At first, the classic 2000s German sports hatch doesn’t seem like much, although once you get up close, the car starts to open up and cover true enthusiast needs.
The 2001 Audi S3 is a true driver’s car, with enough technology, space and comfort to surprise Warren East (current Rolls-Royce CEO), perfectly balanced with the performance of its 1.8-litre turbocharged inline-four engine paired with a six-speed manual gearbox, and finished off with an all-wheel-drive system. Although some believe the six ratios are a little old school, with the first two gears being too short, but all first and second gear are there to do is to get it up to speed. The S3 represents German ingenuity perfectly with the renowned and reliable 1.8t engine.
When I first started looking for a car, I was hoping to find something economical and as powerful as possible. The S3 stood out with its 164kW along with a decent 34mpg, which is pretty good considering the car weighs around 1400kg and has similar aerodynamics to a brick.
The suspension and handling were the next of my concerns when purchasing one of Germany’s quickest ’00s hot hatches. As Monroe shocks and springs support its 164kW, they start to feel spongy after 17 years of driving, although similar to any other car of the same age and kilometres. However, they were still holding up fairly well in the twists of Mount Dandenong and Kinglake with minimal body roll and understeer.
The exterior of the S3 is aggressive without drawing too much attention. In its classic silver, the hatch looks clean and classy, with the body holding up and showing no signs of rust whatsoever. A few small traits such as the rear pop-out windows and curves around the entire car make it look different to the rest of the competition out there, the Volkswagen R32 and Seat Leon for example, despite having a similar drivetrain.
After owning it almost a year, its only issue is getting past 120km/h, which is where the heat soak and lack of intercooler come into play, with the two side-mounted intercoolers not sufficient to cool the air down. The K04 turbo is also known to become a heat gun high in the rev range. This unfortunate mix leads to poor acceleration in the higher speeds, although the low AR on the K04 means it's a lot of fun in the 2500–5000rpm range in gears 1–3.
Matching the exterior of the car is important with any car, whether it be a performance model or not. Audi has fitted the ’01 hatch with genuine Recaro leather seats front and back, as well as matching black trim on the door cards, and a Bose audio system. The interior has held up very well after almost two decades of wear, especially the leather seats.
The ’01 S3 is years ahead of its competition in terms of exterior and interior design, with optional Alcantara and heated seats, low light dimming and tinted factory sunroof to ensure those leisurely Sunday afternoon drives are made the most of.
Overall, the S3 is a perfect balance between power, price, comfort and economy, as you’re able to pick up one of these for as little as $4000. With simple maintenance and on-time servicing, the S3 will last a lifetime with few issues.
A true example of luxury and performance.