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Audi S3 Sedan 2014 review

Neil Dowling road tests and reviews the 2014 Audi S3 sedan, with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.

Subtlety has a way of creeping up on you when you least expect it. Audi's S3 is exactly that – a very unassuming sports sedan (there's also a hatch) with dynamite performance, understated elegance in design, precision build quality and high-end materials which all arrives at a reasonable price tag.

The S badge isn't applied lightly by Audi. It is bolted on 18 models and the S3 range is more under the microscope than ever thanks to a recent attack by Mercedes-Benz's rival A-Class series.

Audi has already been slapped on the face by the Mercedes A45 gauntlet – a hatch that's faster than the S3 and just as affordable. Now it's upping the ante with a more potent S3 and, soon, the A45-rivalling RS3 with more aggressive performance matched by more ferocious styling.

While these boy racers compete at the top end of their segments, the S3 sedan and Sportback variants smoulder in the discreet end of the market, targeting buyers who want all of the performance but don't want any of the attention.

Yes, I know $62,200 (plus on-road costs) isn't cheap but relative to the spend, the performance and quality and features are on the money. However, Mercedes are more aggressive on features with its equivalent CLA having a more sophisticated safety package, electric seat adjustment and a sunroof.

But the Audi doesn't disappoint with sat-nav, quilted leather sports seats, 10-speaker audio and 18-inch alloys. There's no capped-price servicing but the intervals are annual. Resale after three years is estimated at 56 per cent.

Here's where the subtle tag is applied. The S3 looks just like an A3 but with a slightly bolder grille and bigger wheels. That perfectly suits its underdog status. It's a mid-size car at under 4.5m long, seats four with good rear seat room, has a useable 425 litre boot – extendable via split-fold rear seats – and oozes prestige and premium build quality with a refined dashboard and features such as a large pop-up screen and electric park brake.

The new Volkswagen petrol engine range extends to Audi who picks it up in hypo-grade 2-litre Golf R guise for the S3. It pumps 206kW/380Nm, feeds all wheels through a six-speed dual-clutch box and claims 6.9L/100km (7.5L/100km on test) for a brisk 0-100km/h in 5.0 seconds. Stop-start saves a bit of fuel.

The "quattro" all-wheel drive is permanent and allocates power via a Haldex clutch. The platform is also new, shared with other front-drive Audis and VWs.

Quattro drive constantly juggles power delivery between front and rear wheels, even in situations like compensating for cross winds and road water pooling. To that is added a five-star crash rating, seven airbags, LED daytime running lights, bi-xenon headlights with washers, front and rear park sensors, a reverse camera and tyre pressure monitor. There's no spare wheel.

The dull burble of the engine's exhaust note is a reminder that this car can trounce virtually every rival. That's a given. But it's the refinement of the drivetrain that makes the S3 the definitive wolf in sheep's clothing.

There's some lag off the mark – the dual-clutch gearbox and turbo aren't yet the best of friends – but the power rush is rapid and the upchanges so seamless you'll stare down a speed violation within, literally, seconds. So don't. The predictable but rapid power source matches a very tight body that shrugs off road bumps – especially mid corner – yet offers a relatively compliant ride. The supportive seats are firm, the flat-bottomed steering wheel is racer-dimensions and because this is no low-slung coupe, visibility is excellent. Win-win.


The Merc CLA is lineball but the S3 trumps it for its drivetrain zest. It's one of the very few cars I'd buy without any ums and ahs. 

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Range and Specs

2.0 TFSI Quattro 2.0L, PULP, 6 SP $31,200 – 40,810 2014 Audi S3 2014 2.0 TFSI Quattro Pricing and Specs
Sportback 2.0 TFSI Quattro 2.0L, PULP, 6 SP $26,100 – 34,650 2014 Audi S3 2014 Sportback 2.0 TFSI Quattro Pricing and Specs
2.0 TFSI Quattro 2.0L, PULP, 6 SP $27,200 – 36,080 2014 Audi S3 2014 2.0 TFSI Quattro Pricing and Specs
Neil Dowling
Contributing Journalist


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