The all-new VW Golf R was revealed a number of weeks again to a lot fanfare. It has a flowery all-wheel drive system, seemingly the identical one fitted to the Arteon R, which has ‘R Efficiency Torque Vectoring’. This may ship as much as 100 per cent of torque to a single wheel, and sure, as you’ll have little question heard, the setup features a ‘drift’ profile.
Why am I opening a evaluation of the S3 by speaking about its VW cousin? As a result of the Audi will get none of that stuff. Sure, there’s a brand new six-plate Haldex clutch to direct torque because the automobile’s mind sees vital, and sure, it could possibly theoretically ship as much as 100 per cent to the rear, however IRL, the S3 appears to have little interest in doing so.
Since neither VW nor Audi has – to one of the best of my data – defined why the Golf R will get the drifty enjoyable occasions and the S3 doesn’t, I’m going to have to take a position that it’s all to do with the Quattro badge. The S3 might not be a ‘true’ Quattro with a Torsen centre diff, nevertheless it nonetheless has to face as much as those self same beliefs of safety and dependability. Making it intentionally worse with compelled oversteer doesn’t actually match with that mantra. A couple of years in the past when he was nonetheless Audi Sport’s engineering boss, Stephan Reil stated he had little interest in including a ‘drift mode’ to its RS merchandise, and that sentiment certainly carried over to the S vehicles too.
Audi has boxed itself right into a nook with advertising and marketing, however maybe that’s not such a foul factor. As we’ve seen from the ‘45 AMGs and the Ford Focus RS, these trick programs can really feel fairly odd when the again does step out.
And so, with one other all-wheel drive system that largely appears to favour the entrance axle over the rear and the standard EA888 inline-four turbo engine (albeit the revised ‘Evo’ model), the S3 feels a lot the identical because it did earlier than. Aside from the way in which it sounds – from the within, you now get some pretend, inline-five-esque warbling pumped into the cabin, which will get louder in dynamic mode.
This doesn’t appear vital when the EA888 already makes an inexpensive din for an inline-four, however I discovered myself liking it. And hating myself a little bit for liking it. In dynamic, it’s accompanied by a smattering of subtle-ish pops and bangs from the exhaust.
The revised model of the two.0-litre TSI has all these EA888 attributes we’ve grown to understand from the unit of the years. There’s a smoothness to its supply, and an eagerness to rev. Its 306bhp and 295lb ft outputs might sound underwhelming when the following tier up of sizzling hatches just like the Mercedes-AMG A45 produce round 100bhp extra (as will the following RS3), however the S3 nonetheless feels awfully fast. When it comes to the uncooked numbers, it’ll do 0-62mph in 4.8 seconds, topping out at an electronically-limited 155mph.
Altering gear is completed utilizing a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, which swaps cogs with cheap velocity however little drama since Audi has opted to not go for any upshift ‘farts’ right here. It’s additionally a gearbox you’ll be eager to take management of your self on a spirited drive to stop getting pissed off over the sub-optimal ratios it picks.
I’ll must insert my standard annoyance over the gearshift paddles, too, since they’re the standard nasty little bits of plastic on the again of the steering wheel. Additionally, the ‘guide’ mode is one thing of a delusion – attain the highest finish, and as an alternative of hitting a tough limiter, the ‘field merely does the swap for you. Boo and certainly hiss.
Improve the cornering speeds, and the S3 delivers a formidable quantity of traction, whether or not it’s bone dry or horribly greasy. As soon as it reaches the restrict, protected and predictable understeer follows. Identical to the outdated one, in different phrases, and it’s the identical story with the sunshine, quick and suggestions bereft steering.
The passive suspension setup of our take a look at automobile (adaptive dampers are a value choice) verges on being too agency. The low-speed experience is uneven, however issues do relax sufficient when speeds rise, not less than. In any case, the S3 will get away with this lack of give as a result of it’s so rattling refined. It’s quiet and stress-free, and the cabin feels largely strong. The stylish understatement of the outdated A3 is gone although, now it’s all about aggressive angles and pointy edges, and I’m unsure that is an enchancment.
Nor do I feel it’s a good suggestion chucking all of the local weather controls in a sub-par touchscreen infotainment system, however little question by now you’re bored of us moaning about this setup which is discovered throughout all VW Group’s MQB-Evo vehicles. What Audi has completed for the A3 when it comes to the person interface is barely totally different from the therapies of VW, Audi and Skoda, nevertheless it’s no higher or worse, merely one other type of gentle annoyance.
Regardless of these minor misgivings, the S3 does all it must. It’s extra thrilling than BMW’s weirdly underwhelming M135i, and though it’d do nicely to match the aggression of the Mercedes-AMG A35, it’s exhausting to argue with its mix of straight-line efficiency and all-weather functionality.
The S3’s core fanbase will adore it – of that, I’ve little question. It’s simply unlikely to win over any new converts.