Audi S3 Saloon review – Telegraph

28 Aug 2014 | Author: | Comments Off on Audi S3 Saloon review – Telegraph
Audi S3

Small saloons aren’t popular in the UK – but this high-performance Audi should make people sit up and take notice

The first ever A3 Saloon went on sale earlier this year but as ever with Audi you don’t have to wait long for a performance variant to come along.

It’s no coincidence that the booted A3 joins the world’s largest market segment the compact saloon class. Despite the European preference for hatchbacks, the rest of the world loves a three-box car and the S3 saloon actually has more seats-up load space than the Sportback.

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The body sits 25mm lower than lesser A3 saloons, while the package also includes an uprated braking system brakes with 340mm front discs.

In the interior, the S3 Saloon is set apart by S sports seats, instruments with grey dials and trim strips in black 3D look. It’s all very dark, the predominantly black trim relieved only by brushed aluminium inlays and door sill trims with S3 badging. The leather-trimmed steering (with sporty flat bottom, naturally) is excellent to hold and the seats are comfortable yet suitably supportive during enthusiastic cornering.

Talking of which, on the road the S3 is a discreet missile, covering ground effortlessly yet energetically. The composure and grip are constantly reassuring yet it’s all incredibly refined I had expected it to be more akin to rally-bred Subarus and Mitsubishis but the Audi is altogether more refined while being just as involving for the driver. In short, the S3 just grips and goes.

That engine might only be a four-cylinder but it’s packed with character, sounding even better at higher revs when flaps in the exhaust system open to provide the full aural experience.

The response is strong and linear, heightened by selecting Dynamic mode on the standard Audi Drive Select set-up. Peak torque is available between 1,800 and 5,500rpm, the latter figure coinciding with peak power, meaning that the S3 is effortlessly quick and, thanks to its compact size, excellent for rapid overtaking manoeuvres. The S tronic changes are almost imperceptible, with closely stacked ratios in the lower gears for acceleration and a tall top gear for more relaxed cruising and reduced fuel consumption.

Also standard on UK cars is Audi’s magnetic ride suspension, in which an electric current alters the behaviour of magnetic particles in the damping oil to either stiffen or soften the suspension.

Such is the engine’s strength that you can leave the transmission in fully automatic mode and still cover ground quickly, but start to involve the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifts and the whole car becomes more responsive, with a correspondingly compelling soundtrack.

The steering, often a disappointment on Audis, is more involving than most. It’s an electrically assisted variable ratio system, providing greater assistance at low speeds and firming up progressively as the speeds rise. It’s still inert, but the front wheels respond faithfully to the slightest input.

In conjunction with the quattro four-wheel drive, there’s a tendency to understeer but at everyday speeds it’s simply impressive.

At the centre of the latest quattro system is an electronically controlled and hydraulically actuated multi-plate clutch, mounted ahead of the rear differential in the interests of weight distribution. Most of the power is sent to the front wheels but if traction decreases the system redirects torque to the rear of the car.

It all sounds very grown-up and mature, and it is in a very Audi way. All-rounders can be often be the worst kind of compromise but the S3 manages to be road-scalding performance car and everyday family runaround in one.

Audi S3 Saloon quattro

Audi S3

Tested: 1,984cc turbocharged petrol with six-speed S tronic automatic transmission, four-wheel drive

Price/on sale: £34,720 (manual version £33,240)/now for delivery in February 2014

Power/torque: 296bhp @ 5,500-6,200rpm/280lb ft @ 1,800-5,500rpm

Top speed: 155mph (electronically limited)

Acceleration: 0-62mph in 4.9sec (manual 5.3sec)

Fuel economy: 40.9mpg Combined (manual 40.4mpg)

CO2 emissions: 159g/km (manual 162g/km)

VED band: G (£175)

Verdict: Compact, sophisticated express. Brilliant grip and stability, along with compelling engine, make the S3 a hoot to drive quickly but it’s just as capable as an everyday car

Telegraph rating: Four out of five stars

Audi S3
Audi S3
Audi S3
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