Johannesburg – Gone are the days when certain high-performance Audis, namely those with 2-litre turbo engines, were downtuned to lesser power outputs for the South African market. As our country is considered a particularly hot one, until recently certain S models came our way with slightly muzzled performance to spare the engines.
But now that’s changed. Someone at the Audi mothership woke up and realised that our climate isn’t exactly the scorching crucible of hellfire it’s often believed to be, and now we get cars like the new S3 with the full European-spec monty at all four wheels. In this case it means 228kW and 400Nm, or, more importantly, 22kW and 20Nm more than the S3 had before the facelifted version landed late last year.
When we last performance-tested a 206kW/380Nm S3 in 2014, it was a Sedan version that launched from 0-100km/h in 5.1 seconds and covered the quarter mile in 13.4. A year earlier we V-Boxed an equivalent Sportback with 5.3 and 13.6 figures respectively. Naturally, we had to find out if the new S3’s added gusto would shave any time off these numbers, so we took one to our test facility and strapped our equipment in to find out.
Audi claims the new S3 Sportback can do 0-100km/h in 4.6 seconds, and while we knew replicating this figure would be a tall ask, we expected it to at least break the five second barrier. And it did. Just. After numerous attempts our laptop displayed a quickest launch of 4.98 seconds with a best quarter mile time of 13.3. And that was with a fullish fuel tank and a relatively warm 20 degree ambient temperature.
To put the new S3’s quickness into context, know that it’s now the second fastest hatch in our Quarter Mile Kings chart, behind its five-cylinder sister the RS3, which does 0-100km/h in 4.5 seconds and the quarter mile in 12.9 in latest 270kW form.
New gearbox not necessarily better
Along with more power, the new S3 also gets an updated S-tronic gearbox with seven speeds instead of six, and lubricated wet dual-clutches instead the outgoing model’s dry setup.
In normal day-to-day driving situations it’s virtually impossible to discern the difference between old gearbox and new other than that it might pull off a little more smoothly, but on the track we fear the old version might be a bit better. With more ratios to choose from the new S3 bounces from gear to gear more frequently in auto mode, and it’s a little more reluctant to accept manual inputs via the steering paddles. It’s hardly an issue, but one we picked up at our test track.
Another update is that the Haldex quattro system has been revised, and with great results too. Previously, the computers that told the centre differential when and when not to send drive to the rear axle, did so independently of other systems such as ABS brakes and stability control.
Now everything works together with one electronic brain cross referencing traction and driver inputs to make handling a little more persuadable. On a slippery skidpan I had the this S3 in a steady, countersteering drift and that’s unusual for any four wheel drive Audi.
The last major update, and one that goes across the entire new A3 range, is the option of a Virtual Cockpit instrument cluster. It might tack an extra R31 300 onto the list price (R646 000 in the S3 Sportback’s case), but it’s a colourful feature that raises the perceived premium feel through the roof.
Audi S3 Sportback Quattro
Engine: 2-litre, 4-cylinder turbopetrol
Gearbox: 7-speed automated dual-clutch
Power: 228kW @ 5500-6500rpm
Torque: 400Nm @ 2000-5400rpm
0-100km/h (tested, Gauteng): 4.98 seconds
Top speed (claimed): 250km/h
Price: R646 000
Warranty: 1-year / unlimited-km
Maintenance plan: 5-year / 100 000km