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Welcome to the 296bhp Audi S3
Well, we say nuclear, we mean slightly nuclear. Like Belgium. This isn’t a big hairy hot hatch like the Focus RS, it follows the previous two generations of Audi S3; relatively restrained and luxurious compared with the anabolic supermarket carpark set.
That means unassuming looks with a few genteel nods to the power - standard 18-inch wheels with 340mm discs in the front are tucked underneath an aluminium body, which features styling changes you’ll have already seen on the S-line A3: bigger aluminium-look grill, honeycomb inserts, portly sills, a big spoiler on the tailgate, deeper rear bumper with a grey diffusery section and four chrome oval exhaust finishers.
But the interesting stuff’s under the bonnet. It’s the first in a series of hot cars to get the Volkswagen Group’s new four-cylinder 2.0-litre direct injection petrol engine. There’s 296bhp at 5500rpm and 280lb ft of torque that’ll ripple your backside from 1800rpm to 5500rpm. That’s 35bhp and 25lb ft more than the second-gen car.
The engine’s 5kg lighter. So’s the rest of the car, actually - at 1395kg it undercuts its older brother by 60kg (approximately 15 domestic cats), so it’ll get from 0-62mph in 5.1 seconds with the optional six-speed S-tronic gearbox (the manual takes 5.4 seconds). That’s 0.4 and 0.3 seconds faster than the outgoing S3. So quick, but not quite up to the discontinued RS3’s level (that’ll make 62mph in 4.5 seconds). But the payoff is a pretty darn impressive 40mpg combined.
As you’d expect, all four wheels are driven by Audi’s Quattro system, and S-tronic models get push-button launch control. Underway, it should also be slightly less, erm, Audiish than before. The S3’s front axle has moved 52mm further forward, and the engine’s been titled back by 12 degrees towards the bulkhead. There’s also a tweaked version of its predecessor’s four-link rear suspension and ride height’s been dropped 25mm lower than standard.
Inside, it’s the usual profusion of antibacterial German colours and textures. “S3” has been stitched onto the standard leather chairs, there’s a flat-bottomed steering wheel, seven-inch iPad-style display that slithers out of the dash and Bang & Olfsen sound system.
Though Audi’s not told exactly how much it’ll cost when it lands in dealerships early next year, chances are it’ll come in at around £32,000.
Want this particular hot German, TopGear.commers? Or would a Golf R, Mercedes A45 AMG or BMW 135i be more down your straße? Or stick with the current fully nuclear Ford Focus RS?