The Audi RS6 Avant is a great car, however, not everyone has RS6 money. So what do you do if you want a practical performance Audi without breaking the bank? Henry Catchpole over at Carfection tries to figure that out by testing the new S3 to see if it can provide suitable enjoyment for a fraction of the cost.
First up is the design. Catchpole notes that some aspects of the S3’s sharp design, most notably its box-flared fenders, are quite reminiscent of its RS6 big brother, and make for a welcome update over the outgoing S3. He also mentioned that the interior was very similar to the RS6 as well, believing they took a page out of Mercedes‘ book by putting their good interiors in even their entry-level cars.
He feels that the design, as well as the quality, feels much more upmarket than it actually is. But while he appreciates things like steering wheel’s feel and physical buttons for things like the climate control, he seems to dislike all of the vehicle’s shifting apparatuses, with the paddles feeling too plasticky, and the stubby gear lever not quite as good as the old proper center console shifter.
Next he moves on to the most important part: the driving experience. The S3 produces 296 hp (300 PS / 221 kW) and 295 lb-ft (400 Nm) of torque from a 2.0L turbocharged inline-four engine. Coincidentally, all those figures—horsepower, torque, cylinders, displacement, and turbos—happen to be almost exactly half of those in the RS6. Getting back to the car at hand, Catchpole describes the S3’s driving experience as “clean”. The steering is neat and crisp with excellent turn-in, and the ride is firm and flat, but with more nuance than its predecessor. The throttle response is tight, and the car is quick, but he wouldn’t describe it as anything too wild.
And that last part is what Catchpole believes is stopping the S3 from being a true baby RS6—not wild. He feels the S3 does everything you want it to, but sometimes the best part of driving is that smidge of unpredictability. The sterility and predictability that the S3 exhibits, while very Audi-like, is what causes it to lack the kind of character the RS6 possesses.
So is the S3 a suitable replacement for the RS6 Avant? Of course not. But while it may be about half the car the RS6 is, at less than half the price, it quickly makes up for its shortcomings, and makes you wonder how good the RS3 will be.