INTRODUCING the Audi S3 - the Prince Harry of the motoring world.
The Audi S3, like the young prince, has a regal side - but it's most likeable due to its naughty personality.
For the S3 is part of a rapidly growing genre of luxurious souped-up offerings for those with deep pockets and a penchant for performance.
You can't lump them in with that hot hatch crowd. It's more regal rocket.
The S3 really creates its own space in a growing segment.
Both in price and power, it sits neatly between Mercedes-Benz's scorching 250 Sport and A45 AMG pairing both in price and power, and under the BMW M135i. That leaves space for an even hotter RS3 from Audi in the future…fingers crossed it's coming here.
We joined the national launch in Tasmania this week to find Audi is well and truly back in the hoity-toity hatch battle with the S3, its retail price of $59,900 is pretty sharp given its specification levels and ability.
There aren't many surprises here in terms of fit and finish, the base model A3s are impressive and the S derivative gets the best of what's on offer.
Operations are basic and functional with the driver's combination of digital and analogue displays wonderfully crisp and easy to read.
Both front pews have electric seat movement, while the driver has telescopic steering wheel adjustment. If you opt for the flashier sport seats with the diamond quilt pattern Nappa leather it reverts back to manual operation.
Leather trim, brushed metal finishes on the console and a great little flat-bottom steering wheel help fulfil the premium expectations.
You are not faced with a barrage of buttons, all the technical stuff can be found within the computer system control by the large dial on the console, with the most used options at your fingertips.
It's great to have the option of folding the colour screen into the dash when not in use.
The S3 has reasonable space for rear seat passengers as long as those up front are accommodating.
On the road
One figure says it all: 0-100kmh in five seconds.
That is quick and it feels lightning fast when you give it a squirt.
But most surprising is the sound. It generates a brilliant husky exhaust note from about 4000rpm courtesy of a flash Audi sound actuator system, and even pops on occasions before swapping cogs.
Although it's not just fairy floss and lollipops in a straight line with an outstanding sprint, nah, the S3 also loves a corner.
We tried our best to unsettle the little savage hatch but it answered every question like Google. And to be truthful, we tried very bloody hard on some slippery and challenging Tasmanian roads.
You can almost feel the rubber bite into the bitumen through well-weighted steering.
Compliant suspension manages to do a damn fine job of ironing out the bumps while also staying firm in the bends with near zero body roll.
There is even an option for a manual gearbox. Autos will be the most popular choice, especially for city bound drivers, but the slick-shifting six-speed manual is wonderful on the open road and twisty terrain.
What do you get?
There isn't much need to go for the options list, with standard items including 18-inch five-spoke alloys, CD stereo with sat nav and colour screen, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, dual zone climate control with rear air vents, flat-bottom leather wrapped steering wheel and key less entry with push button start.
For those who want some extra sport in the "S", a $4990 package includes LED headlights, Bang and Olufsen sound system, funky sports seats in Nappa leather and diamond stitching, star-spoke design alloys and red brake calipers.
You can also get a safety pack which incorporates the likes of radar cruise control, high beam assist and lane assist for $1800.
Official fuel consumption figures say the S3 can sip less than seven litres for every 100km. Our sojourn was much higher, although in fairness we weren't too liberal with the use of the right foot.
Servicing is in line with the premium market and can be hefty, while insurance could need some shopping around.
Excellent internal space makes the S3 a common-sense performance car.
A generous boot allocation along with four-adult capacity (five can be done) means you don't have to sacrifice functionality.
More go than show. That's typical of Audi, understated elegance even with its models which are sledge hammers wrapped in silk.
The S3 really doesn't look drastically different than an A3 with a body kit. It does sit squat on the road and the quad pipes out the back are a good indication of its ability.
This really is a weapon. The S3 accelerates, turns and grips with astounding ease.
It has a wonderful soundtrack accompanying every exuberant squirt of the right pedal, while further music to enthusiast ears is the manual gearbox option.
The Audi S3 manages to strike a balance between daily driver and performance car, all wrapped in a luxurious and well-equipped package.
What matters most
What we liked: Great exhaust soundtrack, brilliant combination of handling and raw speed, no real need for extra options.
What we'd like to see: More external bling, electric adjustment with the sports seats.
Warranty and servicing: Three year/unlimited kilometres warranty with roadside assist. Servicing is every 15,000km or 12 months.
Model: Audi S3.
Details: Five-door all-wheel drive performance hatch.
Engine: 2.0-litre in-line four-cylinder turbocharged petrol generating maximum power of 206kW @ 5100-6500rpm and peak torque of 380Nm @ 1800-5100pm.
Transmission: Six-speed S-tronic dual clutch automatic or six-speed manual.
Consumption: 6.9 litres/100km (combined average).
Performance: 0-100kmh in 5.0 seconds (a); 5.5 seconds (m).
Bottom line: $59,900 (manual or auto).
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