Given the Audi S3’s price, it’s difficult to think of a more entertaining, yet refined and rapid ownership proposition
What is it?
This is the Audi S3 S Tronic. It’s the same 261bhp, four-wheel drive super-hatch that’s been around since 2006, but now it’s fitted with a twin-clutch gearbox.
The S Tronic transmission is essentially the older six-speed version of VW’s DSG gearbox rather than the latest seven-speed unit, but the shifts are smooth and rapid, and the Audi S3’s relentless shove means that the seventh ratio is rarely – if ever – missed.
What’s it like?
The addition of the S Tronic ’box to the Audi S3 is a civilising influence on an already civilised car.
The four-wheel drive Audi S3 has always been more of a swift, surefooted express rather than a tearaway hot hatch, and the quick, silky twin-clutch S Tronic only adds to the S3’s high-speed cruising credentials.
Audi claims that the twin-clutch transmission knocks two tenths of a second from the S3’s 0-62mph time, bringing it to 5.5sec. We can well believe it; the smooth turbocharged four-pot motor barely has to pause between ratios.
The shift paddles are almost redundant, however. If you stick the lever into ‘S’, the upshifts and downchanges are so well timed that changing gear yourself can actually hinder rapid progress.
Our only niggles are that the Audi S3 S Tronic will shift up of its own accord at the red line even in manual mode, and that the engine braking effect in ‘S’ mode occasionally makes braking tricky to modulate.
Should I buy one?
It’s hard to think of a hot hatch that can cover ground as quickly and effortlessly as the S3. A Ford Focus RS or a Megane R26R will go down the road as rapidly, but both are far more frantic.
In fact, it’s hard to think of any sub-£30k car that blends civilised manners and cross-country pace so effectively. It sounds ridiculous, but you would have to look at something like a Jaguar XK to find a superior blend of speed and comfort.