The battle of the hyper-fast hot hatch continues apace. Yesterday we brought you news of the Mercedes A 45 AMG and today, tailgating aggressively in its rear view mirror is the brand new 296bhp, Audi S3 Sportback.
The S3 Sportback is essentially an Audi A3 Sportback on steroids. In fact, that’s probably what the ‘S’ stands for. Like the previous S3 Sportback, it uses a 2-litre TFSI engine, however the lump in this new model is completely redesigned. It uses ‘long-stroke’ (no sniggering at the back) technology, which means the width of its cylinders is smaller than its length (seriously, stop being so childish). Torque is rated at an impressive 380Nm between 1,800 and 5,500rpm.
The upshot is that the new Audi S3 Sportback, when equipped with the optional S tronic transmission, will do 0-62mph in 5 seconds. With the standard manual transmission, that time increases slightly to 5.5 seconds, but both versions will keep going until the car reaches an electronically limited top speed of, yup, 155mph.
The Merc A 45 AMG, in contrast, does 0-62mph in 4.6 seconds and has the same limited top speed. Both cars deliver a spookily identical 40.9mpg.
The Audi S3 Sportback doesn’t rely solely on raw grunt to achieve its performance. The new car has been subject to a rigorous lard reduction regime and now weighs a very significant 70Kg less than the outgoing model. Audi has also given the S3 Sportback a more favourable 59:41 front-to-rear weight distribution by shifting the front axle and its aluminium subframe and pivot bearings forward by 52mm.
That hardly matters, though. Once you inevitably fill the 380-litre boot (15 litres more than the standard S3) with flat-pack furniture, or the rear with passengers, then all bets are off.
The Audi S3 Sportback, like the Mercedes-Benz A 45 AMG, ditches standard two-wheel drive for four driven wheels. In this case it’s a permanent all-wheel drive setup, rather than the front-then-rear-as-well-if-necessary setup in the Merc. If you’ve got the necessary funds, Audi will sell you its magnetic ride suspension system, which constantly analyses the road conditions and your driving style to provide a blend of comfortable over rough roads and flat cornering through bends.
Other options include all-LED headlights, a Bang & Olufssen sound system, Audi pre sense automatic emergency braking and a panoramic glass sunroof. Audi says the S3 Sportback will cost no more than the outgoing model, so expect prices to start from around £32,000.