The Numbers

2.0-litre, 4cyl turbo, 206kW, 380Nm, 6sp dual clutch, 0-100km/h 5.0secs, 6.9L/100km

The Topgear Verdict

Pricey but poised, the S3 is a beautifully executed compact performance sedan.

Road test: Audi S3 sedan

So, what is it?

A five-seat sedan version of Audi’s third-generation compact performance model, following the release of the S3 Sportback (hatch) in January this year.

Why should I care?

It’s the first time a booted version of the S3 has been offered, and though some will see it as a posh version of the Volkswagen Golf R – because it sits on the same platform, and shares the VW’s drivetrain – Audi’s confident it will broaden the car’s appeal.

And it seems the market isn’t concerned by this behind-the-scenes platform sharing. In the first four months of this year, 258 S3 Sportbacks have rolled out the showroom door. That’s more than any full year in the model’s seven years on sale locally.

What's new about it?

Although the sedan shares the Sportback’s overall look, not a single panel is shared between the two.

The body uses a combination of aluminium and ultra-high strength steel to trim the car’s kerb weight to 1,450kg, and the 205kW/380Nm 2.0-litre TFSI petrol turbo four delivers a solid step up in performance.

That's all fine. What's it like to drive fast?

Audi claims 0-100km/h in five seconds flat, helped in no small part by a launch control function, and the engine’s ability to deliver maximum torque from just 1,800rpm all the way to 5,100rpm; at which point peak power takes over, running in a narrow band to 6,500rpm.

As with the Golf R, Aussie buyers are robbed of 15kW because VW Group classifies Australia as a ‘hot climate’ market, but that fact fades into obscurity as rev counter and speedo needles spin to the right. The S3 is damn quick.

The engine is dual injection (multi-point at low loads, direct-injection at high load), and the turbo develops up to 1.2bar of charge pressure. Throttle response is excellent while power delivery is clean and close to linear.

Switchable through comfort, auto, dynamic, efficiency and individual settings, the standard ‘Drive Select’ system controls the action and response of the throttle, steering and gearbox.

In dynamic mode, changes up and down the standard six-speed ‘S tronic’ dual clutch ‘box are slick and precise. The entertainment factor is also dialled up thanks to a whoofley exhaust blurt on high-rev up-changes, as well as assorted bangs and pops on the down-change. A pair of ‘sound flaps’ in the exhaust system also enhance the exhaust note at high load and revs.

Our test car was fitted with the S performance package, which for $4,990 adds S sport seats with diamond patterned stitching, Audi magnetic ride, LED headlights, Bang & Olufsen audio, S design red brake calipers, interior inlays in black 3D design, and 19 inch alloys (up one inch on the standard 18s).

The magnetic ride suspension is brilliant, delivering good ride quality on distinctly ordinary back roads, even in dynamic mode. The quattro all-wheel drive system uses a Haldex 5 coupling to maximise traction, the S3’s electro-hydraulic steering offers better than average response and road feel and braking is rock solid. Overall the S3 is taut, balanced and responsive; a pleasure to punt quickly.

And driving from home to the office in the city?

Testament to its space-efficiency is the fact that from the inside the S3 feels as spacious as a mid-size sedan. The standard specification is appropriately high and the quality of fit and finish suitably impressive.

The sports seats are comfortable, and with ‘Drive Select’ set to comfort, and the B&O stereo cranked the S3 sedan is an extremely civilised luxury cruiser.

Is there anything bad about it?

We want those 15 ‘hot climate’ kilowatts, and manual mode in the DSG gearbox really isn’t. When push comes to shove it will still change up and down when it feels like it, rather than at your absolute command.

How much would I have to pay for one? And is it worth the coin?

Cost of entry is $62,200, and for that the standard equipment list includes: Xenon plus headlights (with LED daytime running lights and LED tail lights), Navigation plus with touch-screen, park assist (front & rear sensors with rear view camera), 18 inch alloy wheels, aero body kit, ‘S’ exhaust system with quad tailpipes, sports suspension, sport seats in Nappa leather with electric adjust and heating in the front, Bluetooth interface with music streaming, dual-zone climate control, and a leather-wrapped, multi-function, flat-bottom steering wheel.

It’s close to $8k more than a Golf R DSG, but does have that Audi prestige aura. Yeah, it’s worth it.

Would you take this or the BMW M135i?

Tough call. The Beamer’s 3.0-litre turbo engine is a screamer, but the Audi has the edge dynamically. We’d go the S3.

Driven: May 19, 2014