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Audi S3 priced from $65k

Pocket rocket: The Audi S3 will be the hottest member of the A3 range, at least until the as-yet-unseen RS3 emerges.

It’s still months away, but Audi’s S3 hand grenade will be priced as low as $65k

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11 Apr 2013

AUDI Australia will stride into the hot-hatch melee against arch-rivals BMW and Mercedes from December this year, when it launches its new S3 from as little as $65,000.

The five-door pocket rocket made its debut last month in Geneva, and is the hottest version of the new-generation A3 range – at least until the next RS3 emerges next year.

Audi’s estimated starting price of $65,000 to $70,000 is on par with the more powerful, but no faster, BMW M135i ($68,400 plus on-road costs).

Mercedes-Benz, meanwhile, will launch its A45 AMG hand grenade here in September, priced from $74,900. For that, buyers will get the world’s most potent production four-pot engine – a 265kW/450Nm 2.0-litre turbo built by hand.

Mercedes will also offer a version of its sexy CLA sedan with this same engine from early next year. Audi will counter this by offering an S3 version of its recently revealed A3 sedan, also confirmed to touch down in the first quarter of next year.

Audi’s answer to the Bimmer and Benz packs its own 221kW/380Nm punch courtesy of its 2.0-litre turbo engine. Like the Mercedes (but unlike the rear-drive BMW), power is sent to all four wheels.

The company has also promised to offer a six-speed manual gearbox alongside a six-speed dual-clutch automatic – notable considering an increasing number of performance cars are being released only with autos.

With the optional automatic fitted the S3 can dash from zero to 100km/h in a slick 5.1 seconds – the same as the BMW but four-tenths behind the AMG – while the manual gearbox adds an extra half a second.

The previous-generation S3 managed to find nearly 900 buyers in Australia between 2007 and 2012. The new one is not only faster, but also more than 20 per cent more efficient with a claimed combined-cycle figure of 6.9 litres per 100km with the automatic (7.0L/100km for the manual).

The new model is also 70kg lighter than before, thanks to the Volkswagen Group's new modular transverse MQB platform – the regular A3 was the first car to use it – and extensive use of aluminium in the bodyshell.

The company claims to have sharpened the handling by shifting the front axle further forward – thus reducing the front overhang – chopping five kilograms from the engine’s weight and tilting the block back 12 degrees.

Special sport suspension that lowers the body by 25mm, a 59:41 axle-load distribution front/rear and a speed-sensitive electro-mechanical power steering system also join the party.

The understated design is differentiated from the regular A3 Sportback by its more aggressive grille, integrated front air inlets, faux side intakes, aluminium-look side mirror housings, a re-designed rear bumper with a platinum grey diffuser, quad tail-pipes, LED tail-lights and a roof spoiler.

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