Audi's 4wd super-hatch
1 August 2006

Three years after the launch of the current A3, Audi has finally unveiled the high-performance S3 version of its upmarket hatchback. And this time it’s got 261bhp and a sub-6.0sec 0-60mph time, making it more powerful and quicker than its sister car, the VW Golf R32.

The S3 formula hasn’t been radically altered, though. Audi has deliberately avoided using the R32’s 3.2 V6; the new car sticks with a four-cylinder petrol turbo, although capacity is up to 2.0 litres, and it retains Audi’s quattro all-wheel-drive system.

But the 2.0-litre TFSI engine, shared with the TT, has been reworked for its most powerful incarnation yet with a modified turbo and intercooler. Along with 261bhp at 6000rpm, it develops 258lb ft from 2500 to 5000rpm, which should give it good in-gear flexibility. The sprint from rest to 60mph takes just 5.7sec, and top speed is 155mph.

Power is transferred to the wheels via a new six-speed manual ’box. Reduced travel should give a more positive, precise action than the A3’s woolly gearshift.

Exterior styling mods includes deep sill extensions, an aggressive front bumper and silver-coloured door mirrors.

But it’s the steering and handling that will really decide if Audi has cracked the hot-hatch formula. The RS4 proves that Audi is very capable of building a true sports saloon, so there’s a chance that the S3 will match expectations. Audi is even developing cars on the UK’s difficult roads.

The suspension has been modified with stiffer springs and dampers and alloy components to cut weight. It also rides 25mm lower than standard, and the steering has been retuned for more feel and better response. It sits on 18-inch alloys with 225/40 tyres.

The S3 goes on sale in January next year from £26,995 on the road.

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