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First pictures: All-new Audi S3

With just six days to go to the Paris motor show, the 'leaks' are coming think and fast; today sees the official release of the all-new Audi S3 - and we do mean all new.

The only thing its long-stroke two-litre TFSI engine has in common with the previous model is its 82.5 x 92.8mm bore and stroke. Developed specifically for the S3, it has upgraded pistons and con rods, a grey cast-iron crankcase reinforced at the main bearing seats, and a new cylinder head made of a lightweight aluminum-silicon alloy.

The exhaust manifold is part of the head, and is cooled by the water jacket - which not only keeps the larger-than-before, 1.2-bar turbo cool at full throttle (so it can run leaner and save fuel) but also reduces fuel consumption during warm-up.

The new TFSI engine has both direct and indirect fuel-injection; it relies on direct injection for starting and at high revs but uses indirect injection at part load to reduce consumption and emissions.

IMPRESSIVE NUMBERS

All of which translates into some impressive numbers: Audi quotes 221kW at 5500 revs and 380Nm from 1800-5500rpm, and the engine redlines at 6800. That's good enough for 0-100 in 5.4 seconds with the standard six-speed manual box or 5.1 with the optional double-clutch S tronic auto (also a six-speeder), and an electronically governed 250km/h top end.

But, thanks to more efficient fuelling, Audi is also claiming average fuel consumption of 6.9 litres per 100km (manual: seven litres) - that's 1.5 litres per 100km better than the previous model - and CO2 emissions of 162g/km for the manual or 159g/km for the auto.

Quattro permanent all-wheel drive is standard, with the electronically controlled and hydraulically actuated multi-plate clutch moved to the rear axle for better weight distribution.

Finally, an 'electromechanical sound actuator' built into the bulkhead brings the engine sound to life in the cabin, and a sound flap in the exhaust opens at certain revs to let everybody else know you're there.

CHASSIS

The front axle has been shifted forward 52mm and the engine tilted back 12 degrees, using the VW group's new modular transverse platform, with the front subframe, front crumple zones, front fenders and bonnet all made of aluminium.

The progressive steering rack is geared to be slower around the centre point for relaxed straight-line cruising but more direct at greater angles for quicker response in tight corners.

The S3 runs 25mm lower than the new A3 on 18” alloys shod with 225/40 rubber, over internally vented 340mm discs and black calipers emblazoned with S3 logos.

Drive select is standard, giving the driver a choice of comfort, auto, dynamic, efficiency or individual modes; the latter allows you to set your own parameters for steering, throttle response, the electromagnetic damper control system and the shift profile on S tronic models.

STYLING

The front treatment centres on the brand's signature single frame grille, in aluminium with matt platinum grey insert, flanked by adaptive xenon headlights (LED headlights are an option) and LED running lights.

The profile is all about laid-back A pillars, aluminium-look side mirror housings, and pronounced side sills, while a platinum grey diffuser below standard LED tail lights houses the four chrome-tipped oval tailpipes.

The interior of the S3, including the headlining, is in black with contrasting stitching; two-tone black and red is an option.

A distinct arch frames the instrument panel with trim inlays in either matt brushed aluminum or a black 3D look. The instrument dials are grey, the needles white, and the rev-counter includes a boost pressure indicator.

The sports seats are available in three upholstery combinations: leather and fabric, leather and alcantara, or leather and suede.

MMI navigation with MMI touch, displayed on a retractable, 180mm screen, and a new operating concept in which MMI touch is integrated into the rotary pushbutton, along with the full Audi connect infotainment suite, are available as options.

More options include adaptive cruise control, which when combined with the pre-sense safety system brings the car to a stop autonomously from speeds below 30km/h, side assist, active lane assist, camera-based traffic sign recognition and park assist.

The S3 will be available in South Africa from the end of the first quarter of 2013.

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