Standard quattro all-wheel drive helps seemingly cement the Audi S3 Sportback to the road, giving the driver huge confidence to explore the limits of the car.
The 2.0-litre turbocharged engine in the Audi S3 Sportback (shared with the VW Golf R) grabs the headlines with 305hp, while most of its pulling power is available at a lowly 1,800rpm. If 4.9 seconds from 0-62mph isn’t enough proof of the engine’s ability then the 50-70mph in gear acceleration of 3.6 seconds might give you a better understanding of the linear power delivery and impressive overtaking ability.
The sound it makes is also pretty fruity and some might say it’s one of the best sounding four-cylinder engines on sale. Drive it responsively and the S3 is quiet and refined, but floor the throttle and the noise coming out of the quad exhaust pipes emulates a rally car, accompanied by a very satisfying pop when the optional DSG gearbox changes gear.
The approachable S3 is perfect if you want a fast car but don't have the driving skills of Lewis Hamilton
The seven-speed DSG gearbox (S-Tronic as Audi calls it) is as fast as you’d need it and the steering wheel-mounted aluminium shift paddles offer manual control. This is an option on the Audi S3 Sportback – as standard, it comes with a precise six-speed manual.
Most performance cars go hand in hand with high running costs, but according to official figures, the S3 shouldn’t be one of those cars. A combined fuel economy figure of 40mpg is commendable for a 155mph four-wheel-drive performance hatchback.
Using a new platform shared with the VW Golf R, the Audi S3 Sportback is actually 70kgs lighter than the old three-door model. This means better cornering and faster acceleration. Some testers go as far as saying this is the first S model with character that Audi has built in a long time. However, even with it’s better body control, the S3 is still more of an extremely quick point-to-point means of transport than something you take out for a fun Sunday drive.
Fitted as standard are Audi’s clever magnetic adaptive dampers. They can change their firmness in milliseconds and come with five driving modes: sport, auto, comfort, efficiency and individual. These modes are selected via the central rotary dial and displayed on the infotainment screen. They not only change the suspension settings but also alter throttle response and steering weight.
Sport mode is the most hardcore and is only really suitable for a race track or on a very, very smooth road as it finds and amplifies even the smallest pavement imperfections into the cabin. Comfort mode, on the other hand, remedies most of this by softening the suspension (not by much) and making the throttle response less immediate. Efficiency mode lightens the steering for navigating tight urban streets and also dulls the throttle response to increase fuel economy. Auto uses the car’s brain to figure out the best set-up for the current road conditions and testers reckon the Audi S3 Sportback is best left in that mode.