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by Tim Beissmann

A prototype of the all-new Audi S3 has been spotted undergoing high-speed testing at the Nurburgring in Germany.

Although the car in these images looks like a standard Audi A3 three-door hatch, the quad exhaust pipes poking out at the rear confirm this is indeed a high-performance wolf in sheep’s clothing.

The images come just days after we published similar spy shots of the S3’s upcoming hot-hatch rivals, the Mercedes-Benz A25 AMG and the BMW M135i.

Like the rest of Audi’s ‘S’ family, the third-generation Audi S3 will get more aggressive styling with larger air intakes, a unique sports grille, signature brushed aluminium mirror caps and trim highlights, and a number of other subtle performance-themed elements.

Our spy photographers believe the 2013 Audi S3 will feature a new turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with between 200-210kW – up from the outgoing model’s 188kW/330Nm output.

A seven-speed dual-clutch S tronic transmission will be optional over the standard six-speed manual, and like the second-generation S3, both will transfer power to all four wheels via Audi’s quattro system.

Audi managed to cut up to 80kg from the new A3 hatch and the next S3 is also set to shed some pounds thanks to the use of lightweight construction methods and aluminium components.

The lighter kerb weight will lead to a reduction in fuel consumption and improvements to the car’s performance and handling characteristics.

Inside, the S3 should benefit from traditional S upgrades like sports seats, carbonfibre and satin silver trim inserts, as well as a new 7.0-inch display screen that rises from the dashboard to reveal the upgraded multimedia system, which brings together satellite navigation, online connectivity, audio and media, telephone functions and voice control.

A number of driver assist systems available in the new A3 range, including adaptive cruise control with emergency braking, traffic sign recognition and surround view park assistant, should be available either as options or standard equipment.

The third-generation Audi A3 was unveiled at last month’s Geneva motor show and is scheduled to go on sale in Australia in the second quarter of 2013.

Audi Australia’s Anna Burgdorf says the local brand has no information about when the new S3 will go on sale down under, although confirmed it would be some time after the launch of the A3 hatch range.