Audi’s S3 sedan combines sporty and sensible

This might be the car for you if you have a pocket of around $75,000 and a prestigious European badge in mind.

With their usual shrewdness, the great makers from Germany have – perhaps without even wanting to – created a new niche in the car market.

Audi's S3 sedan combines sporty and sensible

The sporty but sensible, compact but not too small, sexy yet conservative, fast but economical family machine.

That may sound like a pretty limited market, but it’s in the right place for a burgeoning demographic of opposites. There are the young look-at-me buyers for whom the brand is everything and the empty nesters who cling to their fleeting youth. Call it the Goldilocks class.

It’s a relatively small piece of the car landscape where Audi’s sporty S3 takes on its German arch-rivals, BMW’s M140i, and Mercedes-Benz with its A35 AMG. They’re three compact machines with enhanced performance that draw many buyers to gleaming showrooms.

Those are the real asphalt burners. In all three cases, they stop safely in front of their alter egos, the Audi RS3, BMW M2, and Benz A45 AMG. But unless you plan on spending your weekends on Phillip Island, they’re also a bit of a wasted expense – ballistic gear that you’ll rarely use.

Take a step closer to the mainstream. You’ll find these slightly mellower, performance-oriented models perfectly positioned to make you feel special about driving a car without the boss wondering if he’s paying you too much.

That’s a delicate balance, but one that these three German Thoroughbreds have mastered.

As a bonus, these models are a gateway to the highly desirable “special vehicle” sub-brands, which are growing in popularity.

For Audi, being one of the so-called challenger prestige brands – any brand that isn’t BMW or Mercedes – has its drawbacks and advantages.

The most obvious downside is that I’m not a BMW or Mercedes.

Additionally, Audi has more freedom to experiment and step away from convention to challenge the norms.

That road less traveled included his pioneering work with the Quattro all-wheel drive, now equally common among its rival brands.

There have also been smaller innovations, but no less intriguing.

Take, for example, the new idea that they rolled out on certain models a few years ago, where the air conditioning controls and temperature readout were placed in the most logical place, right in the air vent.

In their latest E-Tron electric car, they challenged the idea that rear-view mirrors should be… well, mirrors.

Instead, the E-Tron has two small cameras mounted on stems where the door mirrors would normally go, projecting the rear view onto a small screen where the old quarter glass once took pride in place.

The innovations continue in this latest iteration of their clever little S3 sedan – this time, it’s the gear lever.

They replaced the gear lever with a small stainless steel slider—about the size of a cigarette lighter—to select reverse, drive, or park.

Pioneering? Well, hardly. BMW has been using a similar “drive by wire” gear lever for years, while Mercedes loves the center console and has placed the gear lever on a lever on the side of the steering column.

So this new device won’t sell too many cars or change the habits of too many drivers. But it does emphasize the importance of staying sharp in this most competitive market segment.

This model has inherited most of the goodies you’ll find in the latest A3 sedan and hatchback, plus a few more.

Think of a sports suspension with damper control, matrix LED headlights, wonderfully fitting leather sports seats, and Bang and Olufsen 3D Premium sound system, not to mention the glossy 10.1-inch screen for MMI navigation and infotainment.

The S3 was always a welcome arrival in our driveway with its snappy, turbocharged four-cylinder performance and crisp, modern styling.

Enough power to spice up the daily ride, but not so much that you’re constantly getting speeding fines in the mail.

This latest S3 represents two liters, four cylinders, and one turbocharger, culminating in a formidable 228 kilowatts and 400 Nm grunt – and a quick 4.8-second sprint to the speed limit.

And all that with a relatively healthy thirst of 7.3L/100km. A car for all seasons, and rightly so.


* HOW BIG? Like the A3 sedan on which it is based, this powerful model also comfortably accommodates four adults with an impressive boot space.

* HOW FAST? Fast enough for all but the most speed-loving buyer. 0-100 km/h in 4.8 seconds is tough.

* HOW THIRSTY? A commendable 7.3L/100km. Not quite a Toyota Prius, but economical for a quick bite.

* HOW MUCH? The S3 can be had for $73,200 plus on-road expenses.

Lori J. Kile
I love to write and create. I love photography, design, travel and art. I am a full time freelance writer and photographer.I am very excited to be creating new content and opportunities for my readers.