Misano Red Pearl Effect ($550), 19-Inch Performance Package ($1,500 -- includes 19-inch, five-double-spoke-Star-design polished anthracite wheels with 235/35 summer tires, Audi Magnetic Ride)
Turbocharged, direct-injected inline-4, gasoline
DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder, variable intake + exhaust-valve timing
Compression ration (x:1)
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
292 @ 5,300
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm)
280 @ 1,900
Six-speed auto double-clutch manual with console shifter and steering-mounted paddles with sport/competition modes
Transmission and axle ratios (x:1)
Moving your foot directly from the brake to stomping the throttle gives a noticeable delay leaving the line, a combination of some hesitancy from the dual-clutch transmission as well as a bit of turbo lag. But once the tach sweeps past 3,000 rpm, the S3 moves forward with some dang good thrust considering it only has 292 hp. Upshifts are quick, even in the regular Drive transmission mode. Things get more interesting when you turn off traction control, put the Audi Drive Select system into the Dynamic setting and use the power-braking method (overlapping brake and throttle at the line). This invokes the launch control system, which brings the revs to 3,800 rpm before you release the brake. And the upshifts become lightning-quick. The car leaves the line with a bit of front wheelspin (even though it is all-wheel drive), and using the launch control was easily the quickest method. LC produced nearly identical times whether in Sport transmission mode or Manual mode. The little four-cylinder turbo engine sounds fantastic, with a five-cylinder-type noise. Manual shifting is via steering wheel paddles or the console shift lever (pull back for downshifts). It blips the throttle nicely on downshifts but does not hold gears to a rev limiter; it upshifts automatically at 6,600 rpm.
The brakes feel fantastic, with a firm pedal and reasonably short travel. The pedal stayed dead-consistent throughout, and distances were super-consistent, too. The car stops with zero fuss, hardly any nosedive and no side-to-side squirm. The first stop was 109 feet, the sixth stop was the shortest at 108 feet and the seventh and final stop was 109 feet. Impressive.
This car proved a stunning handler through our slalom course. Sharp, responsive and incredibly capable. It's also fun. It's most stable while accelerating, so slalom speed is dependent on entering at a lower speed than it's capable of at neutral throttle and then accelerating through the slalom course. This will occassionally result in power oversteer, but it's always a small, controllable slip angle. Steering response is immediate and incredibly sharp, and I never felt like I wanted quicker steering. The skid pad required small adjustments to be made by jumping out of the throttle, but not as much as I'd anticipated. Plus, the stability control calibration is very, very good so it's probably best to leave it on in most situations. There's enough feel to know where the front grip limit lies and drive right to it. Suprisingly, there's less reward in trying to "drive" this car over its limits than I anticipated. It doesn't rotate aggressively, and with the stellar ESC it's not worth it anyway. Just get in, set up the car like you want using Drive Select and have fun.