UPDATE: As part of a long-lead introduction, Audi has provided additional minor details about the new S3’s technical aspects. Check the bottom of this article for the latest.
Audi has unveiled its new-generation challenger to the BMW M135i/M235i xDrive and Mercedes-AMG A35 premium hot small cars: the 2021 S3 Sportback and sedan.
Twin under the skin to the upcoming Mk8 Volkswagen Golf R, the fourth-generation S3 follows a similar formula to that laid out by its predecessors.
Under the bonnet is the Volkswagen Group's familiar 'EA888' 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine – now featuring an active intake valve system to improve combustion – producing 228kW of power and 400Nm of torque.
Drive is sent to all four wheels through a standard-fit seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and Audi's Quattro all-wheel-drive system, with the latter featuring a trick multi-plate clutch that allows for fully variable torque distribution between the front and rear axles.
The 0-100km/h sprint is covered in just 4.8 seconds, towards an electronically-limited top speed of 250km/h.
The new S3 sits 15mm lower to the tarmac than its standard counterparts, thanks to stiffer suspension mated to a multi-link rear axle and variable sports steering.
‘S Sport’ adaptive dampers can be had as an option, which are capable of monitoring and adapting to changes in the road surface “in a few thousandths of a second”, says Audi.
18-inch alloy wheels are standard-fit on European models, with 19-inch units wrapped in Bridgestone tyres available as an option. Hiding behind the alloys are ventilated brake discs with black or red calipers and an electric brake booster.
Visual upgrades compared to standard A3 S Line models consist of a rhombus-pattern front grille, black mirror caps, lower splitter and bumper accents, a more aggressive rear diffuser and quad exhaust tips.
The sedan also picks up a black boot lip spoiler, while Matrix LED headlights with 15 individual LED daytime-running light sections are available as an option.
Inside, highlights include an S-badged flat-bottomed steering wheel, new sports seats and a choice of aluminium or carbon-fibre-look trim inlays.
Mirroring the standard A3, a 10.1-inch infotainment touchscreen and a 10.25-inch (or 12.3-inch, optionally) digital instrument cluster are available, complemented by ambient LED cabin lighting, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring, a Bang and Olufsen premium sound system and a head-up display.
Available safety technologies include autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, lane-departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert and automatic parking, along with Car-to-X technology that allows vehicles with the feature to share information on upcoming road hazards and free parking spaces.
The 2021 Audi S3 Sportback and sedan will land in European dealers in October, priced from €46,302.53 and €47,179.83 for the hatch and sedan respectively – around €1000 less than an equivalent ‘entry-level’ Mercedes-AMG A35.
‘Edition one’ variants of the S3 will be offered in Europe at launch, adding unique exterior paint colours (Python Yellow for the hatch or Tango Red for the sedan), black exterior accents, 19-inch wheels and nappa leather trim.
UPDATE, September 15: Audi has detailed some of the changes to the new S3’s engine, as part of the international press launch.
In order to achieve the new 228kW/400Nm outputs (up from 221-228kW/380Nm in Europe depending on emissions controls, or 213kW/380Nm in Australia) both injector pressure and boost pressure have been raised.
Fuel injector pressure rises from 250 to 350 PSI, while turbo boost pressure has been raised from the previous 1.2 bar (17.4 PSI) to 1.8 bar (26.1 PSI).
A 48-volt mild hybrid system, which features heavily throughout Audi’s range including versions of the regular A3, has not been included in the S3.
Audi’s revised quattro all-wheel drive system features a freewheeling function to deliver fuel efficiency improvements when all-wheel drive isn’t available.
As previously detailed the all-wheel drive system is claimed to be capable of delivering up to 100% of torque to the rear wheels in some situations. Torque vectoring by brake is also included to assist with side-to-side power distribution.
The new hydraulic multi-plate clutch for the rear axle is 1kg lighter than the unit it replaces. Modular Dynamic Handling Control governs the operation of the all-wheel drive system and is also linked to the management of stability control and adaptive damper systems.
When will the new Audi S3 come to Australia?
Speaking with CarAdvice this morning, Audi Australia spokesperson Shaun Cleary confirmed a late 2021 local launch for the new S3 models.
Importantly, all variants will come to Australia in their full 228kW, 400Nm tune.