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Bodystyle, dimensions and technical details

With lurid paint options and four exhaust tips, the S3 could never be described as shy, but so aggressively styled is the regular A3, particularly in S Line trim, that it can be difficult to tell the cars apart at a glance.

Those with sharp eyes will notice the slotted leading edge of the S3’s bonnet, which is meant to evoke the spirit of the 1984 Audi Sport Quattro, but Audi’s more-is-better approach to honeycomb grilles and multiple flavours of screwed-on trim are hallmarks of the entire A3 range, not only its top-ranking members. Overall, we find the S3 neither likeably subtle nor recognisably fruity.

Single-frame grille is in-filled with honeycomb black plastic and is the most aggressive iteration of the S3’s frontal to date. Expect the RS3 to up the stakes further

Underneath the steel body (seen here in Sportback form, although an S3 Saloon also exists) lies the traditional mechanical arrangement. The Volkswagen Group’s EA888 turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine is reprised with the same 306bhp and 295lb ft output as before.

Directly downstream of the engine sits the S-tronic seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox previously offered, although it can now decouple and allow the car to freewheel when the driver lifts off the throttle. It’s also worth noting that, for the first time, the S3 isn’t available with a manual.

As ever, just how much torque this system delivers to the rear wheels is dictated by the extent to which the electronically controlled multi-plate clutch that sits between those wheels is engaged, although the clutch itself is now lighter and faster-acting and the level of engagement is determined by Audi’s new Modular Dynamic Handling Control system.

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This joins the dots primarily between the steering input, ESC sensors and data from the adaptive dampers (an optional extra), with the aim of increasing the S3’s accuracy and feeling of agility. Unfortunately, our car does without the adaptive dampers and sits 15mm closer to the road than the regular A3 on its passive springs. However, whichever dampers you go for, the S3’s driveline is capable of sending the entirety of the available torque to the rear axle. Brake-based torque vectoring is also used to slow an inside wheel and quell understeer during cornering.

As dictated by the car’s MQB platform, which will also be used by the upcoming Golf R, the front suspension is by MacPherson struts while the rear uses multiple links. Elsewhere, Audi has also deployed a new electric brake booster, which it claims is faster-acting than before.

The brake discs are now also cooled by air guided through the engine compartment, which generates less drag than the old underbody ducts. At the contact patch, the latest S3 is then unchanged from before and wears 225/40 tyres for the standard 18in wheels, growing to 235/35 for the 19in options fitted to this example.