Audi is set to become the first of Germany’s premium car brands to commit to the compact performance saloon ranks when the new four-door S3 is revealed at the Shanghai motor show in April.

The S3 saloon was previewed as the A3 saloon concept shown at the 2011 Geneva motor show. It has been conceived to bolster Audi’s already strong standing in the lucrative Chinese car market and provide an extra sales pillar for its US operations.

The S3 saloon will run the same 296bhp turbocharged  2.0-litre engine and four-wheel drive underpinnings as the recently revealed S3 hatchback. It is likely to go on sale in the UK late next year, priced at about £33,000.

Audi insiders won’t be drawn on the likelihood of an even hotter RS3 saloon joining the line-up, but they admit that it is not their top priority at the moment.

“Are we excited by such a car? Of course, but we don’t see it as essential,” said an Audi spokesman.

At the initial unveiling in concept car form in Geneva, Audi’s new price-leading saloon showcased a highly tuned version of the German car maker’s turbocharged 2.5-litre five-cylinder petrol engine, delivering a claimed 402bhp and 369lb ft of torque.

At some 4500mm in length, the new S3 saloon is roughly the same length as the old Audi 80 — the precursor to today’s A4. It is underpinned by parent company Volkswagen’s latest front-wheel drive platform.

Although the S3 saloon lacks the outright visual drama of the slightly larger Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG with which it will be compared, Audi claims that its new performance saloon will nevertheless offer greater levels of everyday practicality, accommodation and perceived quality.

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