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Audi S3 Sportback Old v New: 2017 Sportback v 2011 Black Edition

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Lately here at CarAdvice, we have been thinking of ways to get readers more involved in what we do.

Late in 2016, we were the official media partner at the inaugural Motorworld festival at Sydney Motorsport Park, where we brought along 26 performance vehicles and SUVs from various manufacturers that punters and readers could book in to test drive as well as contribute to our mega tests which can be read here and here.

We were stoked with the feedback we received from CarAdvice readers specific to the cars at Motorworld, but we also wanted to have a CarAdvice reader take part in a review with us.

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After plenty of brainstorming trying to figure out what the best approach would be, and the most valuable way to have readers involved, we realised our Owner Reviews offer the perfect auditioning platform.

Those Owner Reviews allow the team to see just how well the writers know their cars and whether or not they would make a good candidate –  and they also allow the team to find out who owns a cool or interesting car.

As a result, we have some idea of who owns what and where they live. Therefore, when I heard we would be getting the new 2017 Audi S3 Sportback into the CarAdvice Sydney garage, I knew exactly who would be a perfect candidate for this endeavour.

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Back in October last year we published an owner review from Kris. He reviewed his white 2011 Audi S3. And it’s not just any Audi S3 either – it’s a fairly extensively modified S3 Black Edition. You can read Kris’s full owner review here.

With Kris’s intimate knowledge of his own S3 and an obvious affinity for the Audi brand, we thought who better to get involved in our review of the new 2017 Audi S3 Sportback?

Plus, his car sounded pretty interesting to us and we wanted to get behind the wheel of Kris’s car ourselves. So I roped in Senior Editor Trent Nikolic and we met up with Kris at Sydney Olympic Park on a genuinely miserable rainy Thursday morning to see how much things have changed in six short years.

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Kris, who has previously owned an Audi A3 V3.2, upgraded to the S3 because, “even though the big V6 in the small A3 chassis was great fun,” he yearned for something that could be tuned if he needed some extra punch but was still practical for everyday use. Sounds pretty good to us.

Kris picked up the two year old S3 Black Edition in 2013 for $43,000 with 19,000km on the clock and he reckons, “it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made, and 60,000km later it still makes me smile.”


Styling

The A3 Sportback has always been a handsome car, even when it moved from two-door to the larger five-door platform we have here. The new car shares the same silhouette as the older car but the design has evolved slightly over the ensuing five years.

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Kris’s 2011 S3 sports the softer and more rounded styling cues Audi – and Volkswagen for that matter – used across their range at the time. The narrow, blacked out front honeycomb grille and blacked out vents with fog lights the Black Edition brought to the design help raise the menace levels a little compared to the normal S3 Sportback and the base A3 variants.

The rear of the hatch is subdued, with a rounded rear bar and subtle twin exhaust tips extruding from the thin grey plastic rear diffuser. Apart from that, that there isn’t much to differentiate it from the base models.

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Moving on five years, the Vargas Yellow 2017 S3, while looking identical at first glance, even if it has gained a few millimetres in almost all directions (the car is now longer by 53mm, up to 2631mm and width is wider by 20mm at 1785mm), has evolved into a sharper more aggressive looking hatch.

With a few more features tipping a subtle nod to its sporting prowess, including quad tailpipes, larger 19-inch rims and the addition of LED lights, the styling has really come forward.

Both Trent and Kris pointed out how, other than the slightly sharper accents around the lights and vents and the extra two tail-pipes, there hasn’t been any revolution in the design of the model but a definite evolution. What that means for owners like Kris, is the older car is far from dated.

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Kris mentioned he especially liked how Audi has retained its subtle, yet still aggressive styling all around the vehicle. Both agreed though, something the newer car lacked was the larger wheel arches of the second generation car

“If there is only one area I would say the old model looks better, it would be the wheel arches in mine are slightly more flared, which, if added to the new model, would give it an even more menacing stance,” said Kris.

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Interior

The interior of the new S3 is where things have really moved on in visible fashion. The last five years have brought a raft of new additions particularly in the tech and infotainment. But, as Kris and Trent point out, it still follows the same design evolution the exterior does.

“There is a much bigger difference in the evolution of the design than compared to the exterior but it is still all so familiar,” Kris said.

After a few seconds sitting in the driver’s seat, Kris really started to notice some of the smaller differences – things like the door handles, air vents, switch gear and the lack of an ‘S3’ emblem on the shifter or the steering wheel. Instead it is replaced by just an ‘S’ badge.

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Above: 2011 Audi S3 Black Edition (top); 2017 Audi S3 Sportback (bottom)

One key difference between the two cars is that Kris’s Black Edition is fitted with bolstered Recaro front seats, which are quite a bit firmer than the optioned Nappa leather seats fitted to the new 2017 S3. Kris was quick to comment on just how much nicer and more liveable the cabin was with the more supple Nappa leather seats compared to his own Recaro pews.

“It really is just a much nicer place to be with the comfort of the seats and the driving position. I can really find a perfect position and have so much more room to move, it must be just so much easier to live with. It makes me want to jump in and go for a road trip,” Kris said.

The same goes for the second row – everything has improved in the same way, with more support in the seats, more head room, better head rests and a general feeling of spaciousness.

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Above: 2011 Audi S3 Black Edition

Back in the driver’s seat and ready to fire up the engine, the biggest obvious difference between the new 2017 S3 and any of the former models is the introduction of the excellent Virtual Cockpit.

The driver’s display system, which has been rolled out across the Audi range over the last couple of years and makes its first appearance in the 2017 S3, comes as standard equipment on this model.

Replacing the traditional analogue instruments inside the binnacle with a 12.3-inch high-res LCD screen, allows the driver to customise their view with different parameters across driving information, media, navigation and communication. It even allows the driver to use a split screen function.

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Above: 2011 Audi S3 Black Edition (top); 2017 Audi S3 Sportback (bottom)

Once on the move, the first thing Kris said was, “wow, that Virtual Cockpit is f***ing awesome!”

He’s not alone either, with all CarAdvice testers impressed with the new tech, which works extremely well.

“When Trent showed me I could use the Virtual Cockpit screen to illustrate the navigation as a zoomed out view and the smaller pop up screen showing the navigation in a zoomed in view, I was amazed. It’s another testament to Audi’s sensational interiors,” Kris added.

Other interior differences, which are not quite as obvious between the two cars, is the centre pop-up dash-mounted infotainment screen that carries over from the last update. It now features Apple CarPlay/Android Auto as standard.

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Above: CarAdvice reader Kris behind the wheel of the 2017 Audi S3 Sportback


Engine & Transmission

Kris’s 2011 car features the same 2.0-litre TSI engine that could be found in its Volkswagen contemporary, the Mk V Golf GTI.

But, with Audi running its hands over it, the crew from Ingolstadt added a few goodies to bring it up to 188kW and 330Nm. It’s mated to a six-speed dual-clutch transmission making for what was quite a potent hatch at the time. This wasn’t quite enough for Kris though, so the week he picked it up he took it up to Sydney’s Northern Beaches and had it tuned.

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Above: 2011 Audi S3 Black Edition

“When I picked up the car I took it to a tuner in Mona Vale where they installed an APR stage one ECU tune and S-Tronic (DSG) tune,” Kris explained. 

“The modifications have seriously taken the performance to another level. The car is now making  240kW and 440Nm. Combined with the software tune on the S-Tronic gearbox, which increases engine revs to 4100rpm when using launch control and removes auto up-shifts when in manual mode, it makes the older S3 a lot of fun.”

Trent was suitably impressed at the way the modifications have made the older car perform.

“In terms of the driving experience, Kris’s car is a serious step above the standard model of the day,” he said. “The old car was always snappy, but this one is a different beast entirely as the jump in power and torque would suggest.”

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Above: 2011 Audi S3 Black Edition

It’s not just about numbers, though. The new tune needed to retain that signature S3 drivability.

“The tuning improvements he’s made have transformed the mid-range especially, and his S3 has real punch once you’re rolling and the turbo gets into the meat of the boost. Kris’s S3 is a seriously quick car in the same way the modern S3 is really. It gets off the mark sharply, and just keeps accelerating right up to redline.”

Trent reckons Kris is losing nothing when it come to driving engagement despite the age of the car.

“This S3 might have some miles and years on it now, but it’s still genuinely enjoyable to drive, more than fast enough, and properly capable. I wish it wasn’t such a shitty day,” Trent said. 

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Above: 2017 Audi S3 Sportback

Moving into the new car, it is equipped with an all-new seven-speed dual clutch transmission as well as a 2.0-litre engine that Audi engineers completely redesigned in 2013.

As such, it now generates 213kW at 5400rpm and 380Nm at 1850-5300rpm. Kris was amazed at the general smoothness and refinement of the the new car and its linear power delivery.

He likened the newer car’s power delivery to that of a six cylinder, with its abundance of torque spread across the rev range. We took the 2017 car out on Sydney’s always charming M4 motorway, as well as run off the highway for some stop/start driving.

“It generally feels the same as mine on the move, but once you put your foot down, even with 30kW less, the extra gear makes it feel as fast but a whole lot more responsive. You can just use all the torque,” Kris said.

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Above: 2017 Audi S3 Sportback

He was also keen to comment on how much more relaxed the car felt at cruising speed.

“Cruising at 90km/h at 1500rpm would just never happen in mine. We’d be sitting at closer to 2500rpm. DSGs have come a long way!”


Ride & Handling

Once off the M4, we turned off onto some smaller, not so well-kept side roads around Olympic Park and Kris noted how flat the 2017 car was over the bumpy roads and how composed it felt across the rougher sections of road.

“It’s unflappable,” he said. “Mine is all over the shop through this area, but this thing, you can’t shake it.”

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Notably, the newer car is optioned with the $4990 S Performance package, which includes the magnetic ride option as well as the Bang and Olufsen sound system.

Kris mentioned how harsh the ride is on his own car and how tiring it can be over longer drives. That fact is something the team here at the CarAdvice Sydney office know all too well after spending time in our owned and branded Audi S1.

Even being able to flick the switch into dynamic mode is a big change in itself as Kris’s generation only has normal driving and ‘Sport’ when you move the shifter across.

Kris immediately noticed the difference.

“As soon as you switch into ‘Dynamic’ mode with the new S3, you feel everything tighten up, sharpen up. The ride starts to feel a lot closer to mine,” Kris said.

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Steering

You’d expect the steering to be different and Kris said he noticed a difference straight away, noting how much more confidence inspiring it felt.

“When you get the speed up above carpark levels, it tightens up and just feels so much better than the older one,” he said.

“And, when we got on the motorways it felt nice and heavy, which for me is good.”

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On the subject of steering, while setting up for the photo shoot, we noticed Kris’s car asks for more than a full extra turn of lock than the new S3.

As the day wound up, it became clear that despite the age and the kilometres on the speedo, Kris’s S3 remains an impressive vehicle whether it’s been modified or not. There is no doubt it’s even more attractive given how affordable they are currently on the second hand market.

“I think Kris’s S3 has held together remarkably well. Sure, we shouldn’t be surprised at a premium product ageing well, but the automotive landscape has moved forward a long way in a short time, so for his car to feel contemporary is noteworthy,” Trent said.

“It was an exceptional vehicle when it was released, and in many ways it still is. Driving it back to back with the new S3, there was never a feeling like you were stepping back to a lesser vehicle.”

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“Furthermore, if you really feel that the available power is just not enough for you, tuning packages are readily available to give you a little more punch or a lot, depending on your budget,” Trent added.

“You can’t argue with what Kris has done. His car is a rocket.”

And while the dimensions of the model may have grown fractionally larger, not to mention the extra 115kg of equipment it is carrying around, the 2017 Audi S3 is still as well behaved and practical as ever.

Despite it no longer being the halo model of the A3 range, it provides serious performance enjoyment for fans of affordable sporty driver’s cars.

Click on the Photos take for more images by Sam Venn.

MORE: 2017 Audi S3 news, reviews, videos and comparisons
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About Mysterious Everythings

Le Minh Hieu is a national-level weightlifter and a Singapore Weightlifting sports performance coach. Hieu's biggest passion is helping everyone find confidence, happiness, and health through fitness.