2017 Audi S3 review

While the split personality Jekyll and Hyde doesn't apply in this instance, Audi's new S3 range is more than enough car to warrant a Jekyll and Mild analogy
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The new 2017 Audi S3 range is not so much a case of Jekyll and Hyde, as my colleague Curt Dupriez recently described the fearsome performance of Audi’s R8 Spyder, but more Jekyll and Mild.

On one hand, the Audi S3 is all sweetness and nice, serving admirably as a daily driver with comfort levels designed to never make you feel like you’re compromised in a sporty sedan (think BMW M3). Instead, the 2017 Audi S3 offers a comfortable and respectable daily driving experience with the underpinnings of something a little more sinister, if not at the levels of outrageous performance reserved for the German brand’s RS models.

That’s not to downplay the S3’s performance credentials. Make no mistake, it’s a pretty potent little unit, offering a level of performance that will leave you grinning from ear-to-ear. We tested the new S3 2.0 TFSI quattro Sportback at the car’s Australian launch in Melbourne last week and left knowing the S3’s heritage remains in good hands.

With an entry point of $62,900 for the Sportback (plus on-roads), the S3 range is available in three body styles and a total of five variants. Available as a Sportback, sedan or cabriolet, the range comes standard with Audi’s all-new seven-speed dual-clutch S tronic transmission. But if you’re old-school, the Sportback and sedan variants are available with the more traditional six-speed manual ’box as a no-cost option.

We drove the Sportback with the seven-speed S tronic and to this tester’s mind, it’s the perfect choice, offering an easy-to-use daily drive while also providing the means to engage in more dynamic motoring when it’s needed. Or wanted.

And what an experience it is. The new 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo has an ample 213kW on tap, along with 380Nm of torque (between 1850 and 5300rpm). That helps propel the S3 from 0-100km/h in just 4.8 seconds while using a claimed 6.6L/100km of 98RON unleaded.

And it does this with a more-than-satisfying soundscape, its snarls, pops, and rumbles a perfect symphony of performance motoring without instilling fear and trepidation into your neighbours or fellow road users. Again not at the level of its RS brethren, but it’s more than enough to keep those amongst us with a penchant for dancing along to a car's engine note, satisfied. And smiling.

Cruise along at 80km/h, the S3 seems perfectly suited to its element, hardly breaking a sweat as it ambles along with the tacho rarely moving above 1500rpm. But, engage the right foot forcefully, and it responds with a mildly menacing growl as it shuffles down the ratios looking for that optimum cog. It is mild, not outrageous – more like that dog in your neighbourhood prone to barking loudly as you walk by, providing it's behind the safety of a fence. Again, mild, not Hyde.

It is a satisfying experience and, to be brutally honest, a perfect accompaniment to Australian driving conditions where 110km/h is the max and the lure of unrestricted Autobahns remains but a pipe dream.

It is, in short, enough, for Australia and our draconian road laws.

Inside, the S3 is as welcoming as its A3 siblings, The somewhat luxurious, yet minimalist interior, speaks of refinement. Leather seating comes as standard, however, our tester came with the optional Nappa leather interior featuring red contrast stitching and air vents finished in what Audi dubs Express Red. It is, in a word, sexy, and certainly helps highlight the S3's performance credentials.

Standard interior kit includes Audi's 10-speaker sound system although our tester came with the S performance package, a $4990 option which includes a Bang & Olufsen sound system. Other options on our tester included the look-at-me Vegas yellow paint ($650), Audi design election that adds Nappa leather seats with contrasting red stitching and air vents, the previously mentioned S performance package with 19-inch alloys, red brake callipers, magnetic ride and the B&O sound system ($4990), the black high-gloss exterior trim package ($850) and roof rails in black finish ($600). As tested, our S3 Sportback hits the dealer lot at $70,980 plus the usual on-road costs.

There's an awful lot to like about the S3 Sportback, and the S3 range. If you're after a dose of practical everyday motoring but with the option of having some weekend fun around the twisty bits, then this could be the car for you.

Of course, our limited kilometres during the launch only paint a snapshot of the 2017 Audi S3, so stay tuned for a more comprehensive review when we run Audi's most affordable performance car through the CarAdvice garage for a week.

Will it continue to provide a measure of sensible motoring as Dr Jekyll? Or will an extended time being the wheel extract more than a little Mild and elevate it into Hyde territory?