The A45 arguably owes its existence to the highly successful template Audi established a decade and a half ago with the original S3, and while it isn’t in the same league as the upstart’s prodigious pace (that's the RS3's modus operandi), it does nudge everything in the right direction.
Overall, the car weighs 70kg less than before, mostly due to the lighter MQB platform now worn underneath, which also affords the Sportback, saloon and cabriolet its extra wheelbase length and (thanks to a thrown-forward front axle) a more favourable 59 percent front, 41 percent rear weight distribution.
As before, the S3’s four-wheel-drive set-up doesn’t benefit from a Torsen-based centre differential (or funky crown gear) that graces other Quattro models, instead sharing the updated Haldex multi-plate clutch system branded 4Motion elsewhere in the group.
Stick with the standard spec S3, which gets all the equipment found on a S line trimmed A3, plus 18in alloys, lowered sports suspension, a sporty bodykit, a quad-exhaust system, a Nappa leather upholstery and heated front seats. Decide you want the S3 in more practical saloon or captivating cabriolet forms, and you'll find 19in alloys and adaptive suspension fitted as standard. Those intent on making their S3 more meancing can opt for the Black Edition trim, which adds tinted rear windows, lots of gloss black exterior trim and a Bang & Olufsen stereo system. However, only the hatchbacks and the saloon are available in this trim.
Should an Audi S3 be subtle or outlandish?
To look at, possibly more understated than it’s ever been. Whip off the badges and there’s only the quad pipes and silver wing mirrors to differentiate you from any one of the other high-spec A3s circumnavigating the M25.
Sports seats aside, the branding is probably all that distinguishes the cabin, too. But that’s fine – the quality of the finishing, trim materials and all-round attention to detail is immaculate.
In keeping with the ambience, there’s little fuss about starting up the four-pot, either. The pedal action is light, as is the engagement of the slightly snaggy manual gearbox. The only initial surprise is just how much breathing space the turbocharger requires.
While not chronic, the lag is more noticeable than might be expected from an engine reputedly delivering peak twist at just 1800rpm; a mashed throttle in third at 30mph will have your eyes rolling up considerably quicker than the turbine starts spinning.
Fortunately, the car’s accelerative quality thereafter is fierce enough to wipe the memory clean. Presumably the ratios are a mite longer than in the optional seven-speed S-tronic, and that leaves the keen peddler with a fervent 3000rpm to make 55mph turn into 85mph.
Once in its stride, third proves an all-purpose whoosh of a gear, and the S3 is best appreciated in it, pulling scandalously hard from corners. However, ignore the temptation to light up all the LEDs on the boost gauge and the car settles back into a familiar four-ringed repose and settles for the weighty stability of a cross-channel ferry.
Largely this is because it’s still impossible to get to grips with it through the steering wheel. The variable-ratio rack is devoid of feedback whether over-assisted in its Comfort setting or over-weighted in Dynamic, and because it doesn’t push back properly, you lean into it awkwardly, like a man feeling with his hand for the bottom of a muddy pond.