Don’t call me that!

Wheels - - Contents -

The new Audi S3 is a fancy Golf we’re not get­ting here… yet

The new 296bhp Audi S3 is one of the fastest point-to-point hot hatches around, but it’s still

un­clear whether you can ac­tu­ally have one in the Mid­dle East, writes

De­jan Jo­vanovic

Be­fore we start

I want to make it clear that Audi Mid­dle East still hasn’t made up its mind whether the S3 hatch will ac­tu­ally be of­fered for sale here or not. In any case, while we were in Mu­nich to drive the rabid RS6 Avant, we set­tled into the cosy en­vi­ron­ment of a fully-loaded S3 with a twin-clutch ’box, crisp Google satel­lite maps on the top-mounted af­ter­mar­ket look­ing dis­play, chunky three-spoke mul­ti­func­tion­alal steer­ing wheel, dig­i­tal driver dis­play, MMI and B&O sound sys­tem, sup­port­ive Nappa leather seats and plenty of alu­minium trim. Im­me­di­ately you’ll think, “Well, this looks ex­pen­sive.” Ex­actly. If it was of­fered in the GCC, how much would it cost? Dh150K? Dh160K? Am I get­ting warm? Im­age is ev­ery­thing here, so Audi could surely find a cou­ple of peo­ple who are re­pulsed by the no­tion of a ‘Peo­ple’s Car’ and would never buy a Volk­swa­gen Golf GTI, with which it shares some im­por­tant com­po­nents. And that also makes it very, very good. The S3 quattro hatch­back houses the same EA888 mo­tor — the old VAG four-cylin­der with re­designed cylin­der head and a cou­ple of other tid­bits — up front, but turned up to 296 horse­power. In­stead of call­ing it the DSG, Audi refers to the six-speed with pad­dle shifters as an S tronic gear­box, which is any­thing but sporty in feel but ex­cel­lent at hand­ing a never-end­ing stream of torque to all four wheels. That’s why 0-100kph comes up

“The short wheel­base hasn’t got much room for dis­si­pat­ing en­ergy, yet the S3 man­ages to feel fixed and se­cure, rather than

hard and un­com­fort­able.”

in less than five sec­onds, and the quattro sys­tem with an op­tional limited-slip sport dif­fer­en­tial is why you can keep the ac­cel­er­a­tor flat every­where. Yet even though the S3 has shed some weight com­pared to its pre­de­ces­sor — mostly thanks to Volk­swa­gen Group’s new MQB struc­ture — it still weighs in at well over 1,400kg, and de­pend­ing on op­tions the end re­sult could prob­a­bly hike the fig­ure to 100kg over the Golf GTI. And that’s the prob­lem. The badge on the back says Audi; score. The spec sheet says 0-100kph in 4.8sec and 380Nm of torque from 1,800rpm; score. And did I men­tion that the badge says Audi? It’s got ev­ery­thing go­ing for it, but to drive, how­ever scald­ing hot and pointy it is, it’s no more ex­cit­ing than a bounc­ing, ea­ger, Golf GTI with a no­tice­ably more re­spon­sive front end. And let’s not even get to Audi’s idea of steer­ing feel. How­ever, it does get the job done, es­pe­cially with Audi’s Drive Se­lect set in Dy­namic mode mak­ing the steer­ing slightly more feel­some. On the out­skirts of Mu­nich through the coun­try­side and its me­an­der­ing B-roads, the ride was ex­tremely firm, but not with the jud­der­ing and con­vul­sions sent through the driver’s spine in Audi S and RS cars of old. The short wheel­base hasn’t got much room for dis­si­pat­ing en­ergy, yet the S3 man­ages to feel fixed and se­cure, rather than hard and un­com­fort­able. If you ditch the run-flat Con­ti­nen­tals, things might even im­prove even more.

But we’re surely get­ting the S3 Sedan in­stead of the hatch here any­way — we’ll re­port as soon as we re­turn from the

380NM Max­i­mum torque— which is what re­ally counts — is only a lit­tle higher than in the Golf GTI, and comes up 300rpm later in the rev range

in­ter­na­tional launch in Aus­tria — and that one will ob­vi­ously give the buyer a less head-scratch­ing de­ci­sion to make.

The Golf GTI is a youth­ful hatch­back. The S3 with a boot is an A4 to most passers-by, and a traf­fic-light su­per­star 300-horse sleeper to you. It’s a grownup choice, and when some­body tells you you’ve spent your money on some­thing with a Golf driv­e­train, you can point to the boot and place your pinky fin­ger near the cor­ner of your mouth to em­pha­sise just how sly you are.

As for this new S3 hatch, it’s a great car; ac­com­mo­dat­ing, lux­u­ri­ous, prac­ti­cal and very, very fast. But would I have one? No, and not just be­cause I can’t any­way…

This is not your com­mon hatch­back en­vi­ron­ment, not when there’s a 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen sys­tem, Nappa and quilted stitch­ing

With the same engine as in the Golf GTI, but with the boost gauge get­ting quite a work­out— the S3 de­vel­ops around 70 more horses than theVW The six-speed S tronic works its magic in the back­ground. You can call it a DSG

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