By Kris Hansen
New York – Audi hosted an invitation only event the night before the first press day of the 2013 New York International Auto Show, to give the American (and other) media a sneak peek at their all new, to be released officially in Shanghai, A3 and most excitingly, S3 Sedans. This will be the first time an S3 has been offered in the USA, in any configuration, and the first A3 sedan.
This car is of course based on the (for now) not for North America A3 3 and 5 door cars (Audi also confirmed that well be seeing the 5 door, AKA A3 Sportback in the USA, as a plug-in hybrid model), though we were told that most of the exterior panels are unique to the sedan.
Without question this is a familiar looking car, and wed argue that most siblings to bear resemblance to each other, and in the case of Audi, were not complaining! The A3 sedan does not look like a small car, thanks to very clever design features, such as the window surround trim being affixed to the door, instead of the roof, allowing a lower roofline. The character line on the fenders is accentuated outward to help maintain this sense of scale as well. As with all Audis, the tornado line begins at the headlights, continues along the sides, meets up with the tail lights and trunk, and returns to the front of the car. There are NO unneeded design elements, nothing distracting from the beauty of the shape, everything matches up.
We were amazed at how roomy the interior is (wed say leg room and head room are nearly identical to an A4). We sat in the back seats, and found them to be comfortable, and remarkably roomy. The front seats are typical Audi, which is to say, they go all the way back, nearly unlimited leg room. Because the dash doesnt meet up with the center console, there is a distinctly airy feeling in the front of the car as well.
The A3 sedan has a beautifully designed and built flip out MMI screen. It is the thinnest of its kind were told. The audio system is the standard MMI type system, though the button layout is all new for the A3 (and is shared with the A3 hatchbacks already on sale in Europe). The main command dial is quite large, and the top of the command dial is also the MMI system touch pad, a brilliant packaging move.
Audiophiles will go bonkers for the 700+ watt B&O sound system, which is staggeringly good, rivaling the monster B&O system in the Q7 in terms of base response and clarity.
The S3 sedan will have a 2 liter, 4 valve per cylinder (instead of 5 as Audi have done for over 10 years) 4 cylinder engine, producing over 280 hp. The A3 will be offered with a lower output 2 liter as well, with quattro drive. A diesel engine will be offered in front wheel drive only.
Transmissions will only be a 6 speed S-tronic dual clutch automatic, even though we were shown a 6 speed manual. We can already hear the enthusiasts cries for a proper manual in the S3, perhaps we can get enough interest and sales commitments to convince Audi to bring it here!
We were not given pricing information, but we suspect that the S3 will come in somewhat below where the S4 starts off mid $30,000 range perhaps.
The thing that struck us most about the S3 is the build quality. This is a true Audi in every sense. The design, the attention to detail, the material quality, everything screams quality. Not that the previous A3s are poorly built, but this car feels for all intents like an A6 that someone shrunk in the wash. Its THAT solidly made.
Were looking forward to getting our hands on this car in a big way. Audi say that the S3 will start coming here in calendar year 2014, and that cant be soon enough for us!