Europe’s burgeoning hot hatch ranks are set for a further injection of premium-brand performance when a new, 276bhp Audi S3 is launched at the Paris motor show in September.
Previewed here in our artist’s impression, the latest in an ever-expanding S-badged line-up from Audi will reach UK showrooms early next year, priced from about £32,000.
That will put it in close competition with the £30,000 BMW M135i hatchback unveiled last week and the Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG that’s set to star alongside the S3 at Paris.
Audi had looked at fitting the new all-wheel-drive S3 with a detuned version of the RS3 Sportback’s 2.5-litre five-pot engine. But instead, the S3 will use a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine that will feature in a whole host of other Volkswagen Group models due to its compatibility with the new modular MQB platform.
Whereas the old S3 used the VW Group’s decade-old ‘EA113’ engine, the new car is the first to receive the high-output version of the new ‘EA888’ unit.
The engine gets an all-new turbocharger and is equipped with the recently launched Audi Valve Lift system. This provides variable control of the valve lift and, in the process, the size of the inlet tract for added low-end response.
Insiders are claiming a 276bhp output in the new S3, plus a torque figure of 280lb ft. These are rises of 15bhp and 22lb ft over the old S3’s engine.
As well as extra muscle, the new Audi S3 will be up to 80kg lighter than today’s three-door S3, courtesy of a series of weight-saving measures, tagged under the Audi Ultra banner, that include the use of aluminium for the bonnet and wings.
So despite being 22mm longer, 201mm wider and 21mm taller than the previous S3, the new three-door is expected to weigh less than 1400kg.
As with the car it replaces, the new S3 will come with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard. The optional six-speed S-tronic dual-clutch will be replaced by a newer seven-speed unit that goes under the codename DQ500.
Apportioning drive to each corner will be an updated version of the Volkswagen Group’s multi-plate clutch four-wheel-drive system.
In keeping with previous incarnations of the S3, the third-generation car promises to better its predecessor in pure straight-line speed.
Following initial in-house performance tests with recent prototype versions of the new car, insiders have told Autocar that they expect an official 0-62mph time of 5.5sec for the three-door hatchback — some 0.2sec faster than its predecessor. Top speed, like that of the outgoing second-generation model, will be limited to 155mph.
The suspension uses MacPherson struts at the front and a multi-link set-up at the rear. Adaptive dampers will also be standard, as will Audi’s Drive Select system, which alters throttle response, shift patterns on the auto, the electro-mechanical steering’s feel and spring settings.
Setting the new S3 apart from more sedate versions of the new Audi A3 will be a series of styling upgrades. These include a bold single-frame grille, a deep front bumper with large air ducts, chunkier sills and a prominent spoiler above the rear hatch. Added to this will be 18-inch wheels shod with 225/40 tyres.
Following the three-door S3 into showrooms will be a five-door S3 Sportback, with greater levels of rear seat accommodation and boot space. A new S3 saloon is also being readied, although it remains to be seen whether it will form part of the UK line-up.