the Sportback and this capacity can be increased further by folding down the split rear seat backs. The only downside when loading the boot is the relatively high rear sill over which heavy bags or cases have to be lifted. But it’s under the S3 Saloon’s lightweight body it really differs from its lesser stablemates.
There is of course the Audi quattro all wheel drive system shuffling power distribution through the multi-plate clutch permanent all wheel drive system to the wheels with the most grip.
The S3 Saloon also has the standard-fit Audi magnetic ride suspension with electromagnetic dampers juggling the firmness or softness desired by the driver through the comfort, auto, dynamic, efficiency or individual modes. The S3 Saloon also has as standard their Drive Select system where the driver can alter the throttle response, the boost of progressive steering and the gearshift points of the automatic transmission where that is chosen over the six-speed manual gearbox.
It is just a brilliantly balanced car, yes the ride can be firm on poor road surfaces but the power of the engine and the distribution of traction are impressive.
At the heart of this S3 Saloon and all other S3 models is the all new 2.0-litre TFSI, four cylinder petrol engine which uses direct and indirect injection and is turbocharged.
The power output and performance figures are headlined earlier in this road test review but very worthy of further mention is the impact of the torque which makes this engine so potent.
Although of long-stroke design, the unit is relatively high revving but with twin balancer shafts these iron out stressful vibrations and noise.
Most impressive is the delivery of torque that makes it so responsive right through the rev range. The 380Nm of torque is delivered from 1,800 right up to 5,500rpm which means that other than town traffic when very few engine revs are needed the engine is always able to deliver immediate power, it just doesn’t run out of puff as it goes further up the rev range. It has a torque curve resembling a side profile of Table Mountain.
The performance figures are impressive; top speed restricted to 155mph, zero to 62mph takes 4.9-seconds with the S tronic twin-clutch auto but it is even more impressive when you actually drive the car, press the throttle and go.
Just as praiseworthy is the fact that for most of the time in our restrictive traffic conditions the engine is flexible and refined enough to be able to just potter along without stress to it or the frustrated driver.
The performance doesn’t come at the expense of fuel economy either. My week long driving spell returned a figure of 36.2mpg. This is respectably close to the official figure of 40.9mpg which is obtained in laboratory conditions.
Mine was obtained on our UK roads in no-fun traffic but fortunately included open road driving where slower traffic was dispensed with a the touch of the throttle.
Impressed? I certainly was by the Audi S3 Saloon and it is a serious competitor for the new similar sized M models from BMW and AMG performance versions of compact Mercs.
Even Audi’s S4 Saloon with its 3.0-litre, V6, 333PS engine is out-shone by this model, apart from size of course.
Audi S3 2.0 TFSI 300, S tronic quattro, 4-Door Saloon. £34,725
Engine/transmission: 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder, petrol with direct and indirect injection with turbocharger, 300PS (296bhp), 380Nm (280lb ft) from 1,800 to 5,500rpm, 6-speed S tronic twin clutch auto with quattro all wheel drive. Performance: 155mph 0-62mph 4.9 seconds, 40.9mpg Combined Cycle (36.2mpg on test), CO2 159g/km
VED road tax £180, BIK company car tax 24%.
Insurance group: 36E. Warranty: 3-years/60,000 miles Dimensions/capacities: L 4,469mm, W 1,796mm, H 1,392mm, boot/load capacity 390 to 845-litres.
For: Classy but not over-the-top sports styling, practical 4-door, 4-seater saloon body style, brilliant high torque output over a very wide range, superb handling with poise and balance.
Against: Too many options should be standard – sat-nav for instance.