Audi: 2014 S3 Sportback quattro review

Audi: 2014 S3 Sportback quattro review

audi-s3-2014-frontI was walking with a friend when a yellow Lamborghini Murcielago passed us near Westhaven Marina. She asked me why people buy cars like that in bright colours.

“Advertising,” I replied. It’s all about advertising the fact that you can spend half a mil’ on a car, and you want people to know. Plus, it looks cool. She didn’t understand the ‘looks cool’ bit.

audi-s3-2014-front-seatsAnyway, let’s take the antithesis of that: this blue Audi S3 – Estoril Blue, to be precise. It won’t trounce the Lambo in terms of straight line speed, but it will put some colour into your driving.

I would rather hustle the S3 around twisting roads than the Murcielago which is only 2cm narrower than a Hummer H2 at 2.05m! The Audi, at 1.79m wide is like a scythe compared to a sledgehammer.

If the Lamborghini is about hard-sell advertising, the Audi S3 is about subtle PR. It goes about doing its job and eventually people start talking about it in revered tones. After all, a yellow S3 (of which I have driven one quite a few years ago) really is trying too hard.

The S3 Sportback is what you buy if a Golf R is slightly too vulgar, and you can’t bear the thought of anything Japanese.

audi-s3-2014-rear-seatsIt’s mechanically fairly similar to the Golf R but VW’s badge has three too few circles and not enough cachet. It will run circles around your everyday car, though. With 100kph coming up in 4.9 seconds, and cornering that’s as flat as the church believed the earth was until Magellan spoiled their party, this is a seriously quick car.

It’s got the same 221kW, 4-cylinder turbo that the Golf R uses. The torque band is a plateau from 1800-5500 with 380Nm twisting all four wheels. It’s hard to unsettle it, even in tight corners, with the Electronic Stabilisation Programme.

The S3 comes with the six-speed S Tronic gearbox which, while we’ve waxed lyrical about it in the past, has throttle mapping on the downshift which is simply annoying.

Every downshift, regardless of which mode I selected, blipped the throttle as –

audi-s3-2014-rear-quarterthough I was late braking into a hairpin, and when there’s this amount of power and torque available, unmatched revs have consequences.

Primarily it was because I use the paddle gear shifters. I rarely use automatic gearboxes because I like to choose the gear for the road that’s ahead, rather than have the car decide. Therefore this issue probably isn’t going to affect 99.9% of S3 purchasers anywhere near as frequently as it affected me.

It is still evident in automatic mode in that it can lurch forwards when changing from 2nd to 1st, but it’s less obvious.

audi-s3-2014-rearIt also has comfort and an excellent suspension balance: it doesn’t punch your kidneys on poor surfaces, and it doesn’t roll excessively when piled into a corner.

There’s quilted leather adorning the seats, interestingly designed air vents, and a large retractable screen which serves multiple duties as sat nav, reversing camera and media centre.

There’s nothing on the outside that overtly says this is a sub-5 second car. 18-inch alloys are on many vehicles; rear diffusers are de rigueur even for some quite sensible sedans; evil-looking LED headlights are no longer the preserve of the stratospheric supercar.

Your only clues are the quad exhaust pipes and the large brake discs (though these are neither drilled nor slotted).

Yes, it’s not just a sleeper; this car could almost convince you it is comatose.

That is, until you prod that throttle. It’s a great noise, and it’s a great sensation of trying to pull your head away from the headrest under acceleration. One could say that, at a shade under eighty grand, it’s quite a bargain.

However, as with all Audis, if you want to start adding the fruit, you can expect the price to rapidly escalate. Our test S3 came in Estoril Blue ($1000), with extended interior ($800), Bang and Olufsen sound system ($1900), 18-inch alloys ($600), privacy glass ($1000), technology pack ($3500) and sports package ($2900) which pushes the price out to $91,600.

Still, the S3 is performance PR; it’s about talking to the right people rather than shouting loudly.

Price: Base model $79,900, price as tested $91,600


  • It’s a sleeper – plenty of speed but without advertising it
  • If you don’t want lots of gear, it’s good value for money


  • Harsh downshifts when you just want it to be smooth sometimes
  • If you want lots of gear, the price rapidly approaches a hundred Gs.

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