Competent entry level sporty sedan, the Audi S3 gets a mid-cycle refresh for 2017. We check out the car in and around UAE
Author: Chandan B Mallik
Arguably, the Middle East markets get the choicest models that automakers produce for global consumption and one of the most thrilling and entertaining entry level compact sedans has been the Audi S3. The current model has been around for a couple of years and so the time has come for its traditional mid-cycle refresh. The question is: what did Audi do to keep the near flawless S3 in the news and importantly a step ahead of the ever increasing competition?
To understand what’s happened to this car, we need to trace its mechanical roots. The recipe for this car is actually quite simple: the A3-based S3 compact sedan blends high-performance and high-tech know-how in the most efficient packaging.
For 2017, the Audi S3 receives a modest cosmetic refresh and interesting technological upgrades. Welcome updates include a new face which is more angular and aggressive, with matrix LED head and LED-fed tail lights. Despite being an entry-level luxury sedan for the Middle East, S3’s cabin comes with all the bells and whistles that are usually attributed to the bigger siblings. This means the interior is attractive, refined and what we particularly like that it exhibits restraint rather than trying to be flashy. High-quality materials, sleek buttons and switches and smart detailing like the elegantly simple air vents add to an air of class. Hip points are little low as expected and the cabin an eminently comfortable and stylish place for four adults. The front contoured black leather S Sport seats off excellent lumber support and body hugging comfort.
As a compact car, rear legroom may appear tight to some individuals due to the short 2,600mm wheelbase and while rear headroom is tight, it doesn’t prove to be a detriment to the overall packaging. Practical urban features include a 10c-ft boot and the flexible rear seats that fold down and split 60:40.
Arguably, the Audi cockpits rank among the most sophisticated and attractive in the auto world, and the S3’s is all that and more. The test car’s navigation system came with a larger central display screen and a revised, touch-sensitive control knob. The touchpad allows you to enter commands by simply scribbling them with your finger, and though it sounds odd, it works surprisingly well in practice. This packaging also includes Audi’s Virtual Cockpit, which is an expanded, configurable instrument cluster that can display map data with brilliant clarity. Connectivity features include addition of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay for 2017 which help sync smartphones much easier. And not to forget, the missing USB port has finally been incorporated for 2017, and a single USB port is now standard.
Under the bonnet, the powertrain remains unchanged but Audi has modestly upgraded the car’s 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine by remapping it. The car’s engine which uses both direct and port fuel injection applications to deliver a flat and flexible output curve now offers 290hp [4hp +] at 5,800-6,500rpm and 380Nm of torque available from just 1,850 rpm. Audi has replaced the 6-speed dry clutch transmission from the old car with a new seven-speed dual-clutch transmission with wet clutch. Acceleration from 0-100km/h takes 5.3sec in this car.
Thankfully, unlike several automakers which have opted for lifeless electric steering set-ups, the S3 uses electromechanical steering with speed-dependent power assistance.
In order to meet the individual requirements of spirited drivers and guarantee versatility the S3 comes with programmable adaptive magnetic ride suspension based on independent multilinks and McPherson design which allows the ability to switch among Comfort, Auto and Dynamic modes. The car supplied for the test sported 18in Audi Sport titanium-matte wheels wearing performance Pirelli P Zeroes. For the S3, Audi will also offer optional features like Audi adaptive cruise control (ACC) and emergency assist. Stop&Go feature comes as standard now.
Safety kit is pretty comprehensive and hardware that comes standard include antilock brakes, traction and stability control, front-seat side and knee airbags, side curtain airbags, a rear view camera, a forward collision mitigation system with automatic braking, and front and rear parking sensors. IIHS in the US has given top 5-star ratings to the structurally similar Audi A3 sedan and hence it is fair to assume that this holds good for the S3 too.
A few hours behind the flat-bottomed wheel of the all-wheel-drive S3 actually reminds one of how nicely this car has been packaged with a blend comfort, convenience and performance. What impresses is the way power is delivered from the pedal and reaches asphalt. The power band available is quite broad and the force-fed four-cylinder engine provides smooth and quick acceleration. The engine remains bright and alert even when in off-boost and hence rarely any lag is noted. Cabin is free of rattle, squeaks or wind noise, thanks to the optimised aeroprofiling and drag coefficient of Cd .31. Although, the S3 may fall tad short of Audi’s track focused RS model’s performance, it’s still a brilliant entertainer on road. Just dial up the individual or pre-programmed combos and watch the car come to life in the handling department. The fast reacting automatic transmission complements the engine with good manners and clicks off quick, smooth shifts. It will shift at redline automatically even in manual mode. Our favourite mode was ‘Individual’, where we adjusted the steering feel, suspension stiffness, throttle response and exhaust note to our liking.
Even with 225/40 sports tyres on large 18in rims, the feedback from the S3’s steering is quick and precise. We felt it a bit shy on feel and most drivers will simply appreciate its responsiveness. It doesn’t allow the car to appear nervous and we found its highway composure rock-steady while remaining nimble in urban duties. Compared to the regular S3, the S3’s ride appears firm even in Comfort mode and we think the larger wheels only exacerbate the issue.
Audi claims that it has also retuned its Quattro all-wheel-drive system in the S3 with the specific goal being to provide a more rear-wheel-focused experience. The RS-inspired system now allows for increased reward torque bias and is less inclined to cut power to the back in “an oversteer situation.” While, we had a blast hurling the S3 in several locations in the UAE and as expected, grip eventually gives way to understeer and correcting that is as simple as easing off the throttle to bring it right back on course. Braking power is good and no fading was noted.
The 2017 Audi S3 takes the essential qualities of the company’s entry-level sedan, the A3, and dials up the performance level. An upgraded and lively engine delivers quicker acceleration and more capable sport-tuned suspension elevates its handling capabilities while bigger brakes and a few styling detailing round off the total package. As an exceptionally strong segment performer and exhilarating at all times, the S3 continues as one of the most exciting sedans you can buy in the region.
While main competition for the S3 comes from domestic rivals BMW and Mercedes-Benz with models like the M235i and CLA45AMG, but both competitors don’t quite match the S3 and here’s how: the Mercedes has more potent performer but has a more downmarket cabin while the BMW handles well, but has two less doors and hence low on practicality. In the UAE, the S3 retails for US$44,700.
2017 Audi S3 Sedan
|Length Width Height (mm)||4466 x 1796 x 1392|
|Engine||2.0-litre TFSI Turbocharged|
|Power HP@RPM||310 @ 5500-6500|
|Torque Nm@RPM||400 @ 2000-5400|
|Gearbox||7-speed S tronic dual-clutch transmission with quattro AWD|
|Fr Suspension||McPherson struts with lower wishbones, aluminum subframe|
|Rr Suspension||Four-link rear suspension with separate spring/shock absorber arrangement, subframe|
|Brakes||Disc brakes ventilated at front and rear; electromechanical parking brake|
|Wheels||8J x 18 cast aluminum flow forming wheels|
|Tyres||225/40 R18 tyres|