Older rally fans will remember the last time Audi had a car called the S1. Armed with enough spoilers, scoops and fins to shame an F1 car, it terrorised the rallying world in the 1980s, a member of the fearsome bunch of Group B rally cars that included the Ford RS200, Lancia Delta S4 and Peugeot 205 T16. If you’re too young to remember, simply search for “Walter Rohrl onboard Audi S1” on YouTube and prepare to worship a new driving hero.
The Audi S1 you see here may share the same name as the terrifying 600bhp rally car, but this hot hatch isn’t its spiritual successor. That honour goes to the A1 quattro from 2012 – the most powerful A1 ever produced, with 252bhp, bodywork that wouldn’t look out of place on a WRC car and a limited production run of 333 units.
But look closely at the modern S1’s specs and you’ll see that it isn’t too far off its limited-edition sibling. Despite having 21bhp less, the S1 has more torque, a higher top speed and a nearly identical zero-to-100km/h time. More importantly, the S1 has the same all-wheel-drive system and 6-speed manual transmission as the A1 quattro.
The S1 may look less shouty than the limited-edition A1 quattro, but it still has plenty of aesthetic flourishes to intimidate other motorists with. Inside, the seatbacks colour-coordinated to the body drive home the point this is no regular A1. Its driving position would have been near-perfect, if not for the fact that the pedals are slightly offset, just like an old Italian supercar.
Maybe it’s down to how the S1 has a proper manual gearbox, but whatever it is, the S1 is everything I love about good old-fashioned driver’s cars. Sure, there are niggles, like the bone-jarring ride in the car’s Dynamic mode or the over-servoed brakes, which make it hard to heel-and-toe properly, but all in all, the S1 is probably Audi’s most grin-inducing car today.
Too bad this firecracker won’t see the light of day here. Unlike the A1 quattro, which was produced in left-hand-drive only, the S1 is offered in right-hooker form, but with an estimated price in the region of Audi’s S3, it’s too expensive for Audi Singapore to import.
That’s a shame, really, because while most of us could never drive like Walter Rohrl, with the S1, we could at least imagine we could.