S3 test drive

Tom Nas tnas@euronet.nl
Fri, 16 Mar 2001 23:26:58 +0100

Still trying to get the grin off my face...

Just had the opportunity to test drive an S3. Incredible machine, blazing 
red with those polished alloy mirrors and fat Avus wheels filling the 
arches completely. Inside, nice black leather, Navigation plus (wow! 
Excellent toy!) 'dare to be different' high gloss black inserts in the dash 
and the doors. Superb seats, which feel like you're wearing them rather 
than sitting on them. Incredible sound system. The card in the door pocket 
says Dfl 120k. Oops.

When the engine's cold it sounds rather tame, but when it warms up the 
exhaust note (outside the car, you can hardly hear it inside) is a deep 
dark muted thrum. When you boot it, it just grips and goes like stink. The 
limits of adhesion are incredibly high, it feels neutral all the way until 
some silly speed. It isn't my car so I didn't push too hard, but I guess 
its limits are a fair bit higher than mine. Doing the 'esses' at an 
incredibly high speed, you felt the rear come out just a little but 
flooring the accelerator corrected that easily. I didn't take it higher 
than 190 km/h on the straight, but it felt completely safe at that speed 
(you might remember me saying some very different things about a 
pre-modification TT 225q with similar underpinnings a year ago).
The car feels like a hoot to drive. It's a pocket rocket, point and shoot. 
The turbo doesn't come in with the old 'mule's kick', but the power's there 
and it goes all the way to the rev limiter, fast. The six-speed 
transmission is excellent, with very positive action once you get used to 
it. The arm rest gets in the way when you're enjoying yourself, but it 
folds upward easily. The Xe headlights are good, but even on high beam it's 
easy to 'over-drive' your lights.

Likes: feels very tight, quick, solid. Golf-like in ease of operation 
(well, it _is_ a Golf...). Excellent long-distance Autobahn cruiser, relaxing.
Dislikes: the engine noise is too muted, this car is so quick and quiet it 
could easily get you into a lot of trouble. Unlike the UrQ, it doesn't 
flatter you as a driver- I just felt like I was going way too fast for the 
circumstances already and could be in trouble soon. The problem was that I 
_was_ going way too fast indeed, and the diminutive dimensions of the S3 
make you feel slightly vulnerable...


PS Tomorrow I'll take a couple of test drives in a post-modification TT 
225q and the new A4. These will probably be less 'on the limit' than what I 
did tonight but will still make a nice comparison, especially the TT.