From £30,535
Twin-clutch transmission suits S3's smooth character

Our Verdict

Audi S3

Given the Audi S3’s price, it’s difficult to think of a more entertaining, yet refined and rapid ownership proposition

  • First Drive

    Audi S3 S Tronic

    Twin-clutch transmission suits S3's smooth character
  • First Drive

    Audi S3 Sportback

    Straight-line performance and practicality, but is it a true hot hatch?
23 April 2009

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.

Matt Rigby

Join the debate


23 April 2009

I love my Audi S3, not tried the S Tronic box yet though - anyone know if the S-tronic box has a high enough torque rating to be put in the RS3?

23 April 2009

I struggle to see the point of this car...because its almost 3000 pounds more than the Ford Focus RS and the Ford has 40 more horsepower yet the audi is 4 tenths of a second faster to 62mph????

can anyone explain this to me?

23 April 2009

[quote timmmmy]

I struggle to see the point of this car...because its almost 3000 pounds more than the Ford Focus RS and the Ford has 40 more horsepower yet the audi is 4 tenths of a second faster to 62mph????

can anyone explain this to me?


0-60 times are not a good indicator of how fast a car is in reality, certainly when the gap is big it is noticeable, but the RS is limited in the first two gears I think to prevent the tyres bursting into flames!

I think the way to think of the S3 is that the 'S' stands for 'smooth' and not really 'sport', kind of a comfortable, quick car that you can live with everyday. I actually think the price is pretty good for an Audi actually but I am not sure how much it would cost once a few extras are put on it.

23 April 2009

[quote timmmmy]

I struggle to see the point of this car...because its almost 3000 pounds more than the Ford Focus RS and the Ford has 40 more horsepower yet the audi is 4 tenths of a second faster to 62mph????

can anyone explain this to me?


the answer your looking for is 4 wheel drive. I think it realy is as simple as that

23 April 2009

Do you have the kind of money to commit to a car like this or do you have the budget to run one as a company car?

If you are one of the lucky few, can only run one car, don't have kids, but still need four seat versatility then the S3 will [should] make your short-list.

If you want 4 wheel drive as well, then there are no alternatives [R32/R36 might appeal to the over 50's]

It's a compromise but only downsides with the S3 are; 1. fuel tank isn't big enough for fast continental journeys [better off with a 335d or 530d] and of course 2; the big one, Clarkson has all Audi drivers branded as C**ks.

As for the RS? Same problem as Scooby's and EVO's - just says - I have a "teeny-weeny" to the girls.

Emotion aside, 40k+ miles per annum in one of the Japanese marvels isn't an option.

On the other hand, the ride in the S3 is one of its strongest features. £3000 cost differential wouldn't effect my decision, chances are depreciation and running costs will negate this anyway and emission wise the S3 scores well if your running it as a company car.

Be interesting to see how quick the RS will go round Dunsfold with a Stigg at the wheel - back to back comparrison with the Renualt R26 and S3 DSG would be very watchable.

Clarkson didn't like the S3 in 2006 when he reviewed it for The Times but I'd bet on the S3 being even faster than an S4 accross country and in the wet, against the Ford and Renault it'll be no contest.

Would be good to see TopGear do this in the Autumn but with Clarkson sitting in Ford's pocket I doubt it'll happen.

For my money, in the real world, VW Golf with the 170 TDI engine is all the hot hatchback you'll ever need.


24 April 2009

I have an old model S3 and got to drive the new one for a week. It's just as awesome as the old model, does some things better and some things less well.

The old model came almost fully specced up as standard, so it's leather everywhere with an amazing finish throughout. Nicer place to be than any Porsche I've been in. The new one I drove didn't feel quite the same inside, still definitely high quality, but not as special. It also made my car feel light at the front. For the first time I appreciated how my car bites and goes during low-speed, accelerative turns, but I realised I couldn't drive that way with the new model, which felt nose heavy and wanted to understeer (only noticed this when going slowly). The steering felt servoed and detached on the new car.

What impressed me about the new model: Amazingly potent brakes, great engine (must be significantly fatter torque curve than old car), completely unflappable, on it and incredibly refined at speed, when all the steering negatives experienced at low speed faded away.

For getting about town the way I like to be able to - quickly and unobtrusively - I just about prefer my 2002 S3 over the new model, but I had some amazing night time A-road runs in the new car. I reckon the funky gearbox would suit it very well, but personally I'd spec up the interior first, to keep it in proportion with it's capabilities. Be in no doubt you would love driving the thing!

24 April 2009

It'll be interesting to see how close the new Scirocco R20T shaves this one, effectively being the same car.

24 April 2009

[quote Autocar]The S Tronic transmission is essentially the older six-speed version of VW’s DSG gearbox[/quote] AKA the somewhat UNRELIABLE "six-speed version of VW’s DSG gearbox". For example, recently on PistonHeads there was trader with a 'Mk5 GTIs wanted'-type ad that specified "no DSGs". I wonder why? The comments of a VAG technician in this forum thread re DSGs, also at PistonHeads, also makes for interesting reading: Try entering 'DSG gearbox failures' into Google for more tales of woe. A shame that Autocar seems to be oblivious re the DSG's fragility.

25 April 2009

Well the biggest change in this car is the gearbox. But I would have waited longer and added extra things to it. As for the "S" mode it seems to be great and then as soon as you brake it's not quite so good. I think that the shifting does sound like a much better thing than the S3. But the S Tronic is priced at about an standard A4. So good transmission, and good a car.

27 April 2009

130i anyone? same power, proper wheel drive, and a lovely straight 6 engine (which I can vouch for from my car!)

I'm BMW biased I'll admit, but I would take a 6 cylinder over a turbo'd 4 pot anyday. where did the 3.2 A3 go? It seems to have disappeared from price lists?


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