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First drive: Audi S3 Cabriolet. Image by Audi.

First drive: Audi S3 Cabriolet
Composed and stylish, does the Audi S3 Cabriolet convince as a sports car?

 



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Audi S3 Cabriolet

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5

The Audi S3 Cabriolet represents the most expensive variant of A3 you can get, save for the blisteringly quick RS 3 Sportback. Mildly facelifted, given some extra tech and toting higher outputs than before, the 2016MY open-top S3 remains a well-executed product in many respects, although Cabriolet buyers would be better off selecting one of the 2.0-litre non-performance models instead - because the S3 Cabriolet isn't really that exciting to drive.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Audi S3 Cabriolet
Pricing: S3 Cabriolet likely to be around 39,995
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: all-wheel drive, seven-speed S tronic automatic
Body style: two-door, four-seat convertible
CO2 emissions: 156g/km (VED Band G, 185 annually)
Combined economy: 41.5mpg
Top speed: 155mph (limited)
0-62mph: 5.1 seconds
Power: 310hp at 5,800- to 6,200rpm
Torque: 400Nm at 2,000- to 5,400rpm

What's this?

All four of Audi's A3 models getting a modest midlife facelift. Or 'technology update', as Audi prefers to call it, presumably because it knows a slightly wider 'Singleframe' grille, revised light clusters and some minimal bumper reshaping is hardly what anyone would call ground-breaking. Throw in a load of infotainment and driver assist technology upgrades, plus the ability to fit the sensationally good (but optional, always bloody optional) 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit TFT instrument cluster, and what we have here is a negligible amount of primping for a car that was looking pretty damn sharp as it was.

For the three-door, Sportback, Saloon and Cabriolet S3 models, though, there's been a slight hike in peak power (up 3.3 per cent to 310hp all in) and a 5.2 per cent increase in torque from 380- to 400Nm. Although this latter figure is only achievable with the now-seven-speed S tronic transmission, as the manual cars make do with a 'mere' 380Nm. The Cabriolet is the only S3 to get the S tronic transmission as standard and, along with the Saloon, it also benefits from magnetic ride adjustable dampers, whereas on the three-door and Sportback S3s they're an option.

Although its final price is yet to be confirmed, the Cabriolet is no bargain at almost 40,000 basic, especially when S tronic versions of the S3 can be had for 33,840 (three-door) and 34,460 (Sportback). And if you want a manual S3 hatch, it can be purchased for 32,950, which leaves more than seven grand available for tasty options. The S3 Saloon, by the way, is also yet to be priced, but it shouldn't cost too much more than the Sportback, so it should still undercut the Cabriolet by around 5,000. Add in the fact the Cabriolet is naturally the least practical S3 (with its 285-litre boot hood up falling to just 245 litres with the roof stowed and the least amount of room for rear passengers) and you've really, really got to want that folding fabric for this variant to make any sense at all.

How does it drive?

In one of those tales we probably shouldn't tell, but we will because it was simply an endearing, 'lost-in-translation' moment, our genial German host was obviously aiming to call the S3 Cabriolet the 'sexiest' of the newly updated A3 family... only the word he went for instead was 'erotic'. Maybe that unfortunate slip of the Teutonic tongue rather put our expectations for the S3 Cab on a higher plane, which it then struggled to match, but regrettably this isn't a model we found ourselves lusting after, searing Vegas Yellow paint job or not.

A lot of what the open-top S3 does is fine. The EA888 engine is still strong and flexible, the ride is good, cabin turbulence is reasonable with the hood down (even without the windows and wind deflector in place to stave off the airflow), the handling is tidy enough and the exhaust makes those appealing rumbles and thuds on full-bore upshifts/Dynamic-mode downshifts that all performance cars must do these days. And the scuttle shake that we encountered when Audi launched the S3 Cabriolet two years ago in Sweden is no longer present, which is good.

Sadly, on said Swedish event, there were no other S3s around with which to compare the Cabriolet and yet we thought it felt relatively sluggish nonetheless. This time around, the S3 Saloon was in attendance and driving the two S3s back-to-back only served to throw into stark relief the significant advantages the four-door car possesses in all areas. While the S3 Cabriolet's 0-62mph time has tumbled three-tenths from its previous best of 5.4 seconds, thanks to that additional cog in the S tronic gearbox and the extra 10hp/20Nm, it's still half a second slower than the revised S3 Saloon off the mark - a direct corollary of its 245kg weight penalty. And that bulk permeates everything else the S3 Cabriolet does, as it never feels particularly lively in a straight line, keen to turn into corners nor happy to change direction quickly. It's at its best at seventh-tenths. Rather like a diesel A3 Cabriolet, then.

The magnetic ride adaptive suspension means you can switch through damper settings to subtly alter the Cabriolet's ride/handling characteristics. And we say subtly for a reason, as there's little discernible difference to the car in either Comfort or Dynamic modes, save for slacker steering and a woollier throttle in the former. If anything sums up the S3 Cabriolet's rather confused personality, it's this lack of clarity between the car in its most relaxed and aggressive settings.

Verdict

While it sounds good and looks the part, the Audi S3 Cabriolet is no sports open-top and if all you're after is a handsome, refined cruiser with the ability to drop the roof on sunny days, you'd be just as well off with either the 190hp 2.0 TFSI or 184hp 2.0 TDI quattro variants - both are a lot cheaper, a lot better on fuel and a lot more honest about their road-holding shortcomings. If you want an excellent 310hp S3, then go for the storming Saloon instead.

5 5 5 5 5 Exterior Design

5 5 5 5 5 Interior Ambience

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Passenger Space

3 3 3 3 3 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

3 3 3 3 3 Driving Dynamics

4 4 4 4 4 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 20 May 2016









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2016 Audi S3 Cabriolet. Image by Audi.2016 Audi S3 Cabriolet. Image by Audi.2016 Audi S3 Cabriolet. Image by Audi.2016 Audi S3 Cabriolet. Image by Audi.2016 Audi S3 Cabriolet. Image by Audi.

2016 Audi S3 Cabriolet. Image by Audi.2016 Audi S3 Cabriolet. Image by Audi.2016 Audi S3 Cabriolet. Image by Audi.2016 Audi S3 Cabriolet. Image by Audi.2016 Audi S3 Cabriolet. Image by Audi.








 

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