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AUDI S3: Style, Sophistication & Speed

Observer writer

Friday, April 13, 2018

PRICED just under $10 million, the 2018 Audi S3 is the best compact sports sedan, hands down. There just isn't another vehicle of its type within its class or price range that has a similar performance pedigree.

From every angle the S3 is pure Audi performance styling language. The front of the S3 is graced with the brand's signature grille flanked on either side by LED headlights that scream future technology, while the aggressively larger intakes on the lower bumper adds some machisimo to the delicate side profile of the regular model A3. Audi pushes the light game ahead in the rear of the S3 as they animate not only during turn signal operation, but whenever the vehicle is turned on or off.

Inside, the gauges do the same as the driver drops into the comfortably supportive Audi sport seats with their S3 quilted pattern in fine nappa leather. For the hard-core, manual seats are available, but most will opt for the super-adjustable power units. Either way, one will not have a problem finding a good position from which to command the S3.

Grabbing the flat-bottomed steering wheel and engaging drive in the seven-speed transmission, warps occupants down straights and around corners with unrivalled enthusiasm. 100kph will be dispatched in a mere 5.3 seconds by the S3 on its way to a top speed of 250kph. Equipped with Audi's Quattro permanent all-wheel-drive system, the S3 achieves these figures and velocities in conditions that would leave others floundering. Turning is sharp, making carving corners a delight.

The Quattro is aided by a sticky 18-inch wheel package. The brakes are more than up to task of handling the power of the S3. Drivers will find themselves enthralled by the pops and bangs from the exhaust. Then things go up a notch.

Forgo the automatic shifting to engage manual mode, either from the lever or steering paddles, and the S3 gets an even more rabid edge. The two-litre turbocharged engine is truly unleashed, becoming more vocal and visceral. Its 305bhp and 280lb of torque can easily be felt as the tachometer sweeps around to its 6,500rpm redline without interruption from the electronic nannies. However, it's never the peaky turbocharged feel of the days of old. The S3 never feels out of breath, but delivers a smooth constant wave of power pushing the car from corner to corner as the straight stretches between them seem shorter and shorter.

The S3 is a fast Audi as one would expect. Speed is its mandate.

Still, Audi didn't stop there. One could never question its performance pedigree. Many cars are fast, whereas the S3 adds refinement to the formula. As aggressive as the Audi can be, it can be just as sedate. Packed with features like auto diming headlights, automatic wipers, and power for everything one would want, the S3 is the quintessential family sedan able to lope around city streets.

In EFFICIENCY mode, it does everything to save fuel, including automatically starting and stopping the engine when it comes to a full halt. In COMFORT mode things are relaxing, especially when the auto-braking is engaged, allowing single-pedal operation during heavy traffic. It's in these moments one can take in the extra luxury of the S3, from its sunroof to its excellent stereo controlled by Audi's MMI interface.

The Audi S3 is no bare bones sports car. It's as fast as it is civil.