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Driven: Audi debuts S3 Cabriolet

Rule of 3: The Cabriolet is Audi's third S3 variant alongside the five-door Sportback that lobbed last December and the Sedan that arrived in May.

Hot-rod Audi S3 soft-top lands as range flagship from $69,300, plus ORCs

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Audi logo17 Oct 2014

By TIM ROBSON

AUDI has further bolstered the ranks of its burgeoning sports division with the local introduction of the first S-rated variant of the rag-top A3, the 210kW/380Nm S3 Cabriolet, that follows the July launch of the more tame A3 Cabriolet.

Since September last year, the S/RS/R8 model group has delivered triple-digit percentage growth for Audi Australia, a worldwide trend that will see Audi AG tip $30 billion into research and development for the next group of S-car stars by 2018.

Audi Australia general manager of corporate communications Anna Burgdorf told journalists at the Gold Coast launch that lower volume models are helping to boost the German brand's local sales.

“We’re getting our growth from niche models – certainly there’s a demand in Australia for it,” she said.

“We see the S3 Cabriolet adding 10 to 15 sales a month, and that’s a strong performance.” To date, the S3 version of the Sportback five-door hatch makes up 25 per cent of that model’s mix, while the more recently released Sedan variant makes up 20 per cent.

At $69,300, the Cabriolet is the most expensive of the three S3 variants, with the Sedan coming in at $62,300 and the Sportback at $59,990.

It is also a good $14,400 more than the next most expensive A3 drop-top, the 1.8 TFSI quattro Ambition which is priced from $54,900.

There are few direct competitors for the S3 Cabriolet, however a performance version of BMW's forthcoming 2 Series Convertible is an obvious contender, while within its own stable, some buyers maye prefer the look of the TT S Roadster, but this starts at $103,300.

Based on the Volkswagen Group’s modular MQB Convertible chassis architecture and Golf VII suspension layout, the 4420mm-long Cabriolet is 1790mm wide, with a wheelbase of 2600mm.

The Cabriolet’s chassis features additional bracing across the floorpan and up through the B-pillars, and weighs 1620kg at the kerb that is some 125kg heavier than the Sportback. It rides 25mm lower than its A3 counterpart, and it also runs stiffer springs and revised dampers.

The MacPherson strut-equipped front suspension’s supporting subframe is forged from aluminium alloy to save weight, while the four-link rear end sports a separated spring/damper arrangement. Tubular anti-roll bars front and rear also reduce weight. Eighteen-inch rims are fitted as standard, wearing 225/40 R18 tyres.

The ‘k-fold’ hydro-electric canvas roof – modelled off that of the A5 Cabriolet – features an extra layer of acoustic material, and can be operated at speeds up to 50km/h. It takes 18 seconds to raise or lower, and sports a low-profile glass rear window. It’s also available in three colours.

At 240 litres, boot space is not overly compromised when the roof is stowed, versus 285 when it is in place.

Powered by the same alloy-blocked EA888 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine that powers the other S3s, the quattro Cabriolet will also adopt the same ‘warm climate’ tune that will cap its power output to an upwardly revised 210kW, which is 4kW more than when the S3 Sportback launched last year, but still down from the European-spec 221kW figure.

The exhaust is fitted with bi-modal flaps that activate when the Audi Drive Select control is set to Dynamic mode. Steering, suspension and engine response levels are also adjusted according to their respective settings, which include Comfort, Auto and Individual.

Running 1.2 bar of turbo boost via an air-to-air intercooler and electronic wastegate, it also produces a healthy 380Nm of torque between 1800 to 5100rpm, and is backed by a six-speed version of Audi’s S-Tronic dual-clutch gearbox.

Unlike the Sportback – and like the Sedan – there is no manual variant offered in the Cabriolet either here or overseas. The Haldex all-wheel drive system distributes drive in a 51/49 percent front/rear split.

Performance-wise, the S3 Cabriolet will dash to 100km/h in 5.5 seconds, onto a governed top speed of 250km/h. Its official combined fuel cycle is listed as 7.1 litres per 100km.

Quad exhaust pipe tips and a faux rear valance panel complement a bodykit that incorporates a deeper front bar, side skirts and an abbreviated bootlid spoiler. Eighteen-inch rims are standard, while a choice of two styles of 19-inch wheel is offered with the uptake of the S-Line package.

The interior follows the same form as the S3 Sportback and Sedan, with dark gloss accents contrasting with silver trim and black dash plastics. A flat-bottomed leather-wrapped S-Line wheel is equipped with shift paddles, while the pedals covers are alloy.

Audi’s MMI multimedia controller and screen dominates the centre console. There’ s also a red-illuminated alloy starter button, an electronic handbrake, auto-dimming rear view mirror and auto headlights and wipers fitted as standard. The heated front seats are not motorised, even on the optional sport versions.

Rear seating is limited to two passengers only, but the split-fold rear pew adds versatility to the load space.

Standard features include Audi’s MMI control system, bi-Xenon headlamps with LED running lights, leather interior, heated front seats and a ten-speaker stereo system.

An S-Line package can be optioned for $4990, and includes Audi’s Magnetic Ride dampers, a 705watt, 15-speaker Bang & Olufsen stereo, S line sports front seats, a choice of two styles of 19-inch rims, red-painted brake callipers and LED headlights.

Audi’s Assistance package – including adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, rear-collision warning and high-beam assist – is an extra $1800.

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