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Driven: Sedan joins Audi’s record-selling S3 range
Audi’s hot-selling S3 quattro range expanded to include $62,200 sedan variant
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20 May 2014
AUDI’S latest addition to its rampaging S and RS line of performance cars, the S3 quattro sedan, has arrived in Australian showrooms priced at $62,200 plus on-road costs.
Based on the first-generation A3 sedan, the S3 with a boot joins the S-badged hatch derivative that launched here last December, which is currently selling in unprecedented numbers thanks to a starting price more than $11,000 cheaper than its predecessor.
Over the first four months of this year, Audi sold 258 S3 hatchbacks – which are priced $2300 lower than the sedan at $59,900 – equating to more than its highest calendar year figure of 228 units for all of 2009.
Because performance variants tend to sell in greater number early in their life cycle, the addition of this new sedan body-style will be vital for Audi to keep sales ticking over at these record levels for the medium-term.
Audi Australia product communications executive Shaun Cleary said this week that the company expected about 50 per cent of S3 sales from now to be the sedan.
But rather than doubling sales, it was expected to merely keep things bubbling along as they are, pointing to the sedan’s expected demographic coming mainly from prospective S3 hatch buyers.
The booming S3 sales are just one part of a wider success story that has seen Audi’s performance models stride into the Australian market in a big way, against traditional rivals in BMW’s M brand and Mercedes-Benz’s AMG division.
Between January and March 2014, Audi S and RS sales grew a remarkable 266 per cent to 735 units, more than 502 ahead of BMW’s M-badged range and only 75 behind Mercedes-Benz AMG, which itself grew by a robust 73 per cent on the back of its A45 and CLA45 baby models.
Over the past 12 months, Audi has put significant promotion behind its quattro all-wheel-drive technology and its S and RS performance range in an effort to sex up its image.
Beyond the S3 twins, other recent launches include the hot-selling SQ5, RSQ3 crossover, the RS5 cabriolet, blistering RS6 wagon and RS7 sedan twins and the S8 limo. In September this year Audi will launch the S1 hot hatch, to be followed one month later by the S3 cabriolet.
A new-generation RS3, including a sedan option for the first time, is tipped to make its world premiere at the Paris motor show this October, and is a lock for Australia. The second-generation R8, which shares its radical components with the Lamborghini Huracan, is also around the corner.
In the medium-term, Audi Australia will become the second market after the UK to introduce stand-alone S and RS “Audi Sport Sales Concept” showrooms within showrooms. These performance areas within Audi retailers will specialise in cars and merchandise for its performance range.
In time – Audi Australia does not have a date locked away – the company hopes to have these designated sections in most, if not all, of its showrooms.
As reported last week, the S3 sedan pairs the familiar 206kW/380Nm EA888 1984cc turbocharged engine (with 1.2 bar) and quattro permanent all-wheel-drive underpinnings of the Sportback hatch, with a sleek three-box sedan body that offers an extra 45 litres of rear cargo space (425 litres compared with 380L).
Featuring a bore/stroke of 82.5 x 92.8mm, the partial aluminium engine delivers the same (detuned, due to our hot climate) peak power figure as the S3 hatch and its Volkswagen Golf R sister between 5100 and 6500rpm, while the robust torque peak is available from 1800 to 5100rpm.
Despite the family resemblance, the 1450kg sedan and 1430kg Sportback versions do not share a single body panel.
The lightweight MQB platform helps distribute axle load 59 per cent/41 per cent front/rear. The subframe and pivot bearings of the front suspension are made of aluminium. The rear axle is a four-link design, and the car sits 25mm lower than the A3 sedan.
The electro-mechanical steering adds weight at higher speeds, and a selection of driving modes add or subtract weight depending on driver’s preference.
Power is sent to all four wheels via a six-speed S tronic dual-clutch automatic transmission. Despite strong initial interest on the manual Sportback, Audi Australia will not offer a self-shifter on the sedan, even as a special-order proposition.
Acceleration from zero to 100km/h takes 5.0 seconds, while fuel consumption is a claimed 6.9 litres per 100km (equating to 159 grams per kilometre of CO2).
Standard equipment includes bi-Xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights and LED tail lights, “MMI Navigation plus” sat-nav, Park Assist with front and rear sensors and reversing camera, and 18-inch alloy wheels in a ‘five-parallel’ spoke design.
Adding to the sportier look is a subtle body kit, a revised exhaust system with quad tailpipes, and ‘S’ adjustable sports suspension. Inside are Nappa leather sports seats with electronic adjustment and heating (up front) and a flat-bottomed steering wheel.
Audi expects the majority of buyers to opt for the $4990 S performance package, which adds Audi’s magnetic ride system with adjustable damper settings, diamond-stitched seats, red brake calipers front and rear, a thumping Bang and Olufsen sound system and LED headlights.
The S3 sedan’s $62,200 starting price puts it clearly atop the A3 sedan range, which is priced between $39,800 and $44,800.
However, the S3 sedan is also cheaper than its closest on-paper rival, Mercedes’ $64,900, less powerful 155kW CLA250 Sport AWD.
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