Understated; a word you’d commonly associate with cars from the Audi stable; except maybe the TT and R8. There’s just a certain appeal to Audis that’s not common with other German marques such as BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
Audi’s S-badged models dial it up by a little bit giving performance and subtle exterior details that distinguish it from standard models. The very first "S" model having begun 26 years ago with the S2 Coupe, which featured an uprated engine, quattro all-wheel drive and stronger gearbox as standard with suspension upgrades.
Such is the case with the S3. Based on the 2015 World Car of the Year Award winning third-generation Audi A3, the performance-oriented S3 can be considered as a car built on solid ground.
We take it for a drive to see how Audi does "entry-level" performance.
Audi designers seem to be obsessed with the understated appeal that comes with their cars, the S3 is no exception. Distinctly identified by its aluminum finished wing mirrors as well as the front and rear "blades", the S3 comes with slightly more aggressive sport bumpers and a lower ride height. The revised form comes with larger air intakes for lower aeroydynamic drag and better cooling for the engine and brakes.
Styling is pretty sharp and straightforward with a deep character line on the side that solidifies its simple and firm appeal. It all finishes at the rear with a pair of LED tail lamps that further accentuate its dynamism. A trunk lip spoiler and quad exhaust tailpipes finish off the dynamic look. Local spec’d releases were fitted also with the optional 19-inch wheels for an even more aggressive look.
As you step inside, you are welcomed by a meatier, flat-bottomed S-badged steering wheel which is not only good to look at but very nice to hold. Seat material is a combination of nappa leather and fabric. The dash layout and controls are exactly the same as the standard A3, only with a little bit more functionality and a quattro badge and contrasting aluminum here and there. As observed on the A3, the four round air vents are quite functional and a very clever play on the four rings badge. At center is a motorized 7-inch screen for the multimedia interface which features smooth connectivity with mobile devices as well as playing good quality music.
Being a sport model, pedals have also been upgraded to aluminum ones along with the foot rest. The disappointing part however is that it doesn’t come with push button start and comes with a standard key fob instead.
Under the hood is a 2.0-liter TFSI inline-4 turbo engine dialed up to the tune of 300 metric horsepower and 380 newton-meters of torque. Audi Philippines decided to mate local examples exclusively with the 6-speed S-Tronic dual-clutch automatic gearbox connected to the quattro drivetrain.
The chassis has been tuned for performance which means a lower ride height and stiffer suspension. Ride height is lowered by 25 millimeters from the standard A3 trim. However, it doesn’t come with the optional magnetic suspension that other markets normally force on you with the 19-inch wheels. Handling is still quite impeccable with the sport suspension it comes with.
The S3 is a very much able car with performance that matches the rather sharp look, acceleration is pretty abundant on tap with very minimal turbo lag. A drive mode selector allows you to choose between the following: Comfort, Dynamic and Individual; each with corresponding engine and transmission mapping settings as well as steering and handling properties. For city driving duties, we kept the car mostly on 'Comfort' for a lighter steering feel, quiet exhaust and seemingly more comfortable ride.
Switching the car to 'Dynamic' awakens a different beast. The steering feel tightens a bit, and the car seems to move better the engine becomes livelier, while the transmission holds shifts longer. All this excitement at the expense of a little comfort. But hey, isn't that what performance cars are made for?
All that style, power and performance does come at a price, and this marches to the tune of PhP 4,500,000. It's a steep price tag to pay, but isn’t it pretty much the same for all premium cars sold in the Philippine market? We do we wish that they don’t take out options such as the comfort access key, AirPlay, Android Auto and maybe a reverse camera.