When it was launched back in 1999, the Audi S3 was the most powerful hot hatch available. But where some performance cars made it obvious they had power, the S3 kept things subtle, which is part of the appeal for many.
It used the same 1.8ltr 20v turbo lump found in the Mk1 TT, but where the TT got 225bhp, the S3 was detuned to 210bhp so it didn’t compete with its cooler brother. Even so, the S was packed with goodies including quattro 4WD, Xenon headlights and leather Recaro seats. Then in 2001 Audi decided to give it, the power it deserved – an extra 15bhp. It also received a mild makeover including dash and headlights and taillights.
The S3 is a very solid car with subtle, but purposeful looks. To set if apart from other A3s it got a deeper front bumper with driving lamps and large vent. The sideskirts have a square edge to them and the rear bumper has a black centre and cut out for the twin exhaust.
At 1300kg, the S3 is no lightweight, but with 225bhp, the later models shift even as standard. The six-speed gearbox isn’t the liveliest unit in the world, but with plenty of turbo induced torque, it’s no big deal. Like the TT, the Quattro 4WD system has a FWD bias, but the rears wheels come into play when it gets slippy.
Interior options included bright blue and yellow Alcantara for the seat inserts and door cards, but beware, as they don’t wear as well as plain old leather. The beauty of the S3 is that there are lots about; many have also been treated to a remap, and the 1.8T lump is a strong and reliable unit. A great way into an entry level S-badged Audi.
Audi S3 stats (1999-2003)
Engine: 1.8ltr 20v turbo
Power: 210bhp (1999-2000) 225bhp (2001-2003)
Top speed: 150mph
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Coil packs are very common failures, but easy and cheap to fix. Maff sensors also go and cost about £90. Water pumps often break down and the variable valve timing can need looking at.
TUNING AN S3
The 20v turbo lump is one of the most tunable units around. A basic remap and exhaust including downpipe, will take it to around 270bhp. From here a large front mount intercooler will keep charge temps down, while an uprated turbo kit including manifold, should see you on the way to 350bhp. From here, some quality suspension will sharpen up the dead feeling S3, while uprated brakes are essential if you’re going for more power. An all in one gauge such as a Race Diagnostics unit is a great investment as it allows you to keep an eye on everything and reset faults.
See more PERFORMANCE CAR GUIDES