Lord of the Rings: The Audi S3
2ND OPINION - Manny N. de los Reyes (The Philippine Star) - September 29, 2015 - 10:00am

First, a caveat: For your reading pleasure, I used photos (provided by Audi Philippines) of a red Audi S3 on beautiful mountain roads instead of photos of my own gunmetal gray test unit shot in Quezon City at high noon in harsh sunlight with lots of unflattering reflections and shadows.

I figured that we’re here to know more about the car and not my amateurish photographic skills. After all, red is eye candy while gray doesn’t translate half as well on photos, especially in newsprint.

Now that we’ve got that little detail out of the way, how good exactly is the Audi S3? First a backgrounder: It’s based on the A3, which is the Ingolstadt-based carmaker’s entry-level sedan (which, in its first generation, was just a hatch).

Now if BMW has its high-performance M-series and Mercedes-Benz has its AMG range, Audi has its “S” models. Which means that the S3 is one fast pocket rocket.

How fast? A sports car-like 0-100 km/h sprint in a mere 4.4 seconds and a top speed of 250 km/h. You don’t have to take my word from it because those highly accurate figures came from no less than Car and Driver magazine—the same guys who said that the S3 beats its more powerful but heavier big brother, S4.

Credit goes to the S3’s turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 (the same motor that powers the hyper-fast Volkswagen Golf R) that delivers just under 300 hp and a generous 380 Nm of torque. Those blistering acceleration figures are courtesy of the car’s paddle-shift-actuated S-Tronic dual-clutch automatic, which then relays the power to Audi’s sophisticated quattro full-time all-wheel drive system.

Start the car, hear the exhaust bark, shift to Drive, floor the accelerator, and feel the breathtaking push from the back as the car hurtles forward with virtually no tire squeal—every single Newton-meter of thrust is converted to forward motion. And that’s even with the gearshift lever in full auto.

Upshifts are instantaneous, while downshifts are accompanied by racecar-like pops and burbles from those menacing quad exhausts.

Speaking of menacing, the four big exhausts and the available red, black, or orange colors (and perhaps the big brakes, 19-inch wheels and lowered suspenssion) are the only visual cues of the car’s potential. Pick an S3 in my test car’s gunmetal gray or in a white or silver finish and it’ll be the perfect stealth rocket. There’s little else to suggest the super sedan’s sports car-shaming performance. Even the rear spoiler is a tiny plastic strip on the trunk instead of the usual big wing. Miss the “S3” badges and the other aforementioned S3 modifications and the casual motorist might think this is a garden variety A3—which, like all Audis, are delightfully minimalist in design. Woe to those who underestimate this Q-ship.

Inside the reasonably spacious (but certainly not limousine-like) cabin, it’s all about the serious business of speed—all-black leather everywhere and a small-diameter flat-bottomed steering wheel. The only accents are the leather stitching in contrasting colors and the chrome and satin silver appliques sprinkled liberally on the aircon vent surrounds, console, gearshift lever, door panels, and door handles. Perhaps the most characterful touch is the quilt-pattern design on the seatbacks of the deeply bolstered yet extremely comfortable front bucket seats.    

  The Audi S3, like its more humble A3 sibling, is a compact sedan not much bigger than a Toyota Vios or Honda City. It’s shorter than an Altis or a Civic. But that’s what gives it its fantastic maneuverability. It’s almost as nimble as a Mini Cooper but with much more power and certainly more space, luxury and comfort. Of course, it’s also much more expensive—much like its high-performance equivalents from the two aforementioned German carmakers when compared to their standard-model siblings. (Plus it’s got an alphabet soup of cutting–edge electronic driving aids that help keep the car safe even in attack mode.)

The S3 retails for over P4 million. For me, that makes it the perfect car for those who want to a sub-5-second sports car but doesn’t want to compromise in terms of comfort and space. (If you need a chauffeur, get an A6 or S6.)  The S4 might be fractions of a second slower than supercars or pure sports cars, but you’ll certainly be much more comfortable. And when it starts to rain…

 

 

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