Yes Yes Yes oh YES: Pretty beyond belief, comfy, punchy engine, fuel economy, Bang and Olufsen sound
Oh dear me no: slightly cramped boot but ok with the roof up, magnet for the rozzers
Audi is the new black.
Perhaps it is because the roof is down and you can hear people commenting but the nice words flowed like good wine. Early winter is the perfect time for roofless driving in Sydney. The air is crisp and clear on the days when it isn’t chucking it down and with the windows up and warm air on, the driver is hardly aware of the temperature differentiations outside. Moody weather aside, the S3 has a presence rarely matched and somehow Audi managed this swan-like transformation in a single automotive generation.
You can have the A3 for somewhere in the mid-fifties, and it is as scrumptious as the S3 but dials back the excitement a notch or two. The S3 has Audi’s signature light clusters which brought the daytime running light craze into vogue. Of course Volvo have had daytime parking lights for 30 years but that’s another story. The LED lines in Audi’s headlights look positively evil and demand attention even if the Audi brand isn’t for you. They scream “look at me, aren’t I damn pretty, and damn mean. GRRRRRRRR” and they are right.
The roof can be operated at up to 30-ish kph so in slow traffic rain isn’t a problem. If you leave the roof up, you can push the inner boot compartment lid upwards for more boot space. The compartment must be pulled back down for the roof to be lowered, and a friendly reminder sounds if you’ve forgotten and won’t move until you’ve schlepped round the back, opened the boot, and pulled the handle down. Much has been made of the lack of space in the boot but there is oodles if you remember to leave the roof up and its compartment closed.
The cabin is as gorgeous as the exterior. It is impeccable and gracious with neat rows of buttons laid out in an intuitive array with quilted leather and aluminium making ambience that of an exclusive cutting-edge gentleman’s residence. Comfy and cosy, but with all the latest gadgets at his fingertips. It is a great shame that all of the Germans have such long lists of tasty but costly options. You could easily add 20 grand to you chariot without turning a hair. The options come in packs which offer small savings but there is still a sting at the end of it.
The infotainment system is the control centre and I’m pleased to say the Bluetooth pairing and satnav input are intuitive and can be done without hours spent reading the manual. The satnav screen pops up out of dash board so it is probably just as well it isn’t a touch screen. Passion fingers like mine would have it off the dash in a thrice. To make up for that, the top surface of then rotary dial on the console between the seats is a scratch pad. This gives you the option of writing the letters of the street names a letter at a time, which a smidge slower than the touch-input method but so much more fun. There is no hint of confusion when navigating the rest of the instruments, even at speed. You can change the chassis settings a few ways and all can be done while on the move.
The eyeball vents look like bits of an art deco aircraft and can rotate to direct air in any direction. One of my pet hates is limited venting adjustments that leave air directed where you don’t want it. You finish up with frozen patches, frosty knuckles or your face so hot that you feel like you’re going through the change.
I took another willing pair of eyes on the test drive to take a few notes. Usually the co-driver sits the tsk-tsking and making snarky comments about tatty trim and body parts not lining up. There is none of that in this Audi, or indeed any Audi. It’s indulgent and tasteful but never boring or tacky and the performance, while not neck snapping, is sharp and quick. The 2.0L turbo 4 puts out 201kw and 380Nm and shifts then S3 Cab to 100 in 5.5seconds. It feels quick but not brutish like a V8. 5.5seconds is more than respectable and there is no nasty torque steer where the steering wheel is jerked to one side when you shove your hoof to the floor. This happens in front wheel drive cars because they do the steering as well as delivering the power to the road. The S3 Quattro AWD uses all of its wheels to get power to the bitumen and with clever electronics, more power goes to the wheels at the back thus eliminating torque steer.
Our car was go-faster fire engine red with almost $8,000 in options. Even at that price the S3 Cab is value, not because it is affordable, but because it is worth what you pay. It is quality inside and out but it is the drive you’re really interested in isn’t it?
As usual, we used the car like an owner would. We bought some groceries and did an airport run. The airport run saw the Audi chockers full of nicely turned out gay boys. When you see two boys in a convertible you gay “gay” but when you see four, you think “party (of one kind or another)” right? In order to get a generously proportioned port in the boot, we raised the roof, raised the inner compartment, and put the bag in. There was plenty of room and once ensconced the process was repeated for the full topless experience. It was a bit of a faff at the airport end but all agreed the extra time was well worth it.
We did twisty bends and high speed highway runs and at no stage did we not feel like lotto winners. Sport mode opens up the extra-noise valve and you can add even more wow factor by stiffening the chassis. With the glorious sound and stiff suspension you feel like your driving jet roller skates.
As I mentioned, in grocery mode, the roof may remain down for the duration but an airport run might need the roof up, at least to get the bags in the boot. For a small car the boot space is generous but the back seats are not intended for the GT experience. For two, the cross country drive would be a doddle.
The one thing would highly recommend is buying the acoustic roof silencing as an option. It isn’t cheap but it makes a closed cabin feel as quiet as a coupe. If you don’t mind feeling part of the environment even with the roof up, forget the last sentence. With the roof down and windows up you hardly notice the cold outside because the air cond remembers setting for roof up or roof down. The quilted leather inserts is classy and looks very expensive. Thoughtful touches like that are the ones you notice least but appreciate most.
With a mix of road types, conditions and weather, the highway run proved to be most illuminating. I expected the S3 to handle well in corners and sprint off at the lights but on a long distance drive, the seats felt even more comfortable than in the city. Let me explain: some seats get more uncomfortable the longer you occupy them. Some, comfy at first, make you walk like a geriatric on a stormy cruise at an all you can eat buffet once you’ve been in the saddle for a few hours. You climb out of the cockpit feeling like you’d been Rogered by a football team and that simply won’t do, it won’t do at all. Think of the S3 as an Italian shoe that you could walk around in all day, dance all night, and still be able to walk to a limo without having needing a box of Band-Aids.
The brisk performance isn’t upset unduly by topless the topless conversion. Some cars are a sloppy mess when the bracing of a metal roof is removed but the average driver won’t pick any difference beyond a slightly breezier ride in the Cab. We tested the S3 Sportback alongside the Cab and the only impression left once both were gone was how delicious they both were so as a comparison it was a flop.
The direction change in corners is almost psychic. Remember apart from an excellent chassis, the QUATTRO AWD has clever electronics which, along with the stability control make hanging the back out unlikely unless you’re a complete idiot. Many of us have to come see cars as inferior if they can’t be driven sideways, at speed, or win a race against a 500KW V8 monster. That is a load of old coblers. If you do any of those things on a public road a man will come and he will relieve you of your licence while giving a disapproving look. You will not be able drive again for many months and shopping will be done by much schlepping and you will be unhappy.
Driving is about getting from place to place in comfort and style with enough in reserve to get you out of strife. If you have the money you can have a little more style. People complain about the cost of vehicles but if you can’t afford it, don’t buy it. It’s a free country.
There are way too many gadgets to name, and I haven’t even mentioned the various driver aids like automated parking. This is my favourite premium compact convertible, but I used to prefer folding metal tops and as you know. Folding tin may be secure but it makes the rear end look positively Kardashian-esque. There is no doubt you must use extra caution with a ragtop parked in an insalubrious neighbourhood but it repays you in wow-factor tenfold. Don’t take your next 5 holiday cruises, buy the S3 Cab instead. If you can’t stretch that far, the A3 droptop is a good compromise. You get the same style with slightly less bang.
There is nothing better than an open top drive in the country, your hunny by your side all rugged up, your favourite beats, and a tasty light lunch in the boot.
Would I buy one? Yes without hesitation.
Price:$69,300 (as tested $77,240) plus onroads.
Engine: 2.0L turbo 4cyl, 210kw/380Nm, 0-100 5.5 seconds, 7.1L/100k, 6sp S tronic