Audi S3

Audi S3For those of you that know something about World War II machinery, the German “Tiger” tank will need no introduction. And for those of you who have a life, here’s a little background on why those mentioned formerly might know a thing or two about this engineering masterpiece.

April 1942 saw the “Tiger”, officially marked as the Panzer VI, go into production as the pinnacle of German tank design. Eventually introduced in August 1942, the “Tiger” was at that time the most powerful tank in the world. It’s success was so profound that no allied tank dared to engage it in open combat, a phobia that was soon termed “Tigerphobia.”

Three firms were contracted for the design and weaponry of the new tank; namely Porsche, Henschel & Sohn and lastly Krupp. Porsche and Henschel were responsible for the chassis and automotive design whilst the turret and main weapon design was the work of Krupp. And yes for those alert readers, it was the same Porsche that now make 911’s and the like.

Weighing in at 59 tons under full combat conditions, carrying an 88mm anti-aircraft gun (the most powerful in the German army) and boasting armour so thick at the front it was basically indestructible, this was one serious piece of machinery.

And this leads me nicely to the all new Audi S3. If a war broke out between hot hatches, this would without a doubt be my choice of heavy-duty weaponry. Krupp would be proud of the 2.0 litre turbo-charged engine in the S3, something I can only equate to that 88mm gun the Germans strapped to their “Tiger.” There is nothing but pure savagery that emanates from under the bonnet, as 188kW and 350Nm cannon occupants from 0-100km/h in 6 seconds and on to a top speed of 250km/h. (Electronically limited of course)

To deal with this sinister powerplant, the S3 boasts Audi’s legendary “Quattro” badge. I’ve had the pleasure of driving a few all-wheel-drive cars in my life, none of which manage to put everything together quite like the Audi. (Granted I haven’t yet driven the even more legendary Subaru WRX Sti) The grip is just endless. If you’ve followed much of my writing – and I’m sure you haven’t – you’ll know my test route incorporates the “Valley of a Thousand Hills,” probably the most rousing bit of road in the greater Durban area.  I have never experienced such a thrill behind a wheel, as the S3 sling shot me from corner to corner with such effortlessness; and I was hardly Driving Miss Daisy.

My only gripe is getting the S3 off the line with any haste, as the Quattro system bogs down at low revs, allowing the fat bloke next to you in his Daewoo Matiz to get the jump at the lights. Unfortunately the only way to solve this is by melting your clutch and giving it some welly; the burning smell is but a small reminder that you just knocked 10,000km off it’s life span.

Then there’s the package in which all this fury is encased. It’s a brutish looking thing, with its wide grill, massive 18inch wheels and tar scrapping body kit. I’ve said before – and I’ll say it again – Audi really have hit the nail on the head when it comes to styling. Especially with their LED running lights, which run over the top of the headlight on the S3. Other than the Ford Focus ST I don’t think there’s another hot-hatch that rivals the S3 in the looks department.

Finally I come to the interior, a department in which I can guarantee Audi reign supreme. I won’t claim to have driven every hatch on the market, but I have sat in all of them. The level of quality and attention to detail in the S3 is exquisite; to the point where the stitching in the leather would have the Queen fire her seamstress. Then there are bits of shiny aluminium dashed about to remind you that this is a sports car – although no doubt the body-hugging bucket seats won’t let you forget it, especially on a bumpy road.

Tick every little box on the options list and that’s how many toys there were in my test car. I won’t bore you with the minor details as I’m sure an Audi salesperson would kindly oblige if you’re really interested. The pick of the lot included satellite navigation and Audi’s park assist – which actually parallel parks the cars for you. Although Audi should be banned from selling this car to anyone who needs to use such a feature, as it displays a distinct lack of ability behind the wheel. Oh and it’s a R7,750 optional extra, in case looking incompetent didn’t deter you enough.

There is no doubt in my mind that the S3 is the best hot-hatch I’ve driven, probably somewhat like the “Tiger” was the best tank any German soldier had the pleasure of commanding. Unfortunately the “Tiger” had one massive fault. It was so complex to produce, with its dual tracks and intricate mechanical system that it spent more time under repair than putting the allies under duress.

Similarly the Audi has one massive flaw – not mechanically but fiscally. You see at R394,000 the only hatch more expensive is the Subaru and lets be honest the Scoobie shouldn’t even be classified in the category. So the Audi is about R100,000 more than any other hot-hatch, which is not an inconsiderable amount of money.

Like Hitler, you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. Do you splash out and buy the Audi – or save R100k, buy a Focus ST and settle for a slightly less dynamic drive and slightly less firepower? Personally, I couldn’t live without the S3’s big gun under my bonnet…

Miles Downard
Photo Credit: Motorpics

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