We tested the Audi S3 Sportback (i.e. hatchback) back in CB218 and found it to be lacking in very little indeed. Our verdict from then was: “The Audi S3 Sportback is a staggeringly complete car – even amongst the staggeringly supreme spread of sport sorts that make up Audi’s S models.”
So drawing the same conclusion for the Audi S3 Sedan was probably never going to be much far off that mark. But neither was it a foregone conclusion, and in our personal experience, we’ve tried sedan/saloon variants that simply lacked the sparkle of their non-booted counterparts, the only obvious reason being the extra ‘butt’ grafted on.
The two cars look very much the same from the front, with the ‘S’ touches such as a special grille, badging, deleted fog-lamps, more aggressive bodywork all round, silver side-mirror caps and quad tailpipes at the back. But we should keep in mind that the A3 Sedan and Sportback, as Audi likes to highlight, don’t actually share any body panels.
Surprisingly, to our eyes, it’s the sedan that is the more visually interesting of the two – it seems like the sedan carries its aggressive angles better. Both cars have similar visual cues but the sedan has more obvious creases on the bonnet and shoulder line.
As expected, the sedan’s 24mm shorter, 11mm wider, and because of the boot, 144mm longer overall and with longer overhangs. It’s only 5kg heavier, at 1,525kg, Audi boasts it used a magnesium shelf to create the boot compartment. Boot space is increased over the hatch, at 50-litres more, or 390-litres in total, but in turn the loading aperture is smaller.
As with the Sportback, the car packs the Audi-tuned EA888 engine which has a host of interesting technical features, such as variable valve lift and timing, a turbocharger integrated into the exhaust manifold, as well as both port and direct fuel-injection for greater efficiency.
While the active flap exhaust meant that the booming engine/exhaust note felt like it was right behind you in the Sportback, the additional space means it sounds a little more far away and tamed – although outsiders assure us it’s still loud – which adds to the feeling that the Sedan’s a little more refined overall.
The other contributor to that, is the fact that the Sedan feels more settled in terms of ride quality. It packs the same fixed-rate sport that is very well set-up, and feels like it almost never sacrifices grip and comfort for sheer bloody-mindedness. In this way, the Sedan’s a bit better at taking the easy-going bits, easy.
280bhp and 360Nm is nothing to sniff at, though, and there’s a visceral joy in hearing the engine’s burr and rort as you rip through the speeds of the dual-clutch gearbox.
The sedan has a 16mm wider track, too, which seems to substantiate the feeling that it’s a little more composed, both under cornering and braking, but it’s undoubtedly endowed with serious grip. Yet, it could be the low weight, the pointy front end, the very quick (2.1 turns) steering, but the S3 Sedan’s truly fun to drive. And it’s telling that it doesn’t remind us so much of an S4 or even RS 4 Avant, but the shits-and-giggles, warp-speed RS 6 Avant.
As an Audi S model, it comes with a significant amount of gear – Audi’s MMI system with touch dial and navigation and a Bose premium sound system. It helps that the A3’s cabin (sedan or hatch) is already a great place to spend time in, and this is improved by the comfortable sport seats upholstered in Nappa leather with grippy, textured shoulder-holders.
We were very impressed by the S3 Sportback, but the S3 Sedan has defied expectations here too – it’s noticeably different from its five-door brother and, for the reasons mentioned, would be the one we choose. But we also rate it highly because it’s a great example of the new breed of smaller, fun-filled machines appearing on the market now.
NEED TO KNOW
Engine 1,984cc, 16V, inline 4, turbocharged
Power 280bhp at 5500-6200rpm
Torque 380Nm at 1800-5500rpm
Gearbox 6-speed dual-clutch
Top Speed 250km/h
0-100km/h 5.0 seconds
Fuel efficiency 6.9L/100km
Price $256,500 with COE
Also Consider: BMW M235i, Mercedes-Benz CLA 45 AMG
Photos by Derryn Wong