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Audi's facelifted S3 sedan: The balance in A3 range

2017-05-02 09:10

Charlen Raymond

ALL YOU NEED: The facelfited Audi S3 is the pick of the A3 range. Image: Warren Wilson

Cape Town - Practical ride or weekend fun, often car buyers find themselves between a rock and a hard place when it comes to deciding on a new vehicle.

Many factors, such as family and lifestyle requirements (read: a fun car to drive), need to be considered. With many options available, how do you go about finding a car that will cater to most of your needs?

Audi may have a solution to those problems; its S3 sedan.

'The car to have'

When the A3 range was launched in South Africa a few years back, many motorists felt the A3, in sedan guise, was all the car you would ever need. Even the entry-level 1.4-litre TFSI model received praise for offering an honest, yet comprehensive package.

Models with bigger engines obviously had more power and performance, but the sedan, as a whole, was virtually complete in its totality.

The sedan was also made available in S3 guise - a first for the A3. It offered the same features as the rest of the A3 range, but with the benefit of having more power. During the second half of 2016, Audi refreshed its A3 range, including the S derivatives, and added more power to its sporty models.

READ: Refreshed Audi A3 arrives in SA: Pics, details, prices

The S3 continues with the same fuss-free ergonomics the A3 range is lauded for; minimalistic in execution, fun to drive and practical. The MMI system builds on the easy-to-navigate setup from its predecessor and scrolling through menus is aided by large images.

On a practical front the boot can swallow luggage with ease and the rear seats can accommodate averaged-sized adults in comfort. But the S3 isn’t an S4, so tall rear passengers will be a bit pressed for space. The driver and front passenger have enough head/legroom to not be bothered with what’s happening in the rear.

Image: Warren Wilson

Compact and bold

There are minor details to differentiate the S3 from the rest of the A3 range. From a distance the car will only be recognised by its pronounced exhaust note but up close you'll be able to sport its sporty enhancements.

The grille is slightly larger and features S3 badging. The wheel arches are flared and more prominent, fitted with 18” tyres. Quad exhaust pipes are fitted, as well as another S3 badge on the boot.

GALLERY: 2017 Audi S3

And that’s that. No fancy decals to announce its arrival and purpose. The S3 is rather compact. It hovers relatively low to the ground, creating a bulky, almost menacing, impression. Audi took its S3 to the proverbial design gym, not to build muscle, but to tone-up where it counts. Just enough to show what lurks underneath.

Image: Warren Wilson

That 228kW engine!

For its facelifted S3 Audi decided to turn up the wick on the car’s 2.0-litre turbocharged engine. Punching out a very healthy 228kW/400Nm, the engine is coupled to a seven-speed automatic gearbox that sends power to all four wheels. The result is a car that sprints from 0-100km/h in 4.6 seconds, onto a limited top speed of 250km/h.

But the figures only tell half the story. Underneath the skin, when the desired driving mode is engaged, the electronics are always working to extract the best possible ride quality from the Volkswagen Group’s MQB architecture. In Comfort and Efficiency modes the engine is less responsive to throttle inputs, and the gearbox takes on a calmer nature. It also brings down fuel consumption and the suspension is softer and more absorbing.

Individual mode allows for you to set the car up to your liking, while Auto will adapt to your driving style and road conditions.

A fifth mode, Dynamic, changes the car’s character completely. The exhaust note deepens and crackles on overdrive. The suspension stiffens, steering becomes tauter, and the engine is sensitive to every touch on the accelerator. The S3 transforms from your “ordinary” family sedan to something that can rival more expensive executive saloons in the performance department. 

Dynamically, on roads that require break-and-turn driving, the car handles itself with confidence. Though there is sufficient feedback through the front wheels, the car tends to exhibit some understeer especially through fast corners. But in all likelihood, owners are never really going to notice this since the smile-evoking character of this car is reason enough not to be too bothered with it.

Image: Warren Wilson

It actually makes sense…

After “living” with the S3 for a few days, the car started making sense - in more ways than I actually thought it would. As a family car, the S3 sedan can pull its weight. It has sufficient space for an ordinary family (two parents, two kids), it can carry luggage, and in Comfort and Efficiency modes it barely uses more fuel than the 1.4-litre TFSI engine. Provided, of course, you drive according to the mode’s strengths.

As a sports car it performs and meets the requirements of the driver. It has no problem launching off the line and rushing to 100km/h. And above all, it has no problem taking on your favourite twisting road while delivering a satisfactory sensation.

The S3 is not as robust and obtrusive as the RS3 - of which a sedan variant will become available soon, too! - but it isn’t as ordinary as the standard range. Yes, the S3 sedan is predictable in executing its talents, but at least you’re getting the David Foster of the current A3 range.

Image: Warren Wilson

*All photos captured by Warren H. Wilson.

Read more on:    audi  |  charlen raymond  |  cape town  |  new model  |  new car  |  sedan  |  a3

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