Audi’s A3 and S3 model line has just celebrated it’s 20th anniversary, which means for 2017 the vehicle range has just undergone a facelift and update. For the Singapore market Audi has the A3 Sportback, A3 Sedan, A3 Cabriolet, S3 Sportback and S3 Sedan available, as well as the stonking RS3 Sedan and RS3 Sportsback which were just launched in early August 2017.
Now the A3/S3 has always been a popular car in the Small Family sedan segment as it offers a number of trim, equipment levels and engine options to attract quite a wide consumer base, from young drivers looking at the A3 as their first hatchback to more mature drivers who prefer a small family size sedan like the S3 but with an upmarket executive feel.
But as we found out, there’s so much more to the new S3 than just a cosmetic facelift and some new interior lights. Audi in fact took the opportunity to create the type of car that we like – a Euro sedan that you can drive to work in absolute comfort, but with the ability to match your wild side should you find a twisty road to cut loose on!
Externally the new S3 has been updated with a more dynamic S-specific front grill with chrome plating, new tail lights, back lights, bumpers and a small rear spoiler on the boot, but what really catches the eye is the full LED headlights and rear lights, which includes Audi’s Matrix ‘dynamic indicators’ that were previously found on the A4, A8 and R8. The overall look is actually quite discrete and it doesn’t really stand out of the sedan crowd, but if you’re sharp-eyed enough to notice the four elliptical tailpipes and rear diffuser, plus discrete S badging, you’ll know that the S3 sedan is a bit more than what it seems.
Stepping into the driver’s seat and the first thing we noticed is that there’s a minimalist design principle applied – where other sedans provide a wide range of controls the S3 is quite clean – even the air conditioner system is kept simple, but with classy circular vents trimmed in chrome. Our review car came with all seats in comfy alcantara leather, though as a small European sedan the rear seat legroom was a little uncomfortable if you carry three full-sized gentlemen.
In Singapore the new S3 sedan comes with Audi’s Virtual Cockpit as standard (optional for the A3), which replaces the traditional instrument dials with a 12.3-inch TFT screen that you can easily scroll through and select functionality via thumb controls located on the left spoke of the multifunction steering wheel. The user interface is set up in a system similar to a smartphone where specific functions are clustered in one display ‘page’ that you can access and select functions – for example if you access the vehicle data page you can actually set the S3’s driving mode to ‘individual’ with suspension, steering and exhaust sound options. Now it does take a bit of time to get used to the controls, especially when you’re driving, but you’ll soon find it quite simple to set up the system to your liking, plus there’s a View button that enables you to seamlessly switching from a single screen display with a large central GPS map to a triple split screen with a central digital speed dial, GPS on one side and your car’s data on the other.
Oh and if you find scrolling through the central virtual cockpit a bit distracting while your drive, you can always access the more ‘traditional’ Audi MMI Navigation plus with MMI touch. Whenever you start the S3, a sleek touchscreen display will deploy up from the central console and it duplicates much of the functions of the virtual display like the infotainment system, GPS navigation and smartphone sync. You can also access the display using the traditional car-system control located near the gear shift.
One of the best things about the new Audi S3 is just how composed it is on the road. For normal driving it’s perfectly comfortable for urban commuting, but as we mentioned before, switch the vehicle driving mode from Comfort to Dynamic and the S3 morphs into a gruntier ride – in fact it has an artificial exhaust sound system to heighten the turbo-burble of the car’s excellent 2.0 litre intercooled turbocharger engine. With Audi’s legendary quattro all-wheel drive system coupled to a new seven-speed S tronic gearbox, the S3 feels very responsive to throttle and steering input – give it a boot during a highway overtake and you can feel it leaping forward in acceleration, find a twisty road and unless you overcook things, the car will stay precisely where you point it with the quattro system keeping all four wheels well planted.
We reckon the Audi S3 Sedan (2017) is probably one of the best small European sedans you can currently get. It looks discreet but has a futuristic cockpit, has excellent performance and handling, but more importantly, it’s well balanced – with progressive power and a ton of grip so you can always enjoy your ride.
Audi S3 Sedan 2.0 TFSI quattro S tronic
Specifications correct at time of review. For further information please visit your local Volkswagen dealer
Engine Type: Inline four-cylinder spark-ignition engine with gasoline direct injection, exhaust turbocharger with intercooler, four valves per cylinder, double overhead camshaft
Capacity: 2.0 litre
Power: 290HP/5,400 – 6,500 rpm
Torque: 380Nm/1,850-5,300 rpm
Drive: Permanent AWD (quattro)
Emission Category: Euro 6
Top Speed: 250kmh
0-100kmh: 4.8 seconds
Combined fuel consumption: 6.5
Fuel capacity: 55 litres