2014 AUDI S3 REVIEW
What’s Hot: Cracking performance, quattro grip, generous standard equipment.
What’s Not: No manual option (yet)... and that's about it.
X-FACTOR: Fast, relatively affordable, roomy and highly desirable. You can have your cake and eat it too.
Vehicle Style: Performance small luxury sedan
Engine/trans: 206kW/380Nm 2.0 turbo petrol | 6spd auto
Fuel Economy claimed: 6.9 l/100km | tested: 8.5 l/100km
There are many reasons to love Audi’s new S3 Sedan. For starters, it looks great.
Not a single piece of exterior sheetmetal is shared with the S3 Sportback, and the more adventurous surfacing and classic sedan proportions make it a very handsome machine indeed.
But its appeal lies beyond mere aesthetics.
The S3 Sedan is well-equipped, priced very competitively and - above all else - is blisteringly rapid for an Audi sans RS badge.
We’ve driven it on both road and track, and in both environments the S3 Sedan proves to be a very enticing package.
- Standard equipment: sat-nav, powered and heated front seats, keyless entry and ignition, rain-sensing wipers, dusk-sensing bi-xenon headlamps, dual-zone climate control, cruise control.
- Infotainment: 10-speaker audio with retractable 7-inch colour display, on-board music storage, USB/SD card input, iPod compatibility, Bluetooth phone/audio integration.
- Boot capacity: 425 litres minimum. 60/40 split rear seats
Here you’ll find the same dash, same seats and same switches as in the S3 Sportback, with the obvious difference being the back seat.
And though the longer-roofed S3 Sportback may have more headroom, the sedan retains enough space for the average noggin.
Certainly, it makes the cramped rear quarters of the Mercedes-Benz CLA seem a little claustrophobic.
The rear seats themselves are also accommodating. The backrest is shaped to give better-than-average lateral support, and two adult passengers can sit in good comfort.
As for the front seats, all of the cars available at the launch were equipped with the optional manually-adjusted S Sport seats, which hug the body and provide superb support.
Unfortunately we can’t vouch for the comfort of the standard electrically-adjustable seats.
The standard equipment list is packed full of gear, and few buyers should feel compelled to delve into the options list.
Features like bi-xenon headlamps, sat-nav, cruise control dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, parking sensors plus a reversing camera and a self-parking system are all standard on the S3 sedan.
And that’s in addition to the on-board music storage for the 10-speaker stereo, Bluetooth phone/audio connectivity, iPod compatibility and USB/SD inputs.
ON THE TRACK
- 2.0 litre petrol turbo inline four
- 206kW @ 5100-6500rpm, 380Nm @ 1800-5100rpm
- Twin-clutch auto transmission, Quattro AWD
- 0-100km/h: 5.0 seconds. Top speed: 250km/h
- Independent McPherson strut front, multilink rear suspension. 25mm lower than standard A3 sedan.
- Optional magnetic adjustable dampers.
- Variable ratio power-assisted rack and pinion steering
The mechanical package of the S3 Sedan is almost identical to the S3 Sportback, with the same 2.0 litre turbo four-cylinder pumping out 206kW of power and a meaty 380Nm of torque.
Key performance stats of 0-100km/h in 5.0 seconds and a top speed of 250km/h are also shared with the hatch, but the S3 Sedan differs slightly in that it’s unavailable with a manual transmission - at least for now.
Instead, the six-speed dual-clutch S tronic automatic is the sole transmission offered. That’s no bad thing though, considering its super-fast gearchanges and intelligent spread of ratios.
Out on public roads, the engine is a delight. Punchy from down low (peak torque is on hand from as low as 1800rpm), the S3 Sedan rockets away from standstill with impressive verve.
There’s no let-up either. The instant shifts of the S tronic gearbox keep the turbo on boost, and there’s more than enough oomph for swift overtaking at highway speeds.
The suspension is also made of the right stuff.
Our tester had the optional S performance package which bundles 19-inch alloys with magnetic dampers, and though the big wheels impart a harsher ride and increase road noise, the adjustable dampers soak it all up when set to Comfort mode.
'Dynamic' is a bit too firm; at least for the tough, lumpy backroads around Phillip Island. Save it for smoother tarmac, or - as we did - for a proper racetrack.
And speaking of which, the S3 Sedan ain’t too bad when let loose on a circuit.
Audi hosted us at the formidable Phillip Island GP circuit.
The long, flowing corners of ‘The Island’ favour big-power sports cars, but the plucky S3 had little trouble mustering up a top-speed of 230km/h along the long front straight.
It’s also commendably well-balanced. Though the static weight distribution is 59:41 front to rear, the S3 sedan has plenty of grip before understeer sets in.
You can also ward off understeer entirely if you turn in aggressively accompanied by a sharp lift of the thottle.
This gets the rear to swing around, tightening the line into the corner. Then it's just a matter of firing out using all the traction offered by that quattro system down below.
Body control with the dampers in Dynamic mode is also fantastic. There’s little in the way of pitch or roll, and hitting the occasional low kerb does nothing to upset the S3’s composure.
The brakes are also more than up to the task of a few fast laps.
We can’t say what the standard non-adjustable suspension is like, however the $4990 S performance pack is worth the extra spend if you like to go fast.
There are few, this is a very fine machine. The S tronic gearbox automatically upshifts at redline, which can be an annoyance on track (but is designed to preserve your investment). On road, it's something you won't notice nor care about, instead using the strong low-down torque.
ANCAP rating: 5/5 Stars - this model scored 36.41 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: driver and passenger airbags, front side airbags, full-length curtain airbags, driver's knee airbag, and electronic stability control with ABS, ASR and EDL.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Right now, the S3 Sedan’s only real rival is Mercedes-Benz’s CLA 250 Sport, which costs slightly more but has less power, less torque, less rear headroom and less equipment than the Audi.
The BMW M135i is a little more expensive and has a stronger performance focus, but is only available as a hatchback.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The Audi S3 Sedan is a solid winner.
For a modest increase over the cost of the $59,990 S3 Sportback, you get an attractive sedan body-style, a proper boot, plenty of standard equipment and the same scorching performance.
And it’s virtually without peer in its segment.
If you’re shopping for a prestigious sports sedan and don’t have over $100k to spend, the S3 is a no-brainer.
PRICING (excludes on-road costs)
- S3 Sportback 2.0 TFSI quattro S tronic and manual - $59,900
- S3 Sedan 2.0 TFSI quattro S tronic - $62,200