2014 Audi S3 Saloon review

  •  Hot new Audi S3 Saloon driven in UK
  •  296bhp; 0-62mph in 4.9 seconds
  •  On sale now, priced from £33,240

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We’ve already driven the Audi S3 Sportback in the UK; now it's time to see if the S3 Saloon proves just as capable.

The Mercedes CLA45 AMG rival gets the same 296bhp turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, permanent four-wheel drive and lowered suspension as its hatchback counterpart.

Prices start at £33,240 for the standard six-speed manual model, while an optional six-speed S tronic automatic gearbox is available for an extra £1480.


What’s the 2014 Audi S3 Saloon like to drive?

We drove both the manual and automatic versions of the S3 Saloon, and in both cases they've got the sort of pace to get your heart pumping.

The 2.0-litre turbocharged engine pulls strongly from around 1800rpm and keeps on punching hard until beyond 5000rpm. It sounds suitably meaty when you put your foot down too.

Our only grievance is with the automatic gearbox; there's too much of a pause between you pressing the throttle pedal and the car actually pulling away, which is disconcerting. However, once you're moving its lightning-quick gearchanges help it hit 62mph earlier than the manual car can manage.

Unlike the S3 Sportback, the saloon comes with Audi’s magnetic ride adaptive damping system as standard, which allows you to adjust the stiffness of the suspension.

This means the S3 Saloon has a firm but well-controlled ride despite the presence of large 19-inch alloys and lowered sports suspension. Nonetheless, the ability to select Comfort mode allows you make things even more supple. It really is as comfortable as many diesel executive cars.

Dynamic mode stiffens the suspension, sharpens the throttle reponse and adds weight to the steering. In this mode the car is pretty agile, and the speed-sensitive steering feels pretty sharp. Add in the great traction from the four-wheel-drive system and this is a car that can cover ground seriously rapidly.

It isn't all gung-ho though; the S3 saloon makes a good cruiser when you want it to be. The engine fades into the background at a steady motorway speed and wind noise is largely kept outside. The only nuisance is noticeable tyre roar over coarse surfaces.


What’s the 2014 Audi S3 Saloon like inside?

The interior is one of the regular A3 Saloon’s greatest strengths, and the S3 adds to this with red highlights on the gearstick, an electronic boost gauge in the instrument binnacle and fantastic-looking sports seats.

In practice, the seat squabs are a touch flat, and a bit more side support for hard cornering would be welcome, but there’s enough adjustment in the driving position to allow drivers of most shapes and sizes to get comfortable.

All the various infotainment functions are accessed via a high-definition colour screen, which is simple to navigate using a rotary controller and shortcut keys on the centre control.

The switchgear is unchanged from that in the regular A3 range, meaning you get switchgear that looks and feels great, and which is all within easy reach.

There’s also plenty of room in the back and the S3 Saloon gets an extra 10 litres of boot space over the S3 Sportback’s already generous area.

Standard equipment includes heated leather sports seats, a flat-bottomed leather steering wheel, climate control, Bluetooth, and a USB socket.


Should I buy one?

The S3 Saloon is impressive in the sense that it can provide serious performance one minute, and good comfort and refinement the next.

It looks good value, too, especially when you consider that the manual version (our prefered choice) is more than £9000 cheaper than its closest rival, the auto-only Mercedes CLA45 AMG.

If outright drama is most important to you, though, we’d recommend the cheaper (and only slightly less spacious) BMW M135i five-door hatchback – it's just as fast yet more exciting to drive quickly.

What Car? says…

 

Rivals:

BMW M135i 

Mercedes CLA45 AMG


2.0 TFSI quattro

Engine size 2.0-litre turbo petrol
Price from £33,240
Power 296bhp
Torque 280lb ft
0-62mph 5.3sec
Top speed 155mph
Fuel economy 40.4mpg
CO2 output 162g/km


2.0 TFSI quattro S tronic

Engine size 2.0-litre turbo petrol
Price from £34,720
Power 296bhp
Torque 280lb ft
0-62mph 4.9sec
Top speed 155mph
Fuel economy 40.9mpg
CO2 output 155g/km

 
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