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The drifty new Audi S3 is here, and it’s the most powerful one ever built

Official pics and details of your new rear-view mirror ornament have been released. Broadly: it real fast

Published: 08 Apr 2024

This is the most powerful Audi S3 ever built, but crucially, it’s also the driftiest Audi S3 ever built. Welcome to either a) your new not-so-undercover-anymore time travel machine, or b) an unwelcome, possibly permanent presence in your rear-view mirror.

To point a), then. Since before Early Man first trundled out of that cave, S3s have been heroically competent: desirable machines able to compress time and space in easily digestible premium suits. That remained the case right up until now, because now the staid, sensible S3 has been given the RS3’s ‘torque splitter’ technology.

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In AudiSpeak, it enables “fully variable torque distribution between the rear wheels”, using an “electronically controlled multiple disk clutch on each driveshaft to optimally distribute the torque between the rear wheel on the inside and the outside of the curve”.

In HumanSpeak, it means if you give this new S3 a boot full of power say, across a gloriously sandy horizon, it’ll merrily go sideways. Funny thing – we did just that in a prototype S3, and it was… fun. Playful. This ‘Dynamic +’ setting also increases the idle speed (for better launches), ramps up the throttle response and quickens the gearshifts.

Speaking of quick, there’s more power to play with this time around, Audi treating the omnipresent 2.0-litre TFSI four-cylinder petrol engine to 23 more horsies and 15 more torques. That results in new totals of 328bhp and 310lb ft of torque, and a new 0-62mph time of 4.7s. Top speed is of course, limited to 155mph.

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We’re told both engine and seven-speed DSG get a ‘sportier’ tune, the latter featuring gearshifts half as quick as before. Naturally, like it’s big brother RS3, there are a plethora of Modes to contend with including that new ‘Dynamic +’ setting, along with a suite of suspension and steering upgrades too.

Stuff like stiffer bearings and new pivot bearings, which Audi says gives the S3 better steering and grip. Naturally it’s lower – 15mm – than a regular A3, and gets special S3-spec tunes for the stability and other systems. 18s are standard. 19s are an option. There are bigger vented front brake discs gripped by two-piston calipers. New brake pads, too.

And so to point b), then. The S3's a long way from its subtle roots, here doubling down on that new 'singleframe' new grille, a new set of spoilers and bumpers and gloss back detailing, trim elements pinched from the RS parts bin, quad exhausts and a host of metallic paint options.

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The S3’s interior features a few tweaks – new air vents, fabric inlays, interior lighting, that sort of thing – but it’s a world away from the, well, world-class interior of the old, old S3. Very dark in here. Moody. Much screen (10.1in) and many apps.

As for the price? Many pounds, too. Audi hasn’t released the exact pricing yet on the new S3 Sportback and saloon, but expect to pay in the region of £45k. Want to know what the outgoing S3 was like to live with for six months? Click here to find out.

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