AUDI has unveiled the newest additions to its high performance S range, unveiling the S3 Sportback and Saloon this afternoon. The models will sit atop the A3 range until the even higher-performance RS3, armed with a five-cylinder engine, arrives next year.
The newest edition shares a power unit with other hot hatches released by the VW Group, namely the Golf GTI and the Cupra Leon. It’s a turbocharged, four-cylinder 2.0-litre engine — like in the previous S3 — which can muster 306bhp and 295 lb ft of torque, slightly higher numbers than in the previous generation, although the 0-62mph time (4.8 seconds) and electronically limited top speed (155mph) remain unchanged. Still pretty nippy for a family car, though.
Small changes have also been made to make sure the S3 looks more athletic than the standard model, with a big grille and air vents at the front, aluminium detailing on the wing mirrors, and inward curves that place a bigger aesthetic emphasis on the wheel arches. At the back, there is a large diffuser and four exhaust tail pipes, and there’s the option to upgrade to matrix LED headlights.
Other sporty features include Audi’s S-Tronic seven-speed gearbox to provide super-fast gear changes, as well as the omnipresent quattro all-wheel drive. Both come as standard. A new system, the rather wordy Modular Dynamic Handling Control, which links the quattro drive to the electronic stabilisation control and optional controlled dampers, manages a fully-variable hydraulic multi-plate clutch in front of the rear axle, which reportedly makes for a more dynamic driving experience while also boosting safety and efficiency.
The S3 has also been lowered by 15mm compared to its standard-issue sibling, and S-specific suspension is also available, with the aforementioned damper control, which Audi claims can adapt to the road or the driver’s requests in “a few thousandths of a second”. This means, it continues, that: “The spread between comfort and dynamism is even wider than for the predecessor model.” The optional suspension will apparently be standard on the higher-spec Vorsprung version of the car that will be released in the next few months.
As well as installing complex-sounding systems that mean the S3 has the sporty credentials to compete with newcomers like the Mercedes-AMG A35, Audi has also focused on making sure that the S3 remains family friendly, with the company focusing on increasing interior space compared with the predecessors, which were comparatively cramped compared to the VW Golf and Seat Leon.
Predictably, this means that both models have bulked up — the Sportback has grown by 3cm, while the Saloon has grown by 4cm, and both versions have gotten wider by 3cm. Although these expansions may seem slight, Audi says that shoulder and elbow room have been improved, and boot space starts at 325 litres and 370 litres for the hatchback and saloon respectively.
Other practical features include a claimed economy of 39.2mpg and a raft of driver assistance systems including lane departure warnings, swerve and turn assist and adaptive cruise assist. The infotainment system has also been upgraded, with computing power reportedly ten times better in the new version compared to its predecessor.
The new S3 is available for order now, with prices for the Sportback starting at £37,900, and the Saloon starting at £38,465. Deliveries will begin this Autumn.