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2020 Audi S3 Performance Review

The S3 isn't the fastest Audi hatch money can buy, but it's still capable of putting in a quick lap at Queensland Raceway.

1 month ago
Comments
Chris Atkinson
Performance Editor
PROS
  • Great chassis with a lot of grip and balance
  • Engine is nice and responsive
  • Everything works together well
CONS
  • Seat not supportive enough for track use
  • Suspension a little too soft on the track
  • Brakes lack feeling for full commitment on the first lap

Overall Track Performance

The Audi S3 did a very impressive lap for what isn’t the ultimate version on this model, and I look forward to seeing what the RS3 can achieve.

It did everything very well without one particular thing standing out, which is what you would expect, and almost compliments the subtle visual highlights of the S3. Although it’s not a car you would want to spend hours lapping a track, it did hold its own for our test and wasn’t underwhelming at all.

Overall Road Performance

The Audi S3 is a very popular choice among car enthusiasts who want something more prestigious than a Golf R. The ride is a little firmer than you’d would probably like as a daily, but that’s the trade-off for a sporty feeling, and you’ll get used to it.

It’s a great car for a blast up a twisty road and it always fills you with confidence, but the thought of wanting an RS3 is never far from your mind.

Engine

The turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine is nice and responsive on early throttle, which gave me the ability to get the car in a good position for the corner exit.

Outright power of 213kW is good, but it could definitely handle more given the quality of the traction from the quattro all-wheel drive.

The wide torque curve of 380Nm between 1850 and 5300rpm gives you a lot of flexibility in the corners, and enables the car to carry momentum. That being said, I really had to make sure I was in the right gear for slow corner exits to get the best lap time.

Braking

The brakes are very good and stable, but in a similar vain to the Audi S4, I was braking a bit early on the first lap. I can’t quite pin point what is giving me this feeling that I can’t quite trust the brakes 100 per cent on the first lap.

With most other cars I have no problem going straight to the limit, but with this something is missing.

There is some chassis movement and it lacks a little initial bite before really starting to wash off speed, but it’s more the feedback through the braking system that is missing and what I am looking for.

As you would expect, there was some drop off in performance after lap one, but I was still able to push hard and had no major issues.

Chassis

The chassis was very solid and really stood up to the performance test well. Although it is a bit soft, especially on corner entry, it settles nicely in the mid-corner and you can then use that support to get the car to keep turning.

The S3 was almost a little nervous, which is good for the track and helps negate some understeer.

If I overcommitted on the entry I did have some push, but you would expect that from an all-wheel drive car, which is not fully set up for the track. Overall I was really impressed with the chassis and enjoyed exploring the limits without any major fear.

Transmission and Differentials

The gearbox is good, but lacks the engagement of some of the sharper options out there. As with the S4, I felt like it was very safe and protective, not really pushing the limits of what it could do. 

The differentials worked very well, being free enough on entry to avoid too much understeer, but also having the traction to attack the throttle on corner exit. No surprises here, it does the job intended of it and compliments the chassis nicely. 

Suspension

I could almost cut and paste the S4 comments here. Although they are both slightly different to drive, the dynamics are very similar, so instead I will give some tips on how to make it work on the track.

When the suspension is a little soft, you have to use that to your advantage.

If you dive straight in and expect the car to turn, it won’t! You have to start the rotation on the brakes and actually use the weight transfer to turn the car initially. Don’t be too aggressive on the brakes, be firm and consistent. Combined with only the slightest bit of steering, this will get the process started. 

Once you get this happening and it starts to turn, wait for it to settle nicely in the middle of the corner, then you can add more steering. You have to make sure the tyres and suspension are ready to do more work before asking them to do it. You’ll end up using less steering and being able to get on the throttle sooner.  

Steering

I like the steering, it’s nicely weighted as with the S4. It is very precise with a reasonable amount of feedback, which worked well on the track.

Wheels and Tyres

The tyres worked very well with the chassis and offered a consistent performance, for good feedback and the ability to drive them at the limit.

Driver Aids (Electronics)

I did all my laps with the traction control turned off. The car still felt safe and stable, it would only be in an emergency situation when you would require the system and would interfere too much on the track.

Cockpit (Ergonomics)

Although I felt well situated in the S3 and could find a good seating position, the seats did not offer enough support on the track. I was really moving around a lot on the hot laps and this caused me issues placing the car on in the corners.

I had to brace my knee against the transmission tunnel and use the wheel to hold myself in place, especially on corner entry. This is probably a compliment for the chassis, as it must be generating large amounts of grip to notice it that much.

I also was aware that the throttle sits a fair amount below the brake. On the out lap I even caught my foot on the edge of the brake pedal when moving it across a couple of times. Once I was aware of it I had no problem, but usually it isn’t an issue at all.

One final problem was my sweaty palms on the steering wheel, which is where an Alcantara wheel makes a difference. I could have worn gloves, but I am not in full race mode and want to feel the car from an everyday point of view.

Lap Time

The lap time of 60.02 sec was impressive for what is not the top spec of this model.

I really thought I could crack the minute mark, but the rising track temperature just held me back. The S3 did more than one lap at this pace and was very consistent for a car that isn’t an all-out track variant. 

Atko’s 3

  1. Use the weight transfer with the softer suspension to help turn the car on entry 
  2. Wait for the car to settle before adding too much steering
  3. Don’t send the car straight in and expect it to turn

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MRLP A$64,200
6.6L
213kW
152g