It’s note wor­thy

The cheap­est ever Audi hot hatch comes stan­dard with nice noise

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Prestige - TIM VAUGHAN CARSGUIDE DEPUTY ED­I­TOR tim.vaughan@carsguide.com.au

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.

VALUE

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.

DE­SIGN

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.

SAFETY

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.

TECH­NOL­OGY

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.

DRIV­ING

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

VERDICT

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.

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