Audi seems deadly serious about fitting its astonishing new 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder in a real car.
The new engine was presented in the star of the recent Geneva motor show, the TT quattro Sport Concept, and produces some 309kW of power and 450Nm of torque, figures that seemed like wishful thinking on Audi’s part.
But at the launch of the new S1 – which is powered by a 2.0 TFSI belonging to the same engine family as that of the wild concept but producing only 170kW and 370Nm – an Audi source confirmed the monster motor is more than a fantasy.
The third-generation EA888 engine can be tuned to deliver not only a crushing 44kW more than the Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG’s turbo 2.0-litre four, but also acceptable reliability, our source said.
The 309kW four could find its home in “a special series”.
In the meantime, the S1 adds some performance excitement to the more small end of Audi’s line-up.
The new hatchback is quattro-equipped, just like the left-hand-drive-only A1 quattro of two years ago. That car, manufactured in a limited edition of 333, was a forerunner of today’s S1.
Like the A1 quattro, the S1 features a multi-link rear suspension in place of the regular A1’s torsion beam. It’s an expensive-to-engineer change, but the viable solution to accommodating a differential between the rear wheels.
The expensive re-engineering required to create the S1 means it won’t be a bargain. It’s likely to wear a price-tag close to $50,000 when it launches in Australia in July, only two months after it goes on sale in Europe.
While both three-door and five-door bodies will be offered there, only the five-door S1 Sportback is Australia-bound.
The S1 is designed to be a driver-pleaser. It’s being built only with a six-speed manual transmission, which is 20kg lighter than the S-tronic auto. Audi’s chassis engineers wanted the best possible weight distribution for the S1, and successfully argued against the slight increase in nose-heaviness that would come with a double-clutch transmission.
The frozen lakes and icy roads of northern Sweden, where the S1 was introduced to the world’s media, weren’t the ideal environment to test the worth of Audi’s manual-only decision. Slithering around on low-grip surfaces may be entertaining, but reveals little of a car’s real-road handling character.
But it was obvious that the S1 Sportback is quick, effortless, refined and very likely to be damned good fun.