The current-generation Audi S3 was never a very loved car, unfortunately. It was always considered to be good, not great. Its engine is fantastic, its Quattro all-wheel drive grip is stellar and its performance is impressive. But it was never really all that fun to drive and it felt somewhat artificial. Plus the VW Golf R has the same powertrain, also has great all-wheel drive grip, is more fun to drive and considerably cheaper. So the Audi S3 was in a bit of a rough spot.
Now, Audi has given the entire A3 lineup, including the S3, a fresh new face with a bit extra power. So, instead of making 292 hp, the newly updated Audi S3 makes 306, all while wearing a new face reminiscent of the new Audi A4. While it looks better and is more powerful, is it actually any better to drive? Top Gear finds out.
As always, the performance of the S3 is impressive and the engine is a gem. Its S-Tronic dual-clutch gearbox shifts incredibly quickly and the noise coming out the back is exciting. However, there are still quite a few niggles with the way it drives, with the gearbox being the largest complaint. The dual-clutch ‘box will still automatically upshift if the tach-needle reaches redline, even when in manual mode. This is unbelievably frustrating when trying to drive quickly and shouldn’t be a feature on any performance car with an auto ‘box.
Other complaints are with the somewhat lifeless steering and sterile feel to its handling. While the Audi S3 is still a very competent car and can keep up with some of the best sports cars on the market, it feels a bit lifeless while doing it. It doesn’t get your blood pumping.
Having said that, it still makes one helluva daily driver. Its suspension is compliant enough for the daily grind, but it’s still firm enough for sporty driving. Its engine is as great as ever and the noise it makes is even better. Its Quattro-aided grip also makes it better than its rivals in bad weather and allows it to be an excellent all-rounder. It also looks much better than before, thanks to the new updates borrowed from Audi’s new design language, and its interior is a lovely place to be.
So the Audi S3 continues to be exactly what it always has been: a great sports car for everyday driving, but one that lacks a bit of personality when pushed hard. It’s now a slighter better version of what it used to be, but it’s still largely the same fast, if a bit unexciting, everyday sports car.