2015 Audi S3, a small slice of Monaco: Motoramic Drives
Monte Carlo, Monaco — The dramatic cliffs of the Cote d’Azur and glitter-paved streets of Monte Carlo would flatter any automobile. Not all cars return the favor — especially the compact sedans that dominate the rest of the world.
That the new Audi S3 manages to look at home in a driveway parked next to an automobile costing ten times as much should indicate what Audi's been able to accomplish.
Developed primarily for the North American market, the Audi S3 arriving here a year from now as a 2015 model wouldn't have made the trip in the old regime. But with A4 having grown in size over the years, room now exists in Audi’s lineup for a stronger compact sedan like the new A3 arriving in spring 2014, with roughly the same footprint as the original B5-generation Audi A4, sold in strong numbers to Americans between 1995 and 2001.
An engine start button brings the S3’s turbocharged four-cylinder to life with a rorty growl. Audi expects the S3 to produce somewhere in the neighborhood of 290 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque when its engine tuning gets locked in. All-wheel drive comes standard, as does Audi’s dual-clutch automatic transmission, known to Audi-philes as the Direct Shift Gearbox. As often the case, the DSG in Sport mode cracks off instantaneous, rev-matched downshifts when slowing for a curve. And thanks to its standard Quattro all-wheel drive, which can brake the inside front wheel ever so slightly to help minimize understeer when hustling through curves, it's hard to put a foot wrong in this thing.
The standard Audi Drive Select features allows one to tailor throttle sharpness, transmission responsiveness and exhaust note volume to his or her liking. On models with the optional magnetic adjustable shocks, ADS further allows the driver to adjust suspension firmness as well as steering effort and quickness. With all settings left in Comfort mode, the S3 feels relatively benign, never gooey or soft but less responsive and not as fun as when the systems are set in “Auto” mode. The S3’s demeanor changes to firm and edgy as when all features were set in the sporiest “Dynamic” level. In case of the exhaust note and suspension, there isn’t a huge amount of difference from one setting to the next, but in others, such as throttle and especially the steering, the difference seems massive. Generally, the default “auto” settings are more than sporty enough for day-to-day driving, but we imagine if it was our S3, we might hit the “Individual” setting so we could mix and match, leaving the powertrain and exhaust settings in Dynamic all the time to keep the engine at attention and hear the sporty blaaaaaat all the time, then leave the rest in Auto.