Audi S3 2.0 TFSI S-Tronic Quattro – The Hidden Dragon

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25 November 2014 – When we first drove the Audi A3 earlier this year, we were amazed at how vast an improvement Audi has incorporated into this luxury entry-level sedan over its predecessor. It also doesn’t help when we were given the top of range Ambiente-Plus edition. The A3 was, undoubtedly, one of the best in its class, marrying luxury, power, and comfort – all under one roof.

And as per heritage goes, with every normal sedan comes a hyped up version of a monster – in this case, the S3. Souped-up 3, sporty 3, whatever you call it – the S3 is bound to amaze you even further.

Exterior

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There isn’t exactly much difference between the A3 sedan and its much more muscular sibling, apart from the 18″ alloys the S3 boasts, as well as the subtle S3 badges, aluminium wing mirrors, and the brake caliper covers. Of course, there’s always the menacing quad-exhaust of the S3, but as per all exhausts, hardly anyone but an enthusiast would be able to figure out what power lies beyond those pipes.

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Up front, Audi’s new daytime running light eyeliner provides a more concentrated look to the A3 as compared to the rest in its class. Perhaps the A4’s could be on par, but those of the A3 exuded more simplicity and attention in our opinion. It is, undoubtedly, sleeker and more “modern” compared to the dotted LEDs in the earlier Audi ranges.

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The S3’s 18″ rims also add to the sportiness and dynamic handling of the sedan, and serves as an aesthetic improvement compared to the 16″ alloys the normal A3 wears.

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On the overall, Audi’s S-Line package on the S3 provides you with a fiercer and sophisticated look, with the front air intakes and chromed grille giving you the oomph you won’t get in the A3.

Interior

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On one glance, you probably would not be able to figure out the differences between the S3 and the A3. Audi retained the design of the dash as well as its relevant controls, with the tell-tale sign being the Quattro badge sitting proudly in front of the passenger seat.

The steering wheel of the S3 flattens out at the bottom, as compared to the all-rounder the A3 provides. And as per all sportier sedans and hatches on the roads, you’d know that a flat-bottom steering wheel gives you more control when handling the car or even at higher-speed manoeuvres.

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We loved the MMI system of the A3, and proudly speaking – the S3 provides the same retractable MMI screen. We felt that this was an advantage Audi has over other continentals with their interface screens stuck to the dash. Minimizing the clutter, that is.

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The Drive

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While the S3 appears aesthetically similar to the A3, the true change and excitement of this sports sedan lies beneath the engine hood.

Putting out 280 horses with the low-end torque of 320 Nm starting from 1,750 rpm, the S3 allows you to achieve your century sprint in just 5.3 seconds. Sharing the same plant as the S3 Sportback and even the Volkswagen Golf R, acceleration wouldn’t and shouldn’t be an issue when you plant your foot firmly to the ground from the lights.

Audi’s 280 bhp powerplant, coupled with the seamless 6 speed S-tronic transmission box, allows you to enjoy fast and responsive gear changes, increasing your excitement on the drive, and always giving you the extra oomph you won’t expect every time you blip the throttle.

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Within the MMI interface, Audi’s Drive Select gives you the option of cruising in various modes of comfort or sportiness, the unmistakable growl of the 1,984 cc plant reminds you that it has much more to offer than what you’re currently experiencing.

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The S3’s handling might not be as nimble as that of the Golf R given its size, but we felt that Audi’s Quattro system plays much more an impressive role than expected in keeping the car sane and gripped to the tarmac.

Conclusion

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Our review of the A3 amongst the rest in its class was remarkably impressive. And in line with that same train of thought, the S3 performed well beyond our expectations too. While the rear may not be the best seating to fit three adults, the S3 compensates with its agility, performance, and handling on the road.

To the average driver or pedestrian on the road, the S3 won’t stand out as compared to perhaps that of a Mercedes-Benz AMG or BMW M. And while it may not be as powerful as the competitors in its class, the S3 is truly what you could term a hidden dragon roaring to its heights when pushed. Otherwise, it looks as tame as the A3 could be.

We reckon if you’re a family man thirsty for that oomph of power as well as needing a car that could fit the wife and kids comfortably, the S3 might do well for you. But if you’re looking at straight-out performance, and budget isn’t that much of an issue to you, perhaps the Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG or the BMW M235i might impress you better.

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What we like:

  • Hidden power, with the exhaust note constantly reminding you: “hey, there’s more!”
  • Not too attention-seeking compared to other sports sedans on the roads
  • Superb handling, thanks to the Quattro technology

What we don’t like:

  • May be a little uncomfortable to squeeze three adults at the rear
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