Saturday, September 1, 2007

Audi S3


It's an effortless, comfortable long-distance car with an easy poise, excellent refinement and useful flexibility.

Having driven the Audi on its German launch (evo 097), I was expecting a not-dissimilar experience. The S3 isn't a car that causes many second glances but, as you'd expect, it's shot through with quality that's lacking in the Mazda. The fit and finish and sense of integrity are deeply satisfying, the seats are superb and the driving position is excellent.

A few miles in, it's clear that the S3 is a very polished car. Its turbocharged four-cylinder engine is just pipped for outright thrust by the MPS's, but it sounds better, revs more smoothly and boosts from lower revs. The four-wheel-drive system delivers absolute traction with no fight at the wheel, but in contrast to the Mazda and Alfa, the steering gives a good impression of how hard you're working the front end. And you can work it very hard indeed. The S3 scythes into turns without hesitation, resisting understeer astonishingly well, finding huge grip and remaining poised and adjustable throughout.

Yet you don't have to wring the S3 out to enjoy it. It's an effortless, comfortable long-distance car with an easy poise, excellent refinement and useful flexibility – you can make rapid progress without troubling the lower gears. Initially the steering's variable assistance is obvious, but after an hour or so you hardly notice. There's good brake feel, too – not always a given with VAG products – with precise top-of-the-pedal feel and decent progression. They don't feel any stronger than the Alfa's or Mazda's, but lean on them a bit harder and they really bite, whereas the Brera's pedal goes a bit numb and you're suddenly aware of its inertia. Against expectation, the S3 seems more complete on our more, er, characterful, roads than it did in Germany. I've got it well ahead on points.

Audi claims 5.7sec to 100kph (62mph). If the S3 clocks that time to 60mph it would make it the fastest production hot hatch we have ever tested, bettering the 5.8sec recorded by the Golf R32 and matching the 5.7sec claimed by the Delta Integrale. The S3 does better than that, launching off the line to hit 30mph in 1.8sec and 60mph in just 5.6sec. It takes 13.6sec to get to 100mph, and a glance at its in-gear flexibility shows that it's quick right across the range.

The S3's efficient like the Mazda out of the turns, only more so thanks to its all-wheel drive, and jinkable into the quicker turns like the BMW, only with less risk of spilling into wild oversteer. After three flying laps it seems that the job is done, the last two laps both being 1:30.4. Yes sirree, we have a new and emphatic fastest hot hatch around the West Circuit. Mind, the M├ęgane R26 deserves a shot. Stay tuned…




Source: http://www.evo.co.uk/carreviews/cargrouptests/209953/audi_s3.html

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