Now meet the full monty Audi S3

Hot hatch gets same power as Euro ver­sions, and it shows

The Star Early Edition - - ROAD TEST - JESSE ADAMS

GONE are the days when cer­tain high-per­for­mance Audis, namely those with 2-litre turbo en­gines, were down­tuned to lesser power out­puts for the South African mar­ket.

As our coun­try is con­sid­ered a par­tic­u­larly hot one, un­til re­cently cer­tain S mod­els came our way with slightly muz­zled per­for­mance to spare the en­gines.

But now that’s changed. Some­one at the Audi moth­er­ship woke up and re­alised that our cli­mate isn’t ex­actly the scorch­ing cru­cible of hell­fire it’s of­ten be­lieved to be, and now we get cars like the new S3 with the full Euro­pean-spec monty at all four wheels. In this case it means 228kW and 400Nm, or, more im­por­tantly, 22kW and 20Nm more than the S3 had be­fore the facelifted ver­sion landed late last year.

When we last per­for­mance-tested a 206kW/380Nm S3 in 2014, it was a Sedan ver­sion that launched from 0-100km/h in 5.1 sec­onds and cov­ered the quar­ter mile in 13.4. A year ear­lier we V-Boxed an equiv­a­lent Sport­back with 5.3 and 13.6 fig­ures re­spec­tively. Nat­u­rally, we had to find out if the new S3’s added gusto would shave any time off th­ese num­bers, so we took one to our test fa­cil­ity and strapped our equip­ment in to find out.

Audi claims the new S3 Sport­back can do 0-100km/h in 4.6 sec­onds, and while we knew repli­cat­ing this fig­ure would be a tall ask, we ex­pected it to at least break the five sec­ond bar­rier. And it did. Just. Af­ter nu­mer­ous at­tempts our lap­top dis­played a quick­est launch of 4.98 sec­onds with a best quar­ter mile time of 13.3. And that was with a fullish fuel tank and a rel­a­tively warm 20 de­gree am­bi­ent tem­per­a­ture.

To put the new S3’s quick­ness into con­text, know that it’s now the sec­ond fastest hatch in our Quar­ter Mile Kings chart, be­hind its five-cylin­der sis­ter the RS3, which does 0-100km/h in 4.5 sec­onds and the quar­ter mile in 12.9 in lat­est 270kW form.

Along with more power, the new S3 also gets an up­dated Stronic gear­box with seven speeds in­stead of six, and lu­bri­cated wet dual-clutches in­stead the out­go­ing model’s dry setup.

In nor­mal day-to-day driv­ing sit­u­a­tions it’s vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble to dis­cern the dif­fer­ence be­tween old gear­box and new other than that it might pull off a lit­tle more smoothly, but on the track we fear the old ver­sion might be a bit bet­ter. With more ra­tios to choose from the new S3 bounces from gear to gear more fre­quently in auto mode, and it’s a lit­tle more re­luc­tant to ac­cept man­ual in­puts via the steer­ing pad­dles. It’s hardly an is­sue, but one we picked up at our test track.

Another up­date is that the Haldex quat­tro sys­tem has been re­vised, and with great re­sults too. Pre­vi­ously, the com­put­ers that told the cen­tre dif­fer­en­tial when and when not to send drive to the rear axle, did so in­de­pen­dently of other sys­tems such as ABS brakes and sta­bil­ity con­trol.

Now ev­ery­thing works to­gether with one elec­tronic brain cross ref­er­enc­ing trac­tion and driver in­puts to make han­dling a lit­tle more per­suad­able. On a slip­pery skid­pan I had the this S3 in a steady, coun­ter­steer­ing drift and that’s un­usual for any four wheel drive Audi.

The last ma­jor up­date, and one that goes across the en­tire new A3 range, is the op­tion of a Vir­tual Cock­pit in­stru­ment clus­ter. It might tack an ex­tra R31 300 onto the list price (R646 000 in the S3 Sport­back’s case), but it’s a colour­ful fea­ture that raises the per­ceived pre­mium feel through the roof.

With its full 228kW and 400Nm the up­dated S3 just sneaks un­der the five-sec­ond 0-100km/h mark.

The gear count has in­creased from six to seven.

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