So wraps up my trio of Audi fast cars. First we had the S4 sedan in the deep of winter. Then we turned the volume up to RS and revisited the RS 5 Coupe, which continues to impress despite its age relative to segment newcomers. And now we take a long, hard look at the S3, the most affordable and accessible of the Audi’s sporty line.

It’s not my first taste of the S3, but the last fling was all too brief, and only whetted my appetite for this wunderkind of the Audi lineup. Of course, I got plenty familiar with the A3 during our long-term test last summer, and it’s everything a small luxury sedan should be(with the exception of a lack of cooled seats), compact and classy and competent.

But the S3, ahh the S3 takes it all up a notch. Seeing as the S3 starts at just $2,000 more than the fully loaded 2.0TFSI Technik trim, anyone that appreciates factory-tuned performance will jump on this. You get a whopping big 70-hp and 22 lb-ft boost with the handling chops to match, plenty of goodies to ignore while you’re dialed into the drive, and it includes the S-Line Package that is a $1,500 option on the A3. For me, it’s a no-brainer. This is the 3 for enthusiasts, that’s for sure.

Getting down to brass tacks, the heart of the S3 is Audi’s ubiquitous 2.0-litre turbocharged, intercooled, direct injected four-cylinder powerhouse. In S3 application, it tops out at 290 hp at 5,400 rpm, but you’ll feel its 280 lb-ft of torque from before 2,000 rpm and right on up past 5,000 rpm. Step on it and it goes, AWD not quite the same rear bias planted feel as the S4 but nonetheless completely stable on dry or wet pavement, though the Dunlop SP Winter Sports and warmer weather conspired to deprive me of the opportunity to test it in the white stuff. Likewise, traction of the softer compound in the warming weather left something to be desired, but the S3 nonetheless felt always composed and balanced even when it broke loose, which took a fair amount of effort to accomplish in the dry.

With the natural rigidity of the MQB chassis and the sport-oriented front MacPherson Strut with lower wishbones and four-link rear suspension with complex spring and shock absorber arrangement, that firm ride rewarded in the corners, where the S3 stays flat and allows careful control of the car’s understeering tendencies. Feedback from the throttle, brakes and steering was also exemplary, so you can control the attitude of the car with some light throttle and steering inputs.

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