The three-door version of the new Audi S3 has just been released in Europe. And while it is a little lighter and quicker than the S3 Sportback we’ll be seeing in Australia it’s still worth taking in the first impressions from those who attended the launch:
Autocar (Greg Kable): The Audi S3 is a very accomplished hot hatch—among the best in the business for pure ability, no less. It is terrifically fast, impressively agile and boasts loads of grip. But, that said, it isn’t as engaging to drive we had hoped. What it lacks in pure back-road excitement, the new S3 attempts to make up for in overall quality. In this respect it is better than any rival out there.
Auto Express (Jack Rix): The new S3 feels as crushingly fast as its predecessor in a straight line, but makes unexpected improvements in other areas. The bassy soundtrack is as close to a six-cylinder as a four-cylinder gets, it feels lighter on its toes in corners and the lightning-fast S tronic gearbox is a perfect match. Dial down the dynamic settings and it’s more refined and comfortable than ever, too. More feedback through the steering wheel would be appreciated, and ultimately the handling feels safe rather than lively, but Audi has done enough to make keen drivers think twice before buying the BMW M135i.
Car (Ben Pulman): The Audi S3 has always been a good all-round hot hatch, but this latest version has a broader repertoire: it’s more refined and the cabin is unmatched in this class, and it’s also more fun to drive hard. The S3 isn’t quite as involving as any of the Ford/Vauxhall/Renaultsport crowd, but I’m not sure that matters when the rest of the package is so complete.
Drive (Jonathan Hawley): As well as being feisty in a straight line the S3 is an agile handler with oodles of grip, the ability to find traction coming out of corners, and the steering is well weighted and precise.
Hmm, it’s a bit of a mixed bag really. Clearly the 8V appears better than the 8P model it replaces, but has it improved enough to mix it with the increased competition from Germany?
The review from Australia’s own Drive is so lacking in detail about the actual driving experience we’re inclined to ignore it. But, based on the other comments, and compared against the list prices of $68,400 for the M135i and $74,900 for the much more powerful A45 AMG, we can’t help but think, as good as the S3 might be, its mid-60s pricepoint might make it at least $5K too much.