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Audi S3 R-tronic review

Flexible and powerful engine gives excellent performance

April 2009

picture of car from the front picture of car from the rear picture of car interior picture of car detail

Overall rating

3.5 out of 5 stars

Likes:

  • Flexible and powerful engine gives excellent performance
  • Unflappable handling and grip
  • High quality interior
  • Superb build quality

Gripes:

  • Not as engaging as some rivals
  • High purchase price
  • Styling may be too subtle for some
  • Engine note lacks drama

Following a subtle refresh of the A3 range, Audi has also tweaked the flagship version of its premium compact hatch. The S3 gains the same improvements as the rest of the range as well as an enhanced range of options to broaden its appeal.

The S models in the Audi range have a long history, and have been amongst the most exciting products to come from the German manufacturer. Combining high output engines with the famous quattro four-wheel drive system, they are amongst the most usable performance cars on sale.

At the heart of the S3 is the 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine. Using the T-FSI technology seen elsewhere in the Audi range, it uses direct injection to increase efficiency and power. The end result is a highly impressive output, making the S3 significantly more powerful than its predecessor, and one of the most powerful cars in the segment.

To cope with the high power output, the S3 features the quattro four-wheel drive system as standard. This layout is unusual in the hot hatchback sector and, as well as giving the necessary grip and traction to exploit the power in all conditions, it gives the S3 extra cache over its rivals. The S3 can also be specified with the magnetic ride option, used to good effect in the TT and R8 models, giving the driver the option of two settings depending on the road conditions.

As well as the mechanical enhancements, the S3 benefits from a number if styling changes to distinguish it from its stablemates. Now available in three and five-door form, the S3 has a chrome grille, extended spoilers and skirts all round. At the rear there is also a silver-coloured aerodynamic diffuser and twin exhausts pipes, plus subtle S3 badges front and rear. The S3 also gets Xenon-plus headlights as standard which feature the LED daytime running lights which have become something of an Audi feature.

Our verdict on the Audi S3 R-tronic

The S3 delivers on all its promises, offering rapid performance, secure handling and a high level of comfort. The subtle enhancements increase its appeal and it remains one of the most usable hot hatches currently on sale. The only possible downside is the purchase price, but it does offer a lot for the money.