Audi S3 VS Audi TT
- Virtual cockpit
- Accessible performance
- Handsome styling
- Harsh ride
- Limited rear-seat headroom
- Engine runs out of huff at top end
- 294kW five-cylinder engine
- Great dynamics
- Decent boot for the segment
- No AEB
- Four star 2015 ANCAP rating
- No central media screen
Audi was the first to market with a premium small performance sedan in 2014, with its four-door S3 combining luxury appointments with a punchy engine.
The German brand has largely enjoyed free air in the somewhat niche segment, but now Mercedes-AMG has launched its A35 sedan and BMW's 2 Series Gran Coupe-based M235i is set for a 2020 introduction to try and steal some of the S3's thunder.
With a new-generation version expected around the corner, Audi has updated its S3 with more kit to keep things fresh against its new rivals.
Now priced at $65,800 in sedan form, and $64,200 for the five-door Sportback hatch, does the S3 still have what it takes to stave off the competition?
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
When the Audi TT first arrived in 1998 it looked cute… seriously cute, like a car-version-of-a-koala cute. Then over the next couple of decades it grew out of that cuteness into something more menacing looking and the RS versions were well, Google 'drop bear' and you're pretty much on the money.
Now the new TT RS is here looking more grown up and angrier than ever, but does it have the mechanical mumbo to match the aggro appearance? Does it have back seats? Or even a boot? Could you drive one every day without buying your chiropractor a new Porsche? Actually, why wouldn't you just by a Porsche yourself, I mean a 718 Cayman S costs about the same?
Read on to find out.
|Engine Type||2.5L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
Despite being close to the end of its lifecycle, the Audi S3 sedan remains a solid choice for those looking for punchy performance wrapped in a premium package.
There is a bit of a trade-off in comfort for the extra performance, but it never strays towards being too unbearable or unliveable.
If you can survive with just using the rear seats occasionally, the S3 sedan also serves up one of the best front-seat interiors on the market, even after all this time.
The Audi TT RS is iconic for its design and should be heaped with praise for its dynamic ability, it's also more practical than many of its rivals offering back seats and a good-sized boot for the class. But despite this latest update the TT RS has fallen behind in advanced safety technology and cabin equipment such as the lack of a media screen.
While you might struggle to fit something like a full-sized bike into the boot of the sedan, the extra cargo capacity would easily accommodate extra grocery bags or a stroller.
We actually think the sedan looks better than the hatch, as the styling is a little more mature and grown up. It actually looks like a shrunk down A4!
The 19-inch wheels fitted to the S3 also help fill its slightly blistered wheelarches, while subtle nods to its sportiness can be seen in the red brake callipers and quad exhaust tips.
The rest of the S3 sedan is unmistakably Audi thanks to its singleframe front grille, strong shoulder line and contrasting side mirrors.
Inside, sports seats with Audi's unique diamond-quilting are fitted for the front occupants, while the rear bench seats also feature the bespoke finish – at least on the outboard pews.
Between the driver and front passenger sits a small storage cubby, the gear shifter, multimedia controls and two cupholders.
In the centre stack, you will see climate controls, the drive mode selector and a small screen above circular air vents.
Everything in the cabin is laid out in a clever, ergonomic fashion, though we will note the central cupholders won't be much use for anything bigger than a small coffee cup.
The best part of the interior is easily the virtual cockpit, which lays out all the information you need right in front of you. It's even customisable, so you can adjust the sizing of the satellite navigation maps or media system.
Let's start with the looks, seeing as I went on about them so much in the introduction.
This update has seen changes in all the places you'd expect a facelift to cover. There's a new front-end design with a new mesh grille, even larger supercar-like air intakes, a redesigned front splitter and sleeker headlights.
There are also new side skirts, while the rear of the car has more contoured styling and a beefier diffuser.
The tough styling is part of what sets an RS model apart from its more domesticated siblings in the range. There are also the wheels - regular TTs come standard with 18- or 19-inch alloys, the TT RS has 20-inch rims with red RS brake calipers. If you're still uncertain if you're looking at a TT RS then you can be sure you are if it has a fixed rear wing.
Then there's RS engineering which we'll get to in the engine and driving sections. But let's dive into the cabin which has also been updated with a new RS steering wheel, there's the leather RS seats, with the door and console trimmed in leather and aluminum with carbon twill inlays.
The lack of a central media screen means all media, phone and nav menus and displays can only be viewed on the digital instrument cluster. Audi calls this a driver-focused cockpit, I call it marketing spin. I mean a Porsche 911 has a central media screen and you don't get much more of a driver-focused car than that.
I do like the air vents which have the climate control modes within them. I also like that there are back seats – but more on the practicality later.
The TT RS looks bigger in photos than it really is. End-to-end it's only 4191mm long and just 1344mm tall but at 1832mm across it has a wide, planted stance.
Being a small sedan, the S3 doesn't exactly boast heaps of interior space, but there is enough for a young family or a group of four adults over short distances.
Our head can just about fit in the rear outboard pews, but our necks were a bit sore after trying the middle seat. For reference, this writer measures about 186cm.
Leg room was pretty good though, even with the front seats set-up for someone our size, though again, we'd only recommend small children for the middle seat.
Amenities in the rear are sparse, with just a 12-volt socket to charge devices and rear air vents to keep passengers entertained.
The door cards will swallow small bottles, but not much else, while there is no fold down centre armrest or cupholders.
The front fares a little bitter, with larger door pockets, a glove box and central storage cubby, but don't expect to be moving houses in the S3 sedan.
As for the boot, its deep and wide with a cargo net to keep things tumbling round, and is generous enough to swallow 390 litres of volume with the seats in place – that's about 50L more than the Sportback.
The TT RS is a four-seater coupe with a hatch tailgate.
I'm 191cm (6'3") tall and there is no way I can sit behind my driving position, but my size is irrelevant here - there's almost zero legroom back there and not even small children are going to have enough space.
Yes, the TT RS isn't a family car, but at CarsGuide we rate all cars for practicality and spaciousness as well as what they're like to drive. That said the TT RS is more practical and spacious than a Porsche Cayman and the BMW Z4 which don't have rear seats at all.
The cargo capacity of the TT RS's boot is 305 litres, which isn't bad at all.
Cabin storage isn't good. The door pockets are small, the centre console bin is only big enough for a wallet but the hidey hole under the dash is useful.
That hidey hole also has a 12V outlet, a USB port and a wireless charger.
This is an obvious point, but the TT RS is low to the ground. The good news is the doors are large and the bubble-like roofline means I never hit my head on the A-pillar as I have with many sports cars.
That roofline also means headroom is good for the driver and co-pilot, although, again, your friends in the rear seat are going to have another reason not to invite you over any more.
Price and features
Priced at $65,800 before on-road costs, the S3 sedan is about $6500 cheaper than its $72,500 Mercedes-AMG A35 sedan rival, but still comes loaded with what you'd expect in a premium small car.
Close to the end of its life, Audi bundled nearly $9000 worth of extras in the S3 sedan at no extra cost late last year, which includes the aforementioned 19-inch wheels, metallic paint, Nappa leather sports seats, wireless smartphone charger, magnetic suspension, and Bang & Olufsen 13-speaker sound system.
A sports bodykit is also fitted as standard, while LED headlights, keyless entry, push-button start, electronically folding side-view mirrors and heated front seats also feature.
Inside, passengers will find dual-zone climate control, LED interior lighting, flat-bottom steering wheel, and 7.0-inch multimedia system with digital radio, satellite navigation and Bluetooth connectivity.
Our favourite feature though, is the 12.3-inch all-digital virtual cockpit instrument panel, which is easily customisable and clear to read.
Audi set the benchmark for digital displays when it first introduced virtual cockpit in its third-generation TT sports car, and it still remains the benchmark to this day.
The TT RS lists for $134,900. While that makes it the most expensive TT, when it comes to horsepower, bang for your buck is excellent compared to Porsche's 718 Cayman S which lists for $140,590 and has 257kW.
The 718 Cayman GTS matches the TT RS's 294kW but costs $172K. That said, the BMW Z4 has 285kW and lists for $127,900 and while Mercedes-AMG doesn't really have a TT RS rival it does have the A45 S with 310kW and a list price of $93,600. Also, in that price range is the Z4's Toyota twin – the Supra with 250kW for $94,536. Don't scoff – it's a superb driver's car.
Let's get back to the TT RS. What comes standard? Features include 20-inch seven-spoke 'matt titanium-look' alloy wheels with red RS brake calipers, RS sport suspension with magnetically adjustable dampers, there's the RS sports exhaust system, privacy glass, leather upholstery, a Bang & Olufsen 12-speaker sound system, wireless charging and 12.3-inch instrument cluster.
The standard RS seats are Nappa leather, the front ones are heated and power adjustable, there's the leather RS steering wheel, proximity key, front and rear parking sensors, Matrix LED headlights and dual-zone climate control.
Engine & trans
Power in the S3 sedan comes from a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine, which outputs 213kW at 6500rpm and 380Nm from 1850-5300rpm.
Engine outputs are impressive for a small car, though the powerplant does run out of go when the needle approaches redline.
The engine is also down on power and torque when compared to its newer rivals, such as the 225kW/400Nm Mercedes-AMG A35 sedan and 225kW/450Nm BMW M135i xDrive – though the latter is a hatchback.
The 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbo-petrol engine in the TT RS is one of my favoruite Audi powerplants and calls the RS 3 and RS Q3 home, too. It's loud, energetic and churns out a whopping 294kW of power and 480Nm of torque. That's enough to get the TT RS from 0-100km/h in 3.7 seconds.
Is the engine in the front or the back? Not such a silly question when you look at the design of the car and you're new to TTs, but the engine is in the front.
It's not the most powerful engine in the RS model line-up, but I can tell you having driven the TT RS back-to-back with Audi's R8 super car it's one of the most fun powerplants.
You can mash the accelerator pedal on a straight bit of road and not fear that the TT RS will snap and bite you – it's not too much power in that it's controllable with superb all-wheel drive traction.
Official fuel consumption figures are pegged at 6.5 litres per 100km, while carbon dioxide emissions are 151 grams per kilometre.
The S3 sedan sips premium unleaded fuel and the engine is Euro 6 compliant.
With a 55-litre fuel tank, the S3 should average about 846km of driving range per fill-up, but this is obviously dependent on driving conditions and the urgency of the driver's right foot.
Audi has probably perfected the easy-to-drive-fast formula with its S3 sedan, deftly balancing approachable limits with an engaging drive.
The exhaust just pops, rather than crackles, but again, that characteristic lends itself more to the mature and grown-up status of the S3 rather than the ‘boy racer' image of other cars in the same class.
The quattro all-wheel-drive system means the S3 sedan just grips, but leans towards understeer if you really come into a corner red hot.
It's no bad thing though, as steering is communicative and the chassis feels neutral for the most part.
If you want a small luxury sedan that will make you feel like a hero, the S3 is it.
With peak torque available so early in the rev range, the S3 is also a gem when just cruising around at inner-city speeds and when getting off the line briskly.
The transmission shifts quickly and smoothly, but if you'd prefer, you can always put it in manual mode and shift with the gear stick or steering wheel mounted paddles.
The S3 then, is suitable for pulling double duty as a weekday commuter and weekend canyon carver, and while there are other options that will do each respective thing better, there isn't much out there that can balance both aspects.
Well you already know I love that five-cylinder engine – seriously you could put it in a loaf of bread, and it'd probably be awesome to drive.
Yes, sure the front end in the TT RS felt a bit heavier than I remembered and the nose didn't have that light pick-up-and-point feeling many sports cars have, but on the hill climb section of the test route especially, this coupe was seriously adept through the switchbacks.
Our convoy of test cars included everything from the Audi R8 and new RS Q3 to the RS 7 and RS 6 Avant motherships. And while nothing nails a great road like the R8, the TT RS was eating up the twists while the RS 7 and RS 6 freight trains were struggling with the physics of mass, size, and velocity in those tight corners.
The TT RS felt tight, stable, but agile as it scampered and weaved its way up hills. I'd like the steering to have more feel. Still there's enough feedback through the cabin and the seat to give the driver a good connection with the road.
Is it comfortable to drive? No. I found the standard RS seats too snug for me (to be fair I'm not race-car driver petite), and the ride over the typical Aussie course bitumen and pot-holed country roads made the cabin shake and rattle, along with my bones.
The ride comfort though is what you can expect out of a sports car like this and it's another reason why the TT RS is more than just a sporty coupe with red brake calipers. There's the RS sports suspension with magnetic adjustable dampers, the RS sports exhaust system and big brakes – 370mm discs on the front with eight piston calipers and 310mm discs at the rear which slow things down super quickly.
If you are after something less 'hardcore' there's the TT S or consider the RS Q3 small SUV which has the same five-cylinder engine and can do the 0-100km/h sprint in 4.5 seconds, but has softer suspension for a comfier ride, while being dynamically impressive in the corners. Oh, and you'll have way more room inside, too. Let's talk about that.
ANCAP awarded the entire A3 line-up a full five-star safety rating when it was originally tested in 2013.
We'd love to see something like a surround view-camera added to the next-generation S3, but with its diminutive size, it's not a deal breaker.
Some sort of autonomous self-parking technology would also be appreciated to get the car into those tight spaces.
ANCAP gave the Audi TT a rating of four stars out of a maximum of five when it was tested in 2015. The level of child occupant protection was insufficient for a five-star rating and according to the ANCAP report this was mainly due to the limited space in the rear seat.
There are two ISOFIX points and two top tether anchor mounts for child seats in the second row.
Compared with most new cars the TT RS has a low level of advanced safety technology – there's no AEB or adaptive cruise control, nor is there rear cross traffic alert, but there is blind spot warning and lane keeping assistance.
The TT RS has electronic stability control and ABS, and emergency brake assist (this isn't AEB). The safety features in that sentence haven't been mentioned in one of my reviews in years, and that's because there's not much else for me to list, apart from airbags which only cover the front passengers.
This lack of safety equipment especially for a car which lists for $135K is the reason why the TT RS has scored poorly in this section.
Audi's S3 sedan, like all new Audis, come with a three year/unlimited kilometre warranty alongside three years of roadside assist and 12 months of anti-corrosion cover.
Service intervals are ever 15,000km or 12 months, whichever comes first.
Both three- and five-year service plans are available for $1850 and $2390 respectively.
The TT RS is covered by Audi's three-year, unlimited kilometre warranty which not only falls behind in duration compared to mainstream brands but also its direct rival Mercedes-Benz which now has five-year, unlimited kilometre coverage.
Service intervals are every 12 months or 15,000km with a three-year plan ($2320) or five-year plan ($3420) available.