ASTOUNDINGThird generation Audi S3 Quattro is simply awesome, writes PHILIP HEDDERMAN
If ever there were a car to simplify Audi's mantra of Vorsprung durch Technik then this is it.
Petrolheads of Ireland, I give you the all-new S3, the third generation pocket rocket packing an eye-watering 300bhp, a 0-100kph in just over five seconds and an electrically-governed top speed of 250kph.
And the impressive figures don't end there – thanks to the use of aluminium and lighter, high-strength steel, the body weight has been slashed by 60kg.
This results in lower fuel consumption of just 6.9 litres per 100km which in turn sees emission levels reduced to 159g/km – leaving the S3 in Tax Band D and annual duty of €570.
Staying true to form, the S3 retains all of the original design features of its little brother while resisting the temptation of going too overboard with the testosterone.
SUBTLETY IS THE NAME OF THE GAME HERE BUT A TRAINED EYE WILL SPOT ITS REAL PEDIGREE.
The stonking 18-inch partly-polished, cast aluminium wheels are a bit of a giveaway but the big tell-tale signs that this is a real bad boy begin with massive brake callipers – emblazoned with the S logo.
Aluminium coloured wing mirrors again are a classic marker, but it's at the back where the game is well and truly given away.
The rear diffuser is home to the double set of chrome twin tail pipes where the snorting roar of this beast can be heard and indeed savoured.
But more about that later.
Inside it just oozes quality and class. Building on the premium feel of A3 cabin, little touches again tell you that you're sitting in something rather special.
The obvious ones are the logos strategically placed in the centre of the flat bottomed leather steering wheel; the same reminder on the gear knob while the heated leather sports seats have the headrests embossed with the emblem.
But a first for this reviewer – a 'Boost' gauge which measures the level of extra thrust generated by the turbo as the car tries to peel your face off.
Seriously, this is not just about raw power which the S3 has in spades – it's the complete performance package which makes it a proper contender.
Because of the permanent all-wheel drive and sports suspension – with spring and damper settings lowered by 25mm – the S3 feels literally glued to the road.
The traction and grip is awesome while Progressive Steering – an electromechanical gizmo, which gives pinpoint precision while reducing the need to reposition your hands, is absolutely sublime.
And the noise... open the taps and a snarling growl builds into a lion-like crescendo all the way to 8,000rpm while the pop that greets every kick-down just makes you giggle like a schoolboy.
The Quattro also eradicated the scourge of torque steer which blights some of its close rivals.
Throw in Audi Drive Select which allows the driver five settings - Comfort, Auto, Dynamic, Efficiency and Individual – giving you race mode to luxury limo ride at the flick of a switch and you're in driving nirvana.
It may sound like sacrilege but the seven-speed S-tronic auto box with paddle shift was clinically good and bizarrely is slightly more fuel efficient with lower emissions.
Although initially launched as a three-door hot hatch, my spies in Munich tell me that a Sportback (5-door) and the all-new S3 saloon are also in the pipeline.
Standard kit on the S3 includes Quattro permanent all-wheel drive, Nappa leather sports seats, Audi Drive Select, cruise control, MMI connectivity package, rear park assist, Xenon lights with LED daytime running lights, dual zone climate control, sports suspension and leather multi-function flat bottomed sports steering.
Prices for the Audi S3 start at €46,250.