To most in this category, a sports saloon with four-wheel drive, a 2.0-litre turbo engine and a tall stack of attitude means either a Subaru Impreza WRX STi or a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo, both echoes from the past that nevertheless cast long shadows. Can the S3 Saloon match these performance icons? In terms of sheer pace, no. Nevertheless, it'll get to 62mph in a mere 5.4 seconds and keep going to an electronically limited 155mph, which is hardly hanging around. Although at first glance the 1984cc turbocharged engine looks similar to that which has gone before, it's completely different with a clever way of using direct and indirect injection to best effect. With twin balancer shafts and a long stroke, Audi claims it develops very a very smooth serving of torque; fully 380Nm all the way from 1,800 to 5,500rpm. That's impressive.
The S3 is equipped as standard with a manual six-speed transmission with a lightweight magnesium case. The optional S tronic twin-clutch transmission features high efficiency and a tall sixth gear. The lower gears are short in the interest of dynamics, as is also the case with the manual transmission. The heart of the quattro all-wheel drive system is an electronically controlled and hydraulically actuated multi-plate clutch. In the interests of balanced axle load distribution, its located at the end of the prop shaft, in front of the rear axle differential. During normal driving, the clutch sends most of the engine's power to the front wheels. If traction decreases there, the clutch can transfer torque steplessly to the rear axle in just a few milliseconds by forcing the packages of plates together via controlled action. Audi drive select is standard in the new Audi S3. It incorporates the characteristics of the electronic accelerator, the boost of the progressive steering and the shift points of the optional S tronic. The driver determines with the push of a button whether these systems operate in comfort, auto, dynamic, efficiency or individual mode. In individual mode, drivers can compose their own preferred profile within certain limits.