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2008 Audi S3 Review

2008 Audi S3 Review

“Only those lucky enough to have driven the current generation S3 will know just how capable it really is”

Test model: 2008 Audi S3 in Imola Yellow

CarAdvice rating:

Recommended retail price: $65,500

By: Anthony Crawford

2008 Audi S3 Review
2008 Audi S3 Review
2008 Audi S3 Review
2008 Audi S3 Review

Options fitted:

  • Multifunction steering wheel with flat bottom, in 3-spoke design with S badge – $700 (it would have been nice to see this as standard kit but that aside – it’s a piece of automotive art and a must-have item in a tuned up car like the S3).
  • Multi-stack CD changer – glove box mounted – $950 – (don’t bother, the standard Bose 8 speaker unit is superb and glove box mounted CD changers are more of a nuisance than in dash changers. No direct MP3 jack is sorely missing.
  • Adaptive lights with dynamic cornering lights – $800 (go for this if you regularly drive at night)

Where it sits: Entry level into Audi’s high performance “S” world of cars, the S3 offers buyers a complete package of blistering all round pace, and a truly bespoke interior fit out, more akin to higher priced Euro offerings.

I don’t need to tell you that Volkswagen’s Golf R32 is great performance buy, if you like it comfortably “hot”. The V6 powered Golf has notched up enough awards from motoring media around the world that tell us so.

But if you happen to read somewhere that the R32 represents more bang for your buck than an Audi S3, you can dismiss that publication outright.

2008 Audi S3 Review
2008 Audi S3 Review
2008 Audi S3 Review
2008 Audi S3 Review

The S3 is a far more serious machine than the V6 powered Golf and plays in an altogether higher league. But don’t take my word for it, go directly to your nearest Audi dealer and take the car for a proper test drive and I guarantee you’ll come up with the extra dollars. If you can’t, I’ll lend you the balance!

It’s not just the additional power and torque although, that certainly helps. But against the R32, the increase is only slight. The S3 has a far more potent weapon – weight or lack of it!

Too often, we forget to mention the power to weight ratio – that’s the real secret to the kind of punch you get from behind the wheel of the S3.

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You see, the R32 with the exceptionally fast shifting DSG transmission weighs almost 100kg more than the Audi, which tips the scales at a jockey-like 1455kg.

The S3 is a very quick thing. It conquers the 0-100km/h dash in 5.7 seconds and is speed limited to 250km/h. That’s almost a full second faster than the R32 and clearly in front of BMW’s 3.0-litre powered 130i Sport, which needs all of 6.1 seconds to complete the run.

2008 Audi S3 Review
2008 Audi S3 Review
2008 Audi S3 Review

Nail the throttle and the S3 pulls relentlessly through all six forward gear ratios thanks to a relatively flat torque curve. Even better are off the line starts, which are tyre spin free, thanks to “quattro”. Not only that, the engine is oh so smooth and free revving with only fractional turbo lag just off idle. “Too easy” is one word combination that works for me!

It’s a pity you can’t get Audi’s lightening fast S tronic twin-clutch gearbox in the S3 but honestly, the smooth shifting, close ratio six-speed box is a treat.

If you’re after sports car bling, then you best shop elsewhere. I happen to like Audi’s understated look, you can slip under the radar so to speak.

2008 Audi S3 Review
2008 Audi S3 Review
2008 Audi S3 Review

It’s not that the S3 doesn’t look special. On countless occasions at traffic light or pedestrian crossings, all eyes focused on the small red lined S3 logo on right side of the sports meshed grille. Its definitely got that ‘don’t mess with me look’ happening.

There are a few other hints in and around the car, such as the brushed aluminium side mirrors, twin pipes, rear spoiler and diffuser. Inside, it’s all about the flat-bottomed, S3 badged race car style steering wheel. A superb bit of kit although; the six-speed shifter and tachometer dial also carry the red-lined badge.

When I said, “factory tuned” in my header quote, I meant, “tuned” in the most professional sense of the word

If power to weight were everything, then BMW’s 130i Sport, at an anorexic 1385kg, packing a 3.0 litre in-line six, would trump the S3. But it doesn’t, not even close.

2008 Audi S3 Review
2008 Audi S3 Review
2008 Audi S3 Review
2008 Audi S3 Review

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Audi understands two things very well. Turbocharging and FSI (direct into the combustion chamber injection) – Fuel Stratified Injection, if you want to get literal. Combine these two ‘power up – less fuel’ technologies and you get the kind of extraordinary success that Audi has had with its R8 and R10 Le Mans winning sports cars.But in the S3’s case, it’s a whole lot more than that. The gurus at Ingolstadt have pulled the glorious Golf GTI engine apart and reworked everything. Well, almost everything.

There’s a new turbo that generates 1.2 bar of boost pressure, up from 0.9 on the base engine. There are pistons with stronger pins and connecting rods along with new bearings able to cope with the additional forces applied to the crankshaft. That’s not all, the cylinder block has been reinforced and the head is crafted from a super lightweight alloy, able to resist extreme temperature build-ups over sustained periods. This is what factory tuning is all about.

And the whole thing – that’s the entire engine and turbocharger, weighs just 152 kilograms!

While the S3’s straight-line speed is impressive, its cornering ability is downright prodigious.

2008 Audi S3 Review
2008 Audi S3 Review

Pushed hard into our favourite 11km bend to bend snake run, and grip seems limitless. It’s not safe or legal to properly explore the handling limits of this car on public roads.

Audi has never been into wide rubber, even on cars in their performance stable. But with this level of traction, I expected something wider than the standard fit 225/40s all round, especially on 18-inch alloys.

Audi’s tried and proven quattro four-wheel drive system is one reason and superb chassis tuning, is another. Many of the suspension components are lightweight aluminium, which both optimises weight distribution and reduces unsprung weight.

2008 Audi S3 Review
2008 Audi S3 Review
2008 Audi S3 Review
2008 Audi S3 Review

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Precise steering response from the smallest of inputs is essential for cars with this much talent and the S3 doesn’t disappoint. Let me explain. Much like a racing car (yes I know the S3 is not a race car) you don’t want to have to turn the steering wheel very much when negotiating chicanes and other tight bends. Same thing in a performance car, the smaller the steering input, the better it is for car control.

Taut, rather than stiff, is how I would describe the suspension settings on the S3. There’s a high level of body rigidity, but never is the ride a bone jarring experience. If anything, the Volkswagen group have been highly successful in producing cars that offer excellent handling characteristics with a level of compliance few other carmakers can match.

You’ll know from previous reviews I have written on Audi cars, that I’m a big fan of their interior fit outs. The quality of fit, finish and materials is at the top of the premium car segment.

Although the baby of the fleet in Australia, the S3 gives nothing away to Audi’s luxury saloons and sports cars when it comes to cockpit design. It’s what separates this brand from its most accomplished competitors.

2008 Audi S3 Review
2008 Audi S3 Review

Not only are the leather trimmed sports seats armed with enough bolster to hold you steady during the most spirited of driving, very few seats can boast such comfort, no matter what distance trip you care to undertake in this car.

Our S3 came with the standard fit black piano inlays but frankly; I’d prefer the ‘no cost option’ matt finished brushed aluminium or even the fine grey birch wood to this look.

All the driver focused aids are there, such as one-touch electric windows, integrated bluetooth phone in the centre console, auto dimming rear view mirror and light and rain sensors with ‘coming home lights’ for personal security.

2008 Audi S3 Review
2008 Audi S3 Review

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It’s a good thing the ‘driver information system’ includes a digital Speedo readout but better still, is the lap time display for track day work.

Also part of the standard inventory, are rear parking sensors, alarm system (incl immobiliser) heated electric mirrors, xenon plus headlights, dual climate control air and cruise control. Anything else might be considered superfluous in the S3, given its performance bent.

Safety, as you would expect in a premium brand performance car – is uncompromising.

2008 Audi S3 Review
2008 Audi S3 Review
2008 Audi S3 Review

Backing up Audi’s famed quattro four-wheel drive, is Electronic Stability Control (ESP), ABS, Traction Control (ASR), EBD, Electronic Differential Lock (EDL) and hydraulic Brake Assist.

There’s no shortage of airbags either. Front and side airbags for driver and front passenger along with SIDEGUARD head airbag curtain for front and outer rear passengers.

The spec sheet on the S3 states maximum luggage capacity with the rear seats up at 284 litres, which I can tell you with absolute surety, is large enough to carry a weeks shopping for a family of four. Fold the rear seats down though and load space multiplies to a massive 1100 litres, enough room for boards, bikes and luggage, literally.

That said I couldn’t help thinking how many more S3’s Audi could sell if a five-door version was also available.

2008 Audi S3 Review
2008 Audi S3 Review
2008 Audi S3 Review

“Audi’s S3 has no direct competitors. No other car under $66,000 offers this level of performance, handling and craftsmanship in such a complete package”

2007 Audi S3

Engine: 2.0 litre in-line 4 Cyl with petrol direct injection and exhaust turbo-charger with intercooler with DOHC and VVT
Power: 188kW (252bhp) @ 6000rpm
Torque: 330Nm @ 2500rpm-5000rpm
0-100: 5.7 seconds
Top Speed:
250km/h electronically limited
Drive: Four Wheel Drive
Transmission: 6sp Manual (no auto)
Kerb Weight: 1455kg
Length: 4214mm
Luggage Capacity: 281L with rear seats up, 1100L with rear seats down
Body Style: 3 Door Hatchback
Seat Capacity: 5
Fuel Tank Capacity: 55L
Fuel Consumption Combined: 9.1L/100km
Wheels/Tyres: 18-inch alloys/225/40
Built in: Germany

  • http://caradvice.com.au chris parr

    nice car, love the understated looks and classy interior!
    all with the security of AWD And turbo power..and im sure would be extremely safe in an accident..only downside is the impracticality of 3doors and the terrible resale of audis in oz..

  • Lcat

    ^ agree totally – would be a great 2nd hand purchase in twelve months.
    Would be really interested in any additional info on the braking performance?

  • http://www.caradvice.com.au tony

    Its a nice machine that’s for sure. I’ve spoken to a reputable Audi tuner in Sydney and with a minor software download you can boost power to 230kW and torque goes from 330Nm to 410Nm. Why can’t Audi give us these numbers out of the box.

  • http://www.caradvice.com.au Anthony

    Lcat. Braking performance with the S3 is exemplary. No brake fade with ventilated front and rear discs of 345mm/310mm respectively. Hugely competent.

  • Lcat

    Thanks Anthony for brake info.
    Also I read somewhere that the engine is slightly detuned from eurospec for au – any details/truth on that?

  • Scott C

    Agree with Chris also! Awesome car, but resale is a big let down as it is with all euro cars in the australian market. Lcat is spot on, performance bargain in 12months, as long as you have the money for the services.
    And yes its easy to get power up well over 200kw and 400nm as its an understressed turbo engine. There is always plenty of potential in a turbo engine for making power. The reason they dont give you those figures from the factory though is –
    1. Warranty claims, each component has a point at which it can take no more. Im sure the engine can take it with marginally increased wear but gearbox/driveshaft/clutches etc would start to feel the extra torque quickly. They want to keep the car reliable.
    2. Emissions
    3. In many cars (xr6 turbo is a good example as its capable of ridiculous power) giving the turbo engined variants the power they are capable of negates any need for their higher model cars (xr8 in the case of falcons).

  • http://www.caradvice.com.au Anthony

    Lcat – you’re right with that Euro spec stuff. They get 195kW and 350Nm – could be the fuel too?

  • aubz

    Hey Anthony, great review.

    I was just wondering how practical the rear seats are? Is there enough leg room for a tall adult behind the drivers seat? Or is it strictly children / small adults?


  • http://www.importjap.com/blog ImportJap

    Ohhhhh I would love one of these.

  • Steve

    I also wondered about the rear passanger room. Also, you mentioned the dashboard and have a nice, clear close up of the instrument cluster. But it’s not illuminated, so I have no idea what you’re talking about when you say the speedo has a digital readout.

    I know I’m nit picking, but it’s the little details. :)


  • http://www.caradvice.com.au Anthony

    Rear seat legroom in the S3 is sufficient for adults on a trip to a restaurant or entertainment venue. You could easily go away with two kids on a longish drive.

    You just can’t expect Holden Calais legroom in a 3 door sports car!

    Just like the TT – there’s a tonne of room with the rear seats down and of course you have the option of using the split fold if you need to carry 3 people and a surfboard etc.

    The front seat fold mechanism is very easy and similar to that in a Porsche 911 – so no drama there either.

  • http://www.caradvice.com.au Anthony

    Sorry about not lighting up the Driver Information System – I overlooked that. I’ll try and get hold of the car again and take some shots of both the Lap Timer and Digital Speedo. Essential kit when passing speed cameras.

  • http://ford Nick

    I’ve got 3000kms on my S3, and so far im loving it. My previous daily driver was a 3MPS. Similar, yet very different. The S3 does not have the same balls out grunt and aggression as the MPS3, and the in gear acceleration definately falls short as we.. It is quite deceptive though. The S3 feels very linear, and makes great power all the way to the redline, whereas the stock MPS3 runs out of steam at around 5800RPM. The Audi is a nicer place to be whilst commuting, NVH levels are quite a bit better, no torque steer, and that flat bottom steering wheel. I’m going out for a run at Oran park in a couple of weeks, so i’ll let you know how it goes.

  • http://www.caradvice.com.au Anthony

    We’ll expect a full report Nick after your track day in the S3. Don’t forget that you can always go for that serious increase in mumbo via that Audi tuner at Mona Vale for $1800.

  • Bubba Ganush

    That yellow colour seems dated

  • Duck

    Love it!!!!!!!!!!!!! One of the best perfomance hatches on the market in the world………………..but it is a bit expensive for a small car……I mean you could get a HSV Clubsport R8 for the price!

  • Michael

    Save some $ and go R32….

  • Liam

    I love these cars and can’t wait to get one. I’d love to spec a new one, but I think I may need to wait for a good used example in the next 9-12 months.

    At the moment I drive a 2004 Cooper S and my wife drives a 2006 3dr Golf GTI. The S3 has all the best aspects of both cars, the Audi’s steering, while not quite as sharp and direct as the MINI, is damn close, and noticeably improved over the GTI. At low speeds, around town, the GTI might feel like it has a bit more urge, but once you get serious the advantage to the S3 puts the GTI well into the background. There’s a lot more turbo whistle in the S3 compared to a stock GTI as well. Even though the S3 is heavier than the GTI, due to improved suspension tuning and quattro I find it can be really chucked into corners in a way the GTI can’t and it inspires a lot more confidence when doing so. The overall ride quality when cruising around town is also better in the S3 compared to the GTI, and immeasurably better than my bumpy MINI!

    As noted our GTI is a 3dr and sharing the same platform as the Audi, the rear seat room is as one would find in the 5dr Golfs. It’s not huge, but a massive improvement in rear seat leg room over our old Mk4 GTI. I’m about 5’8″ so not overly tall by any means, but I’d still be happy enough to go on a drive from Canberra-Sydney, for example, in the back of our GTI. The only thing the S3 may lack is rear seat headroom as, from memory, the roof line of the A3s is an inch or so less than the Golfs.

    Thanks for the review, I think it must be a favourite for this site because I think this is the third time you’ve had a drive! If you’re ever in Canberra and want to be taken on some nice roads, just let me know.


    Cheers Liam

  • No Name

    Mmmmm not so sure on these A3 after having driven my work colleagues A3’s one was a standard SE the other a Sport. The Sport particularly was noisy and uncomfortable with a jerky rocky ride, The SE was a sportback 5Dr a bit more comfortable. I did 400K’s in them on motorways and I felt it afterwards. I told the wife not to consider the A3 for her Co car as she does about 39Km’s annually.

  • RS4 Fan

    The S3 is cheap, for all it offers. If I optioned my current A3 2.0 TFSI quattro Sportback with all the optional goodies that come standard in the S3, it would be just $3,000 shy of the S3. Go figure! And I’d still be 41 kW and all the performance, handling, etc short of what the S3 has. One could argue that the A3 is overpriced.

    I’ve driven the S3 and was impressed that the ride is better than my A3’s. It’s firmer but more compliant, so it jiggles a bit but is not jarring, inspite of the 40 series tyres compared to the A3’s 45s.

    Not sure what “No Name” is on about and what the SE he is referring to. I thought the A3 comes only in two trims, Attraction and Ambition (with the sports suspension).

    Can’t wait to order an S3 soon enough and sit out the delivery period.

  • Eric

    The S3 is cheap, for all it offers. If I optioned my current A3 2.0 TFSI quattro Sportback with all the optional goodies that come standard in the S3, it would be just $3,000 shy of the S3. Go figure! And I’d still be 41 kW and all the performance, handling, etc short of what the S3 has. One could argue that the A3 is overpriced.

    I’ve driven the S3 and was impressed that the ride is better than my A3’s. It’s firmer but more compliant, so it jiggles a bit but is not jarring, inspite of the 40 series tyres compared to the A3’s 45s.

    Not sure what “No Name” is on about and what SE he is referring to. I thought the A3 comes only in two trims, Attraction and Ambition (with the sports suspension).

    Can’t wait to order an S3 soon enough and sit out the delivery period.

  • Kent

    Having had our Sprint Blue S3 for almost 2 months now I can verify Tony’s comments. Tractable engine for “pottering” around, awesome performance when you “need” it. Ride is brilliant – never jiggly or harsh, cabin quiet, allowing you her the nice exhaust note (almost as a nice as our “other” car with it’s V8). Brakes massive, 6-speed manual is freeing up nicely now. Our 2 teenagers are quite comfortable in the rear seats and the “boot” will indeed hold a weeks shopping or 3 sports bags full of training gear. Yes, the rear seat access can be annoying, especially with all the rain we’ve been having, but that’s a small price to pay. We compared the S3 with the R32, GTI, Volvo, etc and the Audi had a better perceived quality.
    Happy owners!

  • Paul

    I’m confused. These comments above about poor resale.
    Scott C:

    Agree with Chris also! Awesome car, but resale is a big let down as it is with all euro cars in the australian market. Lcat is spot on, performance bargain in 12months, as long as you have the money for the services.

    Havimg run an S3 in the UK a few years ago, am keen on the second series with more power and new looks. Looking at sites and what is available out there, there seem to be so few second hand and they command high prices. If new is $66500 now, do people think that 30k is cheap for a 5 or 6 year old car? That’s the sort of money the sites I look at have been turning up, or there abouts. Show me many other cars that have that residual after that length of time, or tell me I’m looking in the wrong places.

    and as for the cost of services, if you can’t afford them, you probably shouldn’t be spending $66,500 + options on a hatch back!

    With the de tune that was mentioned – it is the fuel. Ours is lower quality than europe.

    I look forward to my next S3

  • Anthony

    I rate the current S3 as my favourite performance hatch of all time. Yes, its that good folks.

  • Eric

    Good to see new comments still, after 6 months.

    At last! My S3 arrives this week, after a patient 4-month wait. Can’t wait to drive it. And a timely return of PULP supply in Sydney too. Shell V-Power or BP Ultimate – or is that another debate?

    Facelifted S3 due end of the year. Still no S-tronic or DSG. Bit strange, seeing that the more powerful 2.0 TFSI quattro TTS has it.

  • Anthony

    You’re a lucky man Eric. You should have a lot of fun and practicality at the same time.

    Best of luck mate

  • SteveR32

    Great car….we actually own both (S3 and R32) and I have given abit of a review/comment on Pros and Cons of each car under the R32 blog/story. Both cars are definitely 10/10 in my eyes.

  • Eric

    Fantastic firsthand insights on both cars SteveR32.

    Both are undoubtedly great cars, similar yet different in many ways, and on the face of it, competing for the same buyers. Ultimately the choice is made based on personal tastes and one’s idea of what matters. Can be a bit of a dilemma sometimes!

    The S3 grabbed me. Its very understated (some say boring!) and beautifully resolved design is very appealing. And it’s a great drive. Very anonymous and subtle, apart from one or two little slips – I thought the gearknob could be a bit more subtle(the previous S3’s gearknob was really nicely done).

    I haven’t even driven the R32, but a couple of silly little things coloured my impression – like the chrome treatment around the grille, the blue instrument lighting. These could be the very things about the R32 that appeal to another buyer!

    Minor quibbles about the S3? Its optional flat-bottomed steering wheel looks great but I wish it could be a bit thicker, like the standard wheel – or the RS4’s fantastic steering wheel.

    As Anthony and SteveR32 say, the S3 is 10/10.

  • German Tech

    Yeah re-sale of European cars is a problem in this country due to the fact that people like to buy Asian crap and don’t realise that you do not need to be rich to buy a HOT European car like a Golf or Audi ahhhh wellll they miss out on the safety and refinement of highly engineered vehicles and would rather stick to their mass produced jap tin cans…….

    Maybe we are just to over populated or to close one of the two ……..

  • Mosh

    i bought an S3 recently and i concurr with many, it’s a small but powerfull car. It turns most heads, old and young, and the sound coming out of the exhaust is so unique. It definitely can take the punch, i drove it at 240km/hour for 1000 km, but the engine was motivating me to continue accelerating.

    I took the R32 for a test drive as i was undecided between the two, but trust me the S3 takes off a bit faster than the R32, and the balance of the S3 on the curves is firmly supported by its quattro as compared to the R32 (You have to maintain a firm handling of the steering wheel).

    Finally, in terms of comfort you’ll swear that you are in a big mecerdes Benz S Class when in the small S3 at any speed.

  • jbot

    Where in the world can you do 1000km @ 240km/hr? I smell BS.

  • jbot

    Especially considering there is no way one of these can do 1000km on a tank!!

  • SteveR32


    We each have our own opinions I guess. I actually own both and unless you are dumping your clutch at high RPM’s the R32 wipes the S3 off the line.

    The S3 gets going up high. The R32 is better down low (ie. taking off)

    Again – that is without dumping the clutch.


  • Mosh


    I agree with the fact that we each have our opinions, which are largely influence by the choice of cars we like.However i don’t agree especially with the take – off, the S3’s output power is 188kw/h and the R32 is 184kw/h and the S3 is a Quattro(pulls with all 4 wheels) whereas the R32 pulls with only two wheels. Making it pretty impossible for the R32 to take off faster than the S3.


    That’s a stu…id comment, I never mentioned the tank capacity. In a 1000 km (Kilo Meters and not miles) road i feel up three times driving @240km/h, i didn’t mean i don’t stop at all to feel up. My tank capacity is 60 litres and i can drive up to +_500Km @100km/h.

    No offence, but i assume this blog was designed for constructive and not destructive comments

  • SteveR32


    Do some research….both cars use a Haldex system that is an “on demand” system whereby 10% of power goes to the rear wheels and can go up to 90% depending on grip/slippage. You were probably thinking of the Torson-Gleason systems used in the A4, S4 etc.

    You do realise that overall KW’s does not equal acceleration? Gearing, Torque, where the Maximum outputs actually come in etc.

    Again, I own both cars so am not favouring one of the other. I know these cars VERY well and can tell you safely that in day to day driving (without dumping the cluth at 5000rpm’s the R32 will take off with more urgency. The S3 gets bogged down if you don’t get the RPM’s up a little earlier…..common with (most – not all) turbo motors.

    Audi doesn’t use a Torson-Gleason AWD system in its A3/S3 cars. They probably really should call the AWD system in its A3/S3 something other than Quattro….so that people like you don’t have to go off embarrassing yourself with comments like that.

    I’m sorry but I had to piss myself laughing at your 4×4 comment…you bought a car without having researched it one bit…….

  • SteveR32

    Further to my previous post, I probably should point out that I am not saying that the R32 is quicker to 100 than the S3. I am talking off the line and in general every day inner city stop/start driving. At the end of the day they are both terrific cars that kick arse.


  • jbot

    Still Mosh, where in the world can you do 240km/h for 1000km?

  • Eric

    SteveR32, you’re so right saying an R32 with DSG is quicker off the mark than an S3 (not abusing the clutch with a rev-and-dump). The S3 will probably eventually catch and pass the R32 to 100 km/h.

    I’d be careful not to try dragging off the line with even a Golf GTI with DSG or an A3 2.0 TFSI with DSG. It’s the DSG that gives them the takeoff advantage over the manual S3, unless of course you want to abuse the clutch (I certainly wouldn’t do it to my own S3). Road test figures for 0-100 km/h times are so misleading because they don’t truly reflect everyday driving behaviour – who dumps the clutch in normal driving?

    So why are we so hung up about who can get to 100 km/h first? If anything, the in-gear acceleration times are better indicators of how quick a car is (eg overtaking, etc).

    SteveR32, I had a little chuckle too – obviously Mosh doesn’t know both the S3 and R32 use the Haldex diff. Oh for the Torsen diff in the original Audi quattro of the 1980s. Having said that, I suspect the S3 is actually quicker than that quattro.

  • SteveR32

    Hi Eric,

    My R32 is a manual aswell. I just want to say – without a doubt the S3 is a rocket and in no way am I saying it is slow….what I am trying to say is that in daily inner Melb driving – generally up to 70km/h the R32 *feels* quicker as its sweetspot is larger than the S3’s….I’m probably still not making any sense…You can really feel the oomph and urgency of the V6 whereas the S3 power comes in one might whack at higher RPM’s

    Having said all of the above, both cars are pretty awesome and you can’t go wrong with either. I personally prefer the R32 for the superior exhaust note :)

    My $0.32

    I drive both on a daily basis and really notice the poorer take offs in the S3….having said that the S3 SKYROCKETS past the R32 with high RPM’s….

  • SteveR32

    Further to previous post, the S3 only has 3000k’s on it so maybe might open up a little more with a few more klicks. The R32 has 7000k’s. I wrote up a detailed PRO and CON on the R32 article if anyone was interested.

    One thing about the S3 though is that you really do feel a million bucks in it. No comparison to the R32 interior :)

  • Eric

    SteveR32, I’m a bit surprised that your R32 is a manual and not a DSG. But I do understand what you’re trying to say about the difference between the two cars and the R32’s livelier response down low. It probably all boils down to the torque curves of both cars. Maximum torque for the S3 is at 2,500rpm-5,000rpm and the R32’s might be just slightly higher in the rev range, but I suppose the difference is how their torque curves differ below their lower limits.

    There’s no doubt the 3.2 V6 sounds better than the S3’s engine (it’s nice in its own way). A friend has a TT 3.2V6 (same engine as the R32) and it sounds fantastic.

    SteveR32, I thought you mentioned your S3 was white. Looks brilliant in that colour. My white S3 is just a month old and still less than 500 km on the clock, but I’m loving every bit of it.

    The R32 interior is well made but a little underwhelming compared to the S3’s. But the identical optional bucket seats are cheaper for the R32 (a bit over $3K) than for the S3 ($6,700!).

    Does VW call the AWD system for the R32 4motion, just as Audi calls the same system quattro? A bit naughty of Audi not to differentaite between the Torsen system for their longtitudinal-engined cars and the Haldex system for their transverse-engined cars.

  • Eric


    I suppose one can’t blame Audi for invoking the glory days of the quattro and the World Rally Championship of the 1980s. Those of us old enough to remember the likes of Hannu Mikkola, Stig Blomqvist and Michele Mouton. Not to mention Walter Rohrl at Pikes Peak.

  • SteveR32

    Hi Eric,

    Agree with everything you said mate. I actually quite like the name Quattro. You’re right, plenty of history to it.

    Yes, our S3 is white, a little disappointed that we didn’t opt for the powdercoated rims. Saw them at the motorshow and they look pretty amazing.

    Also, Just out of interest do your S3 brakes squeel?

    Is pretty much the only problem we are having with our S3. Otherwise flawless *touch wood* :)

  • Eric


    No problems with my brakes, touch wood. The first 50 to 100 km needed a bit more pedal effort, but they’re great now after bedding in. They’re awesome, nice and progressive.

    About the only “problem” I have is the “easy access” to the rear seats. Sure, the front seats tip and slide forward, but they don’t have a “memory” and slide back to the originally set position (they can slide all the way to the furthest position). It’s not really a problem as I don’t use the back seats.

    The only other thing I have noticed sometimes is a bit of vibration in the gear lever on a trailing throttle.

    I saw a white S3 on the road with the black chrome trim option (grille, badges, etc) and titanium coloured RS4 style rims. It looked really stunning. I didn’t know the black chrome option was available for the Oz market.

    The limited edition S3 is just out, before the facelifted model arrives at year’s end. The limited edition is really good value for I think $5K or $6K more, with extra goodies thrown in like metallic paint (Ibis White is much nicer!), black chrome trim, sunroof, Recaros and RS4 style rims. I still think the standard S3 rims are nicer. The RS4 style rims look a bit skinny in 18″, but look really good in the wider and larger 19″ (as on the RS4 and option for TT).

  • Johnson

    Eric and Steve, great feedback. You’re both obviously very knowledgable reagrding Audi and the S3. I’ve just purchased a white S3 09′ specification, should take delivery in 2-3 weeks. The Audi dealer assured me that the facelift does not apply to the 3-door S3, only the A3 and S3 Sportback.
    I’ve researched this car and every other car in this category for months before purchasing. I can confidently conclude that this is the best all round hot hatch in it’s class, forget the STI and Evo (both great cars only to be let down by cheap interior finish and tinny Japanese feel). The interior build quality of the S3 is up there with the best of them. Performance is nothing short of amazing, especially around corners.

  • John

    The Limited Edition S3 is great value that’s for sure. Powder coated rims, Recaro style front racing seats, sunroof, flat bottom steering wheel, black grill trim etc all for an extra $5K. The S3 definitely has the best interior of all hot hatches, it’s up there with the best. When I test drove one I found that it understeered a bit to much for my liking in the real tight stuff. On the road it would be the pick of the bunch, most people won’t explore it’s understeer weakness anyway. But on the track it won’t stay anywhere near an EVO X. It shows where Audi and Mitsubishi have spent more of their $. Audi in an overall better road car, Mitsi in a track car which is liveable on the road.

    I still find it hard to believe they won’t facelift the 2 door S3. I mean it doesn’t make sense. Why facelift the whole range including the 4 door S3 and not the 2 door? I would’ve thought front and rear bars were interchangeable. We’ll have to wait and see. It wouldn’t be the first time a car salesperson told porkies in order to sell a car and then make excuses as to why they were left in the dark about an update model.

  • http://www.AUSringers.com Liam

    @John, the 3dr S3 will/has been given a facelift too. 😉

    We should see them in Australia in early 2009.

  • Rich

    I test drove a R32 and 130i.

    The 130i was impressive but seemed to be A LOT faster than the R32.

    The R32 seemed overrated and did not live up to the reviews in the public domain. Sure it’s a nice car but that’s it. It’s rather dull I found compared to the 130i in every respect.

    Not sure how much of a difference it makes having a BMW Z4-M roadster, MB E500 and a Subaru WRX in the garage.

  • Steve

    I used to have the MKIV R32 and loved it, not the fastest but possibly the most pleasurable car I have driven. The sound was so good you felt happy burbling around town at legal speeds. I sold it to get a DSG GTi so the wife could drive it and have missed my R32 but must say the GTi does it all but as it’s so damn quiet you don’t realise it. I have a fav short stretch of straight that turns into a sweeping 90deg bend – the R32 would get to around 180-190 before having to let off a little for the corner, the GTi gets to 210. The R32 felt unshakable around corners nearly to the point of boredom even on the track, the GTi handles just as well up to a point – I have lost traction in the rear around a corner and had my first front wheel drive sideways action and it was quite controllable. Now to the S3, I’ve only taken one for an extended test drive in the rain and was blown away. It has the light weight kick of the GTi with all the handling characteristics of the R32. Going up hill around very nice S-bends, drifting all 4 wheels left to right and in the wet and in control was nice! I must have grown up in the last year though or maybe it’s loss of points due to speed cameras and the damn GTi, which if you’re chatting to the passenger you WILL be going to fast but my old desirability of the best performance car has changed, why spend loads of cash on something you can’t really use? I had a professional race driver tell me I was a good driver at a track day with the R32, I replied “Bull, it’s all the car!”These cars cannot be enjoyed to anywhere near their potential legally on the roads. Well to save the licence I’ve just rebuilt a 30yo Kombi, it sits on 110km on the freeway all day and is a portable bed! I do want to have a go at the BMW 135 but I really think if I can clear the garage out I’ll keep the GTi for the wife and put the extra 40 grand toward a proper track car, not sure what but a Lotus or even race prepped MX5 would be a nice option! If you don’t have a big garage but wads of cash the S3 would probably come out on top (esp if you like nice interiors). I love the R32 but really the GTi does it all so if you’d like to go on an overseas holiday as well then save your money and get the GTi. Oh can someone come take me for a drive in their 135!!!

  • Phil R32


    130i is no quicker than R32, which loosens up after a few 1000 k’s and will hit 100 in < 6 secs using launch control. Pretty sure Top Gear did a head to head around their track with R32 smashing the BMW. R32 a great car to drive hard and live with every day. Perhaps yours is a biased view from a BMW driver although I’d say the Z4 s more of a hairdressers car and WRX low build quality you get when you but a japanese car.
    Both cars being talked about in the initial review – S3 and R32 – are quality cars to live with…perhaps you should ditch the Z4 M and WRX and get one of these.