It’s note worthy
The cheapest ever Audi hot hatch comes standard with nice noise
PLOOFT. It’s not another vogue acronym but the satisfying onomatopoeia when the Audi S3 S tronic’s exhaust flaps open under load and at elevated engine speed — it makes turbo waste gate whistle sound puny.
The new Sportback’s 2.0-litre TFSI is a redesign that has only displacement in common with the preceding four-cylinder.
Aft of the 206kW compact powerplant and the multi-plate clutches, the exhaust flaps in strict engineering terms release back pressure. The gases exit via the outboard pipes of the eye-catching oval-tipped pairs poking out under the swish grey diffuser. In aural terms, it’s the duck’s guts. Plooft again.
The S3 Sportback is not merely sound and fury. It signifies much, as the first stage of a new generation of hotties using the VW group’s ubiquitous MQB platform.
Audi Australia boss Andrew Doyle describes the $60K fivedoor as the “leader of the pack” — there will be an A3 sedan next month, RS Q3 with 2.5-litre weaponry by March and the S3 four-door and A3 cabrio in short order after that.
What about an RS3? “There’s potential,” says product planner Matt Dale, “but there’s no news yet from Ingolstadt.”
And what about the R-word? The AWD Golf R, that is, imminent and likely to be priced about $10K to the south of the quattro? “We’ll match that with better spec,” Dale is obliged to reply.
Doyle reckons the Sportback pricing will make the hatch more accessible than nominal German rivals.
The $60K of course is the starting price for the manual and S tronic alike, the former tipped to account for no more than 5 per cent of sales.
The S performance pack ($4990) adds 18-inch alloys, red brake calipers, nappa leathertrimmed and quilted sports seats, LED lighting, magnetic ride and Bang & Olufsen audio.
High-end driver assist comes in at $1800, crystal effect paint costs $1450, metallic or pearl paint adds $1050, “parade red” leather is $900, the 18- inchers on their own are $500 and aluminium-finish roof rails add (I kid you not) $600.
Slick as. There are front and rear tweaks with S3-specific grille work, restyled rear bumper and tasteful additions of aluminium to radiator, mirror caps and diffuser. LEDs front and rear underscore the compact prestige message. It hunkers down 25mm lower than the A3 sedan.
Cabin comforts are
guaranteed even in base spec though the red trim option leans to the lurid. Sit in the tasteful all-black interior, grip the tactile flat-bottomed wheel, scroll though the multimedia touchscreen, flick the drive select switches ... all falls to hand and is within the driver’s central vision. Digital speedo, invaluable; turbo boost indicator, possibly superfluous.
Top ranking from ANCAP as per the A3. The body, thanks to hot-rolled steel and aluminium panels, is stronger but lighter than the predecessor’s. Add the inherent safety of quattro. Judiciously apply the 380 Newtons on tap from 1800rpm and you’ll overtake a B-double in fewer thumps of the cat’s eyes than you’d credit.
It bristles with new and refreshed kit, some of which can be described in simple terms.
The third-generation S3 tackles a shortcoming in its 2002 and 2008 antecedents with “progressive” steering, ie, a variable ratio setup.
Displacing the customary 1984cc, the engine gets new internals including “dual injection” (additional indirect delivery) and “thermal management” to cool exhaust gases but get the moving parts and lubricants more quickly up to operating temperature.
The S tronic’s multi-plate clutch setup gets drive down quicker, chiefly to the front wheels but instantly rearwards when traction slips. The electromagnetic damper control could be the sole reason for ticking the $5K performance option.
Drive select tailors response to car’s terrain and driver’s mood — dynamic mode and a sportier individual steering choice were a fine fit for Tasmanian roads on this week’s launch. Mastering the launch control takes rather more practice than Carsguide’s first drive allowed.
Audi brought along manual variants of the S3 ... not that the superiority of the S tronic needed a benchmark. The self- shifter is quicker and more economical that the DIY and flicking through the ratios via paddles (tasty, tactile little items that they are) just plain enhances the Sportback.
Did I mention the plooft? Indicate, accelerate, overtake ... the torque initiates the slingshot effect and the exhaust flaps signal that a swift and safe operation is under way.
The low ratios are solely to get rolling, sixth is geared for efficiency and 3-4-5 give access to the sonorous note and satisfying surge.
Summer having started, northwest Tasmania turned on horizontal rain and 4 degrees on the outside temperature readout. Not that Targa-style exploits were on the agenda but the quattros inspired confidence to press on, up, down and around
It’s yet another variant with a new emphasis on options, still with an eye on the compact prestige strata at mid-$60K. With S tronic and the magic carpet dampers, it’s a joy to drive and with schmick interior it’s a fine bauble to be seen in. There’s still the R-word on the horizon.