S3 225bhp Review - EVO - May 2002
The poor old S3 has always seemed to live in the shadow of its more
glamorous cousin, the so-cool-it-hurts TT. The spoilsports at Audi HQ even
denied the S3 the full 225bhp of the TT at launch, limiting it to 210bhp,
even though the running gear is near identical. Well, they couldn't have the
ugly duckling see off the glamourous coupe, could they? But that was then
and this is now as the revised S3 finally gets the full 225bhp, together
with some useful chassis tweaks. Time to revisit this rather forgotten
upmarket hot hatch.
It might have been around for a while but the S3 still looks rather
appealing in an understated way, especially in the midnight blue of our test
car. Ours also came with the optional 18-inch wheels which give it a visual
lift; without them only aluminum door mirrors and subtle badges give clues
to this car's potential. I suppose that's half the appeal.
If you've read any of our recent tests on Audis you'll know that this is
usually the point at which we start banging on about grotty gearchanges,
droning engines and over-servoed brakes. You can practically write an Audi
piece to a ready-made template, just changing the model name as appropriate.
Unfortunately for me I can't do that with this S3 because things have
changed for the better. As Richard Meaden hinted when he drove the TT with
Sportsline suspension (evo 040), Audi has sharpened up its act to the point
where the cars, and particularly the chassis, are getting a lot better.
The S3 now has even firmer springs than before, but it seems better balanced
front to rear than previous models which, together with tighter damper
control, leads to sharper turn-in. All good news for the press-on driver,
the only fly in the ointment being the weighty feel to the steering either
side of centre. If they could get round to adding extra feel rather than
weight to the helm, that would be the icing on the cake. Even the brakes
feel relatively normal, with none of the irritating low-speed grabbiness for
which Audi is notorious. The only potential problem is the relatively early
onset of fade during serious abuse.
The next surprise is the S3's short gearing. The ratios are so tightly
stacked that you'll need to grab third before you hit 60 and it takes
another change into fourth to crest 80mph. So the 6.6sec 0-62 time tells
only half the story. To maximise the available performance you'll have to
make full use of the six close ratios on offer, although the jump from fifth
to sixth is a lot wider. Well, the impressive 151mph top speed had to come
You'll be sitting comfortably in the S3 thanks to superb Recaro seats,
similar to the ones in the wild RS4. Decent seats make so much difference to
a car that it's a constant wonder more manufacturers don't follow suit. Add
in the quattro four-wheel-drive system, the compact dimensions and the
excellent visibility allowed by the upright body and you'll soon realise
there aren't many quicker ways point-to-point this side of an Impreza STi.
But the S3 is a lot more discreet than any Japanese rally weapon.
Of course much of this could apply to the TT, but I don't remember the
coupe's steering being quite as sharp as this, nor do you enjoy the
considerable stealth value of the more conservative A3 body, which adds to
its appeal. The S3 is also £2000 cheaper, 45kg lighter and a fair bit more
spacious than a TT.
If you're after discreet performance look no further than this car, which
I'd choose over even the recently improved TT. For keen drivers, the revised
S3 is currently the best car Audi makes.
Like: Looks; seats; much improved chassis
Dislike: Needs a bit more steering feel
Engine: In-line 4-cyl, 1781cc, 20V, turbo
Max power: 225bhp @ 5900rpm
Max torque: 206lb ft @ 2200rpm
Top speed: 151mph
Re: S3 225bhp Review - EVO - May 2002
Thanks Al [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/wink.gif[/img] I am actually having problems posting on as.ent from work at the moment, keep getting 'Page Cannot Be Displayed'. Have to keep retrying to get the post to work. Large posts are impossible and I have to do those from home.
Strange thing is, on new sites it works fine for a while and then happens [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/confused.gif[/img]