What’s Hot: Grip, torque, and handling to match. Luxurious interior.
What’s Not: Contrast stitching on the seats looks like a Gucci handbag.
X-FACTOR: Eye-catching drop-top style with hot-hatch-eating AWD performance.
Vehicle Style: Small sports cabriolet
Price: $69,300 plus on-roads
Engine/trans: 2.0-litre TFSI petrol turbo, 210kW/380Nm; six-speed S-tronic
Fuel Economy claimed: 7.1 l/100km | tested: 7.4 l/100km
The all-new Audi S3 Cabriolet is the sort of car that you will take out on a weekend with no destination in mind; the driving is what matters.
And either you’ll push it to your driving limits - not the car’s - or tootle around with the top down, revelling in the luxury. Either way is fine.
Below the bonnet is a 2.0 litre direct-injection turbo-charged in-line four cylinder with 210kW of power and a fat 380Nm of torque. Harnessing all that ‘go’ to the tarmac is Audi’s Quattro all-wheel-drive.
It hits 100km/h from the starter’s gun in just 5.5 seconds and tops out (speed-limited) at 250km/h.
It also handles superbly for a convertible, is comfortable to drive and is luxuriously appointed.
If style counts for anything - and surely it must in this case - the S3 Cabriolet has it in spades. The lines are clean but aggressive, and it sits low on eye-catching 18-inch alloys (25mm lower than the A3 upon which it’s based).
It constantly draws second and third glances from pedestrians and fellow motorists when you’re at the wheel. So if you’re self-conscious (or robbing a bank) this is not the car for you.
But at its heart, the Audi S3 Cabriolet is a car for drivers who clearly want more than a ‘point-A to point-B’ experience.
The S3 Cabrio is a performance car that’s very self-assured. The trick to feeling comfortable in it is to feel the same way about yourself.
- Firm, torso hugging Nappa leather (heated) front seats.
- Flat-bottomed, leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel.
- Electric windows and mirrors (with blindspot warning indicators), adaptive cruise control, CD player, SD and Bluetooth inputs, 7-inch retractable touch-screen, switchable start/stop, dual-zone climate control, MMI navigation plus, Xenon-plus headlights, heated front seats, keyless on/off start, and a 10-speaker stereo including sub.
The interior of the S3 cabriolet is luxuriously appointed, refined and superbly ergonomic.
From the moment you slip into the torso hugging, high-backed sports seats, the interior makes you feel welcome and ready for the road.
There’s no first impression anywhere that jars or has you thinking: “Why on earth did they do that, or put that there?”… with one exception. The diamond contrast stitching on the seats add a gauche touch in my book, looking more like a woman’s Italian handbag than a car interior. But that’s just me.
Apart from that, the interior is a class act.
Everything is clearly laid out and within easy reach. Although, as is the case with most modern cars, the array of switches, knobs, on-screen and dashboard information is distracting at first, making it difficult to keep your eyes on the road.
The dashboard itself however, is relatively clear and simple. The speedo and rev counter is very aesthetically pleasing, the circular theme continued in the air-vents.
The driving position is comfortable, well-supported by the sports seats and leather clad steering wheel.
The placement and feel to the pedals feels ‘just right’. The flat-bottomed steering wheel, though quite thick, is tilt and reach adjustable, and the seats move manually with the exception of a powered lumbar support that works brilliantly.
It makes the driver’s seat feel like it was built for a single driver. You.
On-screen dashboard information comes courtesy of a 7.0-inch electrically deployable screen with navigation. There’s also a CD/DVD player and a 20GB internal hard drive.
The 10 speaker Bang & Olufsen surround sound system is amazing, but a word of warning here: turn it up too loud with the top down… and, well, it’s your choice, but you’ll risk looking and sounding like a wanker.
There’s plenty of room up front, but get in the back and it’s a different story… assuming you even can.
Put it this way, I wouldn’t submit my adult friends to those crammed conditions for long; a pity really because the back seat is an iconic ride position in a convertible.
ON THE ROAD
- 210kW/380Nm 2.0 litre turbo-charged petrol inline four
- 6-speed S tronic dual-clutch automatic
- Quattro permanent all-wheel drive
- MacPherson strut front end with lower wishbones; four-link rear suspension with separate spring/shock
- Brakes: front, ventilated discs, rear, solid discs
On-road performance is very impressive for a cabriolet, albeit a little hard in the suspension at high speeds. But the devil’s in the detail here.
The S3 has a variety of electronically controlled driving modes, and optional magnetic dampers (that were installed in the test car) selectable on a single switch (that makes it a shapeshifter of sorts).
There is no ‘one feel’, no single impression you’re left with when you drive it.
There are several - or more specifically five: Individual, Dynamic, Comfort, Auto and Efficiency - and each one designed to suit the driving conditions and/or your mood.
Driving the car along the Gold Coast beachfront we had the S3 in ‘comfort’ mode.
Made sense. This mode softens the suspension, shifts up through the gears at lower revs and makes the progressive power steering lighter at low speeds. It’s good for speed bumps, tight carparks and urban streets.
When winding things up for a hammer through the Gold Coast hinterland, we shifted the setting to ‘dynamic’.
This mode has the car revving higher before changing gears, firms-up the ride (almost to a fault) and adds a throatier growl to the exhaust courtesy of sound flaps in the exhaust system. (They sound amazing by the way.)
The result is almost rally-like performance and an incredible amount of pull when overtaking or powering out of a corner.
Thanks to that Audi Quattro system nailing all those ergs to the tarmac, the S3 - in any configuration - puts race-track performance and handling under the fingertips.
Even in the Cabriolet.
On the road home, the skies opened and the roof closed. With the top up there is little sense that the car was ever a convertible.
Wind noise is significantly reduced by the acoustically dampened internal foam lining in the roof, and all window seals work perfectly.
This ain’t no rag top whistling dixie, let me tell you.
On the contrary, with the roof up and travelling at 110km/h on a freeway in pelting rain, noise levels in the S3 Cabrio were impressively low.
ANCAP rating: 5 Stars
Safety features: Five airbags (front driver/passenger, side airbags, driver’s knee airbag), stability and traction control with ABS brakes and Electronic Diff Lock.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The S3 Cabriolet is top-down motoring at its finest. It strikes a superb balance between edge-of-your-seat performance and driving luxury.
For $69,300 plus on-roads the car’s certainly up there in price, but there’s no doubt that what you get for the money is a self-assured performance drive cunningly crossed with a luxurious, superbly crafted saloon.
And it’s all under the one roof… well, not necessarily.
In many respects the S3 Cabriolet’s drop-top looks are deceiving. This S3 keeps its real potential on the down-low, understating its capabilities until you punch it.
And when you do, it’s incredibly sharp on-road. If you want a mid-sized convertible that, well, goes like shyte off a shingle, check out the Audi S3.