What is it?
Our first chance to try the saloon version of Audi’s rapid S3 hatch on UK roads. Which comes with 296bhp, quattro four-wheel drive and an impressive array of driver aids, provided you have deep pockets.
It’s powered by the VW Group’s latest EA888 2.0 TFSI long stroke engine, a completely redesigned direct-injection, balancer shaft power unit featuring raised injection pressures, variable valve timing, intelligent cooling and an integral exhaust manifold. It only weighs 5kg less than the previous engine, but has a potential power output of 414bhp (as flaunted in the Audi TT Quattro Sport Geneva concept), so it must be tough. And it puts out 35bhp more than the S3’s previous motor.
It can be hooked either to a six-speed manual, or a six-speed DSG S tronic paddle-shift automatic transmission that shortens the 0-62mph sprint time by 0.4sec to 4.9sec, and lifts the combined fuel consumption by 0.5mpg to 40.9mpg. Audi expects this transmission, with its slightly lower 159g/km emissions, to be the more popular.
Besides having a lighter engine the S3 saloon is less hefty than the previous generation S3 hatchback, an alloy front sub-frame, and a bonnet and front wings in aluminium allowing a base weight of 1430kg. Much of the suspension is alloy too, and features actively adjustable magneto-rheological dampers as standard.
Intriguingly, this car is not exactly an S3 hatch with a boot, the saloon riding on a 35mm longer wheelbase and a fractionally broader track, making it wider than competitors like the BMW M235i, too.
Exterior identifiers include a 25mm lower ride height, a front diffuser, additional air intakes, sill extensions, 19in alloys, four exhaust outlets and boot-lip spoiler, but it’s the interior that has more potential to deliver you a visual blast. Order the 'Parade’ leather pack and the seats’ outer edges will be trimmed in a startlingly bright red leather that’s equally surprising for its softness.