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Audi A3

A5 8P A3 Series I

1 Jul 2004

Audi didn’t mess around with its successful A3 formula for the second-generation version, adding edgier styling and more room to a three-door only body.

But, being based on the A5 Golf V, the platform was all new and much improved over the old A3, mainly due to a multi-link rear suspension. The base 75kW/148Nm 1.6 continued, but the 1.8s vanished for Audi’s excellent new 2.0 FSI four-cylinder units in regular (110kW/200Nm) or turbocharged (TFSI – 147kW/280Nm) guises.

All offered six-speed manual or automatic gearboxes – with the TFSI offering Audi’s superb double-clutch DSG auto in lieu of the regular Tiptronic.

The DSG was also the star of the 103kW/320Nm 2.0 TDI four-cylinder turbo-diesel model, as well as the expensive range-topper, the 184kW/320Nm 3.2 V6 Quattro – with Haldex part-time all-wheel drive.

Audi parred back the three-door range to just the 1.6 manual and 2.0 FSI automatic in late ’05, as the Sportback five-door hatch released from February took over most of the A3’s duties.

AUDI'S first S3 three-door carved itself a solid reputation for being a seriously rapid European hot-hatch with high Audi quality, a peaky turbocharged four-cylinder engine and even more agile, neutral all-wheel drive handling than its sister model, Volkswagen's V6-powered Golf R32.

For 2007 Audi returns after a four-year hiatus with a 188kW/330Nm 2.0-litre turbo four (195kW/350Nm in Europe) that eclipses the nose-heavier R32, brings more equipment and takes the bigger new (since 2004) three-door A3 body to new levels of dynamic proficiency.

The best part is that at $64,500 the latest S3 is almost $2000 less expensive than the model it replaces. As before, it features a close-ratio six-speed manual transmission and beefier brakes, as well as a higher-class cabin and a comprehensive standard safety armoury.

In October 2008 Audi launched its S3 Sportback hot hatcrange. In Audi parlance, Sportback refers to a five-door hatch. It joins the existing three-door and shares its mechanical bits.

This is good news because that includes a 2.0-litre TFSI turbo four-cylinder that punches out 188kW. That is enough to shoot this premium hot hatch from 0-100km/h in just 5.8 seconds.

The only transmission available is a six-speed manual.

Power is sent through all four wheels using Audi’s quattro system using a clever Haldex clutch.

At a shade below $70,000 the S3 Sportback is not cheap, but it is a serious competitor to the Subaru WRX STI and Mitsubishi Lancer EVO MR and is a lot more luxurious.

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