2015 Audi S3
2015 Audi S3. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Jacob Black

Principality of Monaco – If the queue of Audi A3 Cabriolets and Audi S3 sedans wasn’t a dead giveaway, the route map was our first hint that today was going to be a very, very good day.

Audi has a new A3 family ready for the 2015 model year here in Canada, and this launch was all about the darlings of the fleet, the S3 sedan and the A3 Cabriolet. The Cabriolet is another story altogether, so for now let me focus on the S3, which we drove on the roads surrounding Monaco.

First the good news: with a 2.0L TFSI engine the S3 comes wielding 300 horses and 280 lb-ft of torque. The bad news? Canadians will only be treated to the six-speed S tronic gearbox with flappy paddles. Europeans will get a manual variant but the numbers don’t stack up over here in North America, where consumers overwhelmingly choose automatic boxes. But before the cries of horror and disgust reach a crescendo let me tell you about this S tronic.

The upshifts are rapid-fire, and slick. Impedance to forward momentum is virtually nonexistent, such is the speed of the dual-clutch automated manual. Downshifts? A tad slower, but they are accompanied by a delightful “bark” out of the back end as the engine cuts spark for a moment between shifts. Want to do it yourself? No problem, I managed to select second gear despite it resulting in 5,800 rpm, 700 rpm shy of the 6,500 rpm red line. That’s a lot to ask of a pre-production gearbox but I wanted to know if the flappy paddles were nanny-fied or compliant. They passed the test.

2015 Audi S32015 Audi S3
2015 Audi S3. Click image to enlarge

That 6,500 rpm redline is presented on one of two analogue dials, and the tach has a boost guage embedded in the dead space of the final quarter of the dial. Those who look for such things will appreciate the neat placement, but I have to admit I never actually noticed it there until I looked back at the pictures.

The speedo is a busy affair but the key moments are easy to spot, with larger numbers and red lines marking the usual speed limit points. Like the tach, a gauge is built into the final quarter of the speedo, this one showing the fuel level.

Speaking of, Audi claims the S3 will achieve 6.9 L/100 km but that is likely to be European ratings. In Canada the 2013 2.0 TFSI A3 engine with 200 hp returns 7.5 L/100 km highway, so 6.9 combined from a 300 hp variant would be a significant improvement.

Nestled between the analogue gauges is a smaller TFT screen for trip computer, vehicle and media information. It can be controlled by the steering wheel–mounted controls.

2015 Audi S32015 Audi S32015 Audi S3
2015 Audi S3. Click image to enlarge

The retractable MMI screen features all the usual Audi goodies including navigation, back-up camera and Audi Drive Select with Efficiency, Auto, Comfort and Dynamic modes as well as an Individual setting. One notable addition to the interior features is the optional Audi phone box. It uses near-field technology to boost the phone signal and preserve the phone’s internal power use. Audi has long come with a proprietary phone interface cable (meaning a different one  would be necessary for each Apple, Samsung, Motorola or other devices); the S3 we tested sported a USB slot as well – hallelujah! Now multiple-device owners get more convenient charging capability as well.

The interior comes in all-black leather, or with a two-tone black and red leather seating set that features extendable thigh support.

The steering wheel is standard Audi sport fare with a deliciously thick leather-clad surface and sporty flat bottom. The gear shifter is equally sumptuous but the golf-ball top might be divisive. One last note on the interior, in which Audi aims to save costs in some areas – for example, all of the seats are manually adjustable, not power adjustable, and there is no standard sunroof.

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