For the first time behind the wheel of the Audi S3 Sportback: A sharp premium built into corners

The Audi brand entered the segment of premium sports compact cars as early as 1999, when it introduced the first generation of the S3 model. It offered an output of 154 kW (210 hp), which, however, increased to 165 kW (225 hp) after two years of production. The second generation was introduced in 2006 and the third followed in 2013, with production not being completed until this year.

This year, however, its successor was introduced, ie the fourth generation of the S3 model, which should again offer a technologically sophisticated machine with above-standard driving characteristics in a premium package. After all, we wouldn’t expect anything else from the Audi brand.

Modern stylish

The classic dominant of the S3 model, as well as other sharp Audi models, is the Singelframe mask with distinctive air intakes. However, the headlights themselves are also worth noting, available with LED Matrix technology consisting of 15 segments, from which a line runs along the side of the car to the rear lights. At the rear, the sporty look of the car is enhanced by four oval tailpipes in combination with a diffuser.

After sitting behind the wheel, the driver will be greeted by the traditional interior concept of the Audi S3, which was described in the first driving impressions by my colleague David Bureš. A 10.25-inch digital instrument panel is standard under the alarm hood, which is lined with ventilation vents, but can be replaced by the Audi Virtual Cockpit system (including the more sophisticated Plus version) with a diagonal of up to 12.3 inches. Thanks to the transparent display, however, important information is also projected directly onto the glass – into the driver’s field of vision.

The 10.1-inch infotainment screen, integrated into the center of the dashboard, which, like the group siblings, is based on the third generation of the modular MIB3 platform, also deserves mention. At Audi, however, they used a system and graphics known from higher models, added a clear climate control panel with buttons, and a small touch wheel was installed in the center console for quick control of the media being played. Personally, this solution came to me very nice and definitely better than what Golf, Octavia or Leon offers.

However, the inspiration of the group siblings is not denied by the tiny selector of the S Tronic automatic dual-clutch transmission, located in the center console. Otherwise, the interior design of the Audi S3 looks much more valuable and sophisticated compared to its group siblings. Whether we are talking about ventilation vents in the center plate in front of the passenger, or with handles imitating the shapes of headlights, the emphasis on detail is simply not to be overlooked.

Sporty shaped seats with integrated headrest, adjustable seat length and contrast stitching are upholstered in a material that has been largely made from recycled PET bottles. Much more important, however, is the fact that it offers a very pleasant position behind the wheel, the possibility of adjustment in virtually every conceivable direction and sufficient support in corners. Behind the driver’s seat, set to my height of 183 cm, I didn’t have much leg room left, but I wouldn’t have a problem spending more time here. Apart from the slightly limited space in front of the knees, there was nothing to complain about. And the same goes for the luggage compartment and its variability.

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Powerful and economical

The most important thing, of course, is the combination of engine, chassis and overall tuning of the car. So let’s start with the power unit, which is a supercharged four-cylinder 2.0 TFSI with a maximum output of 228 kW (310 hp) in the range of 5450 to 6500 rpm with a maximum torque of 400 Nm in a wide range of 2000 to 5450 rpm.

The engine is equipped with an injection system operating at a pressure of up to 350 bar and a variable valve timing system AVS (Audi Valvelift), thanks to which it should offer a combination of high performance and economy. The engine works exclusively with the seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch transmission, offering the option of manual paddle shifting under the steering wheel, which is able to save fuel by disconnecting the engine from the transmission and sailing the moment the driver takes his foot off the accelerator pedal.

Emphasis on the chassis and ATV

Like the other S models, the new Audi S3 offers a quattro permanent all-wheel drive system. It works with a new-generation electro-hydraulic electronically controlled multi-plate clutch, which is about a kilogram lighter than its predecessor and promises even better efficiency thanks to minor changes in the field of bearings and lubrication. The clutch is located at the end of the cardan shaft, just in front of the rear axle, and variably distributes the force between the front and rear wheels.

The clutch can be both completely open, when there is almost no power sent to the rear axle, and fully closed, when theoretically up to 100% of the torque can flow to the rear axle. When the internal hydraulic pump is activated, a pressure of up to 40 bar is created inside the coupling. However, the new S3 can also distribute torque between the individual wheels, for which it uses the option of braking the individual wheels.

The all-wheel drive system works with a modular driving dynamics system that connects the quattro drive with an electronically controlled stabilization system and optional adaptive dampers. These reduce the ground clearance of the S3 by 15 mm (compared to the standard Audi A3) and, thanks to the regulation of the oil flow by the individual dampers, offer a choice between comfortably soft and sporty rigid tuning. As standard, the Audi S3 sits on a sporty chassis with conventional shock absorbers, also reducing headroom by 15 millimeters, which, in combination with a four-link rear axle and a standard progressive steering transmission, should offer a more intense driving and driving experience.

The underbody comes standard with 18 ”wheels with five double V-arms, which are fitted with 225/40 tires. Optionally, however, Audi Sport can also supply 18 “and 19” wheels with 235/35 tires. From behind the cast wheels we can see standard black painted brakes (on request they can also be red), which bite into four brake discs with internal cooling. In addition, the brakes have been given a new electronic booster, which should offer even better responses while almost eliminating possible friction losses due to slight contact between the brake pads and the disc while driving.

Up on the road

And what is the ride like? It depends on the selected setting. During the first few tens of kilometers, I was very pleasantly surprised by how the car’s behavior changes depending on the choice of Audi Drive Select modes. In the comfortable setting, you still feel greater rigidity of the sporty chassis in combination with relatively low tires, but the car still tries to filter out maximum unevenness and thus provide the crew with very solid comfort. The combination of a refined engine and a well-soundproofed cabin made almost no unnecessary noise into the interior.

The Audi S3 thus acted as a very pleasant companion, with which one would not suffer even on a longer trip to vacation. But after switching to dynamic mode, the whole car solidified and came to life. There is certainly no need to mention a harder chassis, stiffer steering or a sharper-tuned transmission, which left the engine longer at higher speeds and with each sharp depression of the accelerator pedal did not hesitate to downshift and drive the tachometer hand to the red field. In addition, with the dynamic mode, the car finally got a sportier sound, although I’m afraid I only enjoyed it in the cab.

In manual mode, the transmission responded quickly to commands and left control fully in the driver’s hands. It did not fall into automatic mode even when pressed hard. In a short forest passage with a few sharper turns, the beauty of the progressive steering system became fully apparent, thanks to which the transmission becomes steeper in sharp turns. So if you don’t hold the steering wheel like a pig’s bone, you still have room for further tightening without gripping. In combination with all-wheel drive and torque vectoring, one feels tremendous confidence in the behavior of the car and the chassis.

But I was a little sorry that we couldn’t test the sharp hatchback on the circuit that Audi had built near Neuburg. Its sharp turns in combination with spacious escape zones would allow you to fully see what the all-wheel drive system actually likes. However, we were unlucky due to noise restrictions that would definitely break the whistling wheels.

See you soon

At the end of the test wheel, I had a great feeling with the Audi S3, mainly thanks to the luxurious cab, fantastic acceleration and impressive steering. However, I am a little sorry that there was no greater opportunity to test the behavior of the chassis and especially the quattro all-wheel drive more thoroughly. Most of the route led on roads with long turns, where speed and stability excelled. However, in the area of ​​agility and agility in sharp and tight corners, the S3 will still have something to surprise during the classic test.

And we can only hope that we will not have to wait too long for him. The first cars should start appearing on European markets, including the Czech one, as early as the beginning of October. The Czech prices should start from CZK 1,268,900 for the tested Sportback and CZK 1,296,900 for the Limousine.

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