First drive: Audi S3 sedan

WITH its new appendage – a boot – Audi’s S3 is visually transformed from a hot hatch into a sports sedan.

To our eyes, at least, the styling of the first-ever S3 sedan is more convincing than the wagon-like Sportback, while the 2.0-litre turbo all-drivetrain remains just as compelling.

The S3 sedan is here now, priced at $62,200 to the Sportback’s $59,900 – so $2300 to trade hatchback load-swallowing ability for slick, three-box aesthetics. And the sedan’s boot, at 390 litres, is actually 10 litres bigger than the Sportback’s.

As well as looking more sophisticated than the Sportback, the sedan variant gives the S3 a unique selling point against hot Golfs – the all-drive R in particular – which have undermined the pricier Audi’s value equation in previous generations.

The newly attractive positioning puts the sedan within $7700 of Wolfsburg’s ultimate hatch while undercutting the hairier-chested Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG by almost $25K.

However, the S3 sedan’s allure, like that of the Sportback, is derived from the driver involvement delivered by the VW/Audi MQB-based chassis.

Compared with the previous-gen S3, it shifts the front axle line forward, while canting the engine 12 degrees to the rear, for 59/41 front/rear weight distribution. Credit is also due the clutch location, just forward of the rear diff.

The clutch-based AWD system is quick to send drive to the rear when it senses imminent front traction loss, but isn’t of the bulk-torque-to-the-back variety. The system provides a front/all-wheel-drive flavour rather than the subtly rear-drive satisfaction found in the torque-vectoring S4 and S5.

But if you get the nose aimed before squashing the accelerator like a cockroach, the S3 is capable of a seriously – and unflappably – quick backroad pace.

Magnetic ride suspension comes as part of a well-priced $4990 S performance package that also brings LED headlights, B&O audio, sports seats, 19in alloys and red calipers.

It’s as impressive for the all-surface compliance it offers across its modes as the sharpened chassis and steering responses it provides in dynamic mode.

As in the Sportback, the 2.0-litre turbo is detuned by 15kW from the 221kW Euro-market version because our hot climate.

Having driven both, it is noticeable in the form of a slight loss of punch at the very top of the rev range, but the local version delivers the same growling, potent bottom-end and mid-range urgency.

Importantly, dynamic mode frees the exhaust with a crisp four-pot howl by way of a pair of electro-flaps.

The sedan’s standard six-speed S-tronic transmission fits the S3’s effortlessly quick cross-country character perfectly. Meanwhile, if a manual transmission is a must-have, that’s an option only available in the Sportback.

If Germany’s reignited Merc CLA-led romance with the compact sedan is reflected by buyer uptake in Oz – and we reckon the S3 sedan will be a hit – Audi will have styled itself yet another segment-buster.

Audi S3 sedan

Plus: Brings extra exclusivity and a new S3 selling point; cultured speed; grip; intake and exhaust note
Minus: Puts foolproof pace ahead of finer points of driver involvement; Oz version down 15kW on Euro specModel: Audi S3 sedan
Engine: 1984cc in-line 4cyl, dohc, 16v, turbo
Max power: 206kW @ 5500-6200rpm
Max torque: 380Nm @ 1800-5500rpm
Transmission: 6-speed dual-clutch
Weight: 1450kg
0-100km/h: 5.0sec (claimed)
L/100km: 6.9
Price: From $62,200
On sale: Now

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