2013 Audi A3 Sportback/Audi S3 - 2012 Paris Auto Show
Ushering in next-generation platform architecture and powertrain technology, Euro versions of the all-new 5-door 2013 Audi A3 Sportback and its hotter 3-door Audi S3 sibling are making their debuts at the 2012 Paris Auto Show. American's will have to wait until sometime next year for the arrival of our next-gen A3 -- a stylish 4-door sedan that will launch here as a 2014 model. However, while Audi isn't ready to confirm a lot of the details, it has indicated that we can expect a good deal of the basics that appear in these handsome hatches to be part of our variation on the theme, as well.
Like the new 3-door Audi A3 hatch that's already on sale in some markets, the Sportback and S3 are based on the Volkswagen Group's advanced MQB modular structure that also underpins the new VW Golf Mk VII. Both Audis make extensive use of aluminum and other lightweight construction materials and techniques that optimize strength and rigidity while seriously trimming curb weights - by 132 pound in the S3 and 198 in the A3 Sportback. Although displaying unique detail elements befitting their respective body configurations and roles in the lineup, the exterior styling on both embraces the latest in Audi design language with taut surfaces, dynamic contours and model-specific takes on the firm's signature monoframe grille.
The cabin treatments of the Audi A3 Sportback and Audi S3 also feature the same kind of focused diversity. Cloth is the standard seat covering in the A3 Sportback while the S3 gets one of several different leather combos, as well as a custom instrument cluster and pull-out cushions on its sport buckets. However, the A3 Sportback does offer the added convenience and utility of an extra pair of doors, more aft-quarters legroom and an expanded cargo bay that increases its capacity from 13.4 to 43.1 cu ft when the 60/40 rear bench is folded flat.
What these new Audis will have in common is the availability of some high-end audio/infotainment/safety systems - including a 705-watt Bang & Olfsun premium audio package, navigation systems that include the latest Multi Media Interface with a 7.0-inch screen and Audi Connect. Also on the options roster are adaptive cruise control, side-assist monitors, active lane assist, parking assist, a rear-facing radar, Audi's damage/injury mitigating pre-sense basic system and Audi drive select that allows for the dynamic tuning of various functions, including controlling the available multi-mode electromagnetic damping control.
Available in front or Quattro all-wheel drive, the new A3 Sportback will offer a selection of advanced 4-cylinder turbocharged gasoline and diesel engines ranging in displacement from 1.2 to 2.0 liters and making from 105 to 184 horsepower. Matchable with a 6-speed manual or dual-clutch 6/7-speed S-tronic automatic transmissions, they are collectively projected to improve fuel economy numbers by about 10 percent compared to the existing A3 Sportback model. Next year, a TCNG version of the Sportback fueled by compressed natural gas will be added to the mix, and an e-tron plug-in hybrid variant is set to launch in 2014.
Motivating the third-generation Audi S3 is an equally new 2.0-liter TFSI gasoline engine that shares nothing with its current counterpart save for displacement. Designed specifically for this application, this all-aluminum four features both direct and supplemental port fuel injection plus dual balance shafts for added smoothness and a special flap in the exhaust system that imparts "a sportily sonorous sound" at speed. It cranks out 296 horsepower at 5,500 rpm, 35 more ponies than the current S3 -- and 280 lb-ft of torque between 1,800 - 5,500 revs -- a 22 lb-ft bump in the twist department. All of that heads to all four wheels via a standard Quattro system. Paired with the standard 6-speed manual gearbox, it can send the S3 from 0-62 mph in 5.4 seconds, an interval that drops to just 5.1 ticks when it's backed by the optional 6-speed S-tronic. All of this while returning the equivalent of 33-34 mpg combined ratings on the Euro cycle. While Audi indicates the chances of the S3 turning up in America are slim at best -- an A3 Sportback appears a more likely future prospect -- expect to see some version of this new 2.0-liter gasoline engine along with the new 2.0-liter TDI appear in whatever A3 variants we do see here.
Like the existing S3 and the now-departed RS3, Audi's latest pocket rocket also comes with its own upgraded steering and suspension systems - including electromagnetic damping -- bigger anti-lock brakes and its standard 18-inch lightweight alloy wheels wrapped in sticky 225/40 performance tires. Whether some or all of that kit arrives here as part of an enhanced S-line upgrade package remains to be seen.