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Audi S3

"The S3 seems expensive on paper. Drive the car and it may well alter your value perception"

We've recently had a facelifted version, thanks to the range of updating tweaks lately visited on the A3 range as a whole. Apart from the minor visual changes, S3 buyers need to know three things. First, that you can now order the clever S tronic seven speed two clutch semi-automatic transmission as an option on this car costing around £1,500. Second that you can order the car as a 5-door Sportback as well as a 3-door Hatch. And third that there's a faster reacting version of the renowned quattro four-wheel-drive system. Its central hydraulic multi-plate clutch now responds even quicker when the engine's 265PS and 350Nm need to be redistributed between the front and rear wheels to maximize stability and traction. As with the original second generation version of this car, under the bonnet lies a turbocharged version of Audi's well regarded 2.0-litre FSI engine, this lightweight 152kg unit being one of the world's most advanced powerplants. Related to the engine that powers the Volkswagen Golf GTI, a serious amount of fettling has gone into giving this powerplant its own identity. The turbocharger has a bigger turbine and compressor rotor which helps generate 1.2 bar of boost pressure - a serious amount of charge. A revised intercooler, meanwhile, helps feed dense air into the combustion chamber. Redesigned pistons and conrods and a stiffer alloy cylinder head are required to run reliably with this level of boost while the camshaft timing has also been finessed to manage the higher power output. The results are suitably explosive. Fire the S3 off the line and it will reach sixty 5.5 seconds later and keep piling on speed until it reaches 155mph. The quattro permanent four-wheel drive system means that torque steer is kept to a minimum and all-weather capability is dramatically improved. Power is transmitted by a six-speed short-throw manual gearbox through the electronically-controlled Haldex multi-plate clutch, positioned aft for superior weight distribution. In normal driving conditions, most torque is directed to the front wheels but as soon as the system detects slippage, it directs torque to the axle best equipped to handle it.

The A3 chassis is a good place to start developing a sports hatch. With front and rear subframes, triangulated lower wishbones at the front and a multilink rear suspension system, the fundamentals were already in place for a decent handler. The S3 takes things a stage further with beefier shocks and springs and a 25mm lower ride height that, coupled with 18-inch alloy rims as standard, gives the S3 a properly menacing stance. Aluminium componentry in the front suspension reduces unsprung weight still further and the electro-mechanical power steering has been tuned to offer more feedback. The brakes have been upgraded with performance pads, larger discs and black painted callipers that bear the S3 badge. Drop inside and you'll spot the sort of flat-bottomed steering wheel that looks as if it's come straight out of a Lamborghini Gallardo. Folding bucket seats and a premium infotainment system that features universal interfaces for mobile phones and iPods are fitted as standard, the stereo part of the system being supplied by Bose. Also included in the list of standard trim is automatic air conditioning, a driver information system with a rather naughty lap timer function and an anti-theft alarm. Front fog lights and xenon headlights with a daytime running function are also included in a list price which will probably be just under £30,000 by the time you've specified your car. That figure may seem a hefty sum for what is, effectively, a hot hatch but Audi have done well to endow the S3 with the sort of features that make it seem well worth the price. The German company knows how to endow its wares with a genuinely upmarket aura and the S3 is no exception. It certainly appears a good few thousand pounds more expensive than, say, a BMW 130i M Sport, which costs around £400 less, isn't quite so powerful and which lacks the Audi's all-wheel drive capability. The exterior of the S3 also has real presence. Over the past few years, Audi have given their cars a lot more attitude, evolving from the very low key, almost apologetic designs of the late nineties into some of the most distinctive cars on sale today. The S3 is no exception. The huge front grille and underbumper intake combined with those piercing xenon lights create a formidable rear view mirror factor. The front skirt features spoilers and integrated air intakes, while the side sills give the flanks of the car a more voluptuous appearance and also serve to visually lower the S3. Twin ovoid tailpipes and a body-coloured roof spoiler garnish the rear end, while the trademark S-car aluminium-look door mirrors are also present. The latest, facelifted model has seen some improvements to the car's styling. The front wings and the grille are a little shapelier, the headlights are sharper-looking and the side repeaters are now incorporated into the door mirrors Other trimmings include black or silver interior headlining and custom instruments with S dials and needles. The pedals, gear knob and air vents are finished in aluminium, while the fascia inlays are trimmed in sleek Piano finish black. Alternatively, there's aluminium and also a fine grained birch wood grey which we'd probably steer clear of. S3 emblems adorn almost every surface. See how many you can get in thirty seconds. The seats are trimmed in a combination of hide and cloth with the option of Alcantara/leather or full leather, although if you opt for this upgrade, your S3 will certainly be nudging up towards £30,000. That's quite a hefty sum, but the S3 is quite a car, albeit one that's densely packed with added value. Call it small but expensively formed.

Facts at a Glance

Facts At A Glance CAR: Audi S3 PRICES: £27,470- £27,970 on the road INSURANCE GROUP: 18E CO2 EMISSIONS: 217g/km PERFORMANCE: 0-60mph 5.5s / Max Speed 155mph FUEL CONSUMPTION: (combined) 25.7mpg STANDARD SAFETY FEATURES: Twin front, side and window airbags, electronic stability control, ABS, BAS WILL IT FIT IN YOUR GARAGE?: Length/Width/Height, 4203/1765/1396mm

The other day, someone asked me what I thought of Mitsubishi Evos and Subaru Impreza STi models - those boy racer rally replicas. I replied that I couldn't see much point in buying one since a much nicer car existed for much the same money. It could do 99% of what an Evo was capable of, yet it was a much more usable everyday car. It wasn't even much more expensive. It's name? Audi's S3. We've recently had a facelifted version, thanks to the range of updating tweaks lately visited on the A3 range as a whole. Apart from the minor visual changes, S3 buyers need to know three things. First, that you can now order the clever S tronic seven speed two clutch semi-automatic transmission as an option on this car costing around £1,500. Second that you can order the car as a 5-door Sportback as well as a 3-door Hatch. And third that there's a faster reacting version of the renowned quattro four-wheel-drive system. Its central hydraulic multi-plate clutch now responds even quicker when the engine's 265PS and 350Nm need to be redistributed between the front and rear wheels to maximize stability and traction. An asking price of close to £30,000 is quite a hefty sum, but the S3 is quite a car, albeit one that's densely packed with added value. Call it small but expensively formed.

The other day, someone asked me what I thought of Mitsubishi Evos and Subaru Impreza STi models - those boy racer rally replicas. I replied that I couldn't see much point in buying one since a much nicer car existed for much the same money. It could do 99% of what an Evo was capable of, yet it was a much more usable everyday car. It wasn't even much more expensive. It's name? Audi's S3. We've recently had a facelifted version, thanks to the range of updating tweaks lately visited on the A3 range as a whole. Apart from the minor visual changes, S3 buyers need to know three things. First, that you can now order the clever S tronic seven speed two clutch semi-automatic transmission as an option on this car costing around £1,500. Second that you can order the car as a 5-door Sportback as well as a 3-door Hatch. And third that there's a faster reacting version of the renowned quattro four-wheel-drive system. Its central hydraulic multi-plate clutch now responds even quicker when the engine's 265PS and 350Nm need to be redistributed between the front and rear wheels to maximize stability and traction. As with the original second generation version of this car, under the bonnet lies a turbocharged version of Audi's well regarded 2.0-litre FSI engine, this lightweight 152kg unit being one of the world's most advanced powerplants. Related to the engine that powers the Volkswagen Golf GTI, a serious amount of fettling has gone into giving this powerplant its own identity. The turbocharger has a bigger turbine and compressor rotor which helps generate 1.2 bar of boost pressure - a serious amount of charge. A revised intercooler, meanwhile, helps feed dense air into the combustion chamber. Redesigned pistons and conrods and a stiffer alloy cylinder head are required to run reliably with this level of boost while the camshaft timing has also been finessed to manage the higher power output. The results are suitably explosive. Fire the S3 off the line and it will reach sixty 5.5 seconds later and keep piling on speed until it reaches 155mph. The quattro permanent four-wheel drive system means that torque steer is kept to a minimum and all-weather capability is dramatically improved. Power is transmitted by a six-speed short-throw manual gearbox through the electronically-controlled Haldex multi-plate clutch, positioned aft for superior weight distribution. In normal driving conditions, most torque is directed to the front wheels but as soon as the system detects slippage, it directs torque to the axle best equipped to handle it. The latest, facelifted model has seen some improvements to the car's styling. The front wings and the grille are a little shapelier, the headlights are sharper-looking and the side repeaters are now incorporated into the door mirrors An asking price of close to £30,000 is quite a hefty sum, but the S3 is quite a car, albeit one that's densely packed with added value. Call it small but expensively formed.

Scores
Performance 10
Handling 9
Comfort 7
Space 8
Styling 9
Build 9
Value 7
Equipment 8
Economy 6
Depreciation 7
Insurance 5
Total 85
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