Why the Audi S3 is the new bargain performance saloon.

Audi may be known mainly for their domination of the fast estate car market, but they’ve made some pretty special saloon cars along the way. The first ultra powerful “modern” Audi saloon came in 1997, with the B5 S4 261BHP and 400Nm from a bi-turbo V6. Sounds pretty amazing right? Add this to a sorted chassis with beefy brakes and you’ve got a winning combination.

Jules loose’ tuned S4 saloon.
Audi’s first RS6 rendition in the shape of a saloon.

Jump to 2002 and things have escalated somewhat in Audi’s first RS model to grace the saloon body style. A bi-turbo 4.2 litre V8 threw out an impressive 450BHP taking care of 0-60 in a quoted 4.6 seconds, not bad for a big family saloon car you can do the school run in. The C5’s were known to struggle with gearbox issues though, as the auto-box had the structural rigidity of melted chocolate. Dynamic ride control was pioneered in the C5 and issues began here and continued into B7 RS4.

Next was the B7 RS4. Again a 4.2 litre V8 this time with a manual gearbox and an immensely capable chassis. Dynamic ride control issues persisted but most are now replaced with after-market offerings. Despite being naturally aspirated, the B7 still delivers a satisfying 414BHP, completing its 0-60 in 4.9 seconds. Bucket seats, lashings of carbon and a soundtrack to die for, the B7 is arguably Audi’s most popular performance saloon offering.

C6 RS6 with 420mm ceramic brakes.

Here’s where things get frankly ridiculous. Whoever proposed this in the boardroom is one hell of a salesman. A 5.0 litre Lamborghini derived V10, fitted with two turbos and placed into a family saloon car. 572BHP was the net result although if you know a thing about these cars, most ran closer to 600BHP. 0-60 again completed in 4.6 seconds which doesn’t sound too impressive until you realise a rough kerb-weight of 2.2 tonnes. Despite the weight, these cars are absolute monsters, with a stage 1 remap taking power to over 650BHP with more than 700BHP within your grasp after the addition of an exhaust and filters. Without a doubt my favourite saloon of all time.

The B8 Audi’s venture into supercharged performance cars.

2008 was an awesome time to be an Audi fan: the B7 RS4 is in its final year, the C6 RS6 is being churned out and Audi gave us yet another awesome performance saloon. The B8 S4 was a different recipe from the other cars on this list you’ll know. We’ve seen natural aspiration and some crazy bi-turbo monsters, however this S4 is supercharged. I’ve always appreciated forced induction in the shape of a supercharger, massive power gains without lag , what’s not to love? The B8 produces 328BHP and a very respectable 0-60 of 5.1 seconds. Pretty quick considering it’s not a flagship model. The power plant is a 3.0 litre V6 graced with a supercharger – the output of which can be greatly increased to over 500BHP if you wish to utilise a shorter supercharger pulley, remap and exhaust set up.

2013 4.0 Audi S8

I know I know, there’s the predecessor to this car, the 5.2 litre v10 S8. But I always felt they were more of a gentleman’s cruiser. Whilst the latest generation of the S8 can only be described as a savage business barge.

A stately home-sized saloon car with a 4.0 litre bi-turbo power plant sounds like an interesting recipe to a performance car. Its 0-60 figures of 3.5 seconds is nothing short of ballistic yet it delivers this in a refined and gentlemanly manor. You’re greeted by lashings of carbon fibre and quilted leather – the interior design is nothing short of exquisite. Audi’s have long been questioned on their pricing yet when you step foot inside a modern flagship model you soon see why.

Step forward to the current Audi 8V S3. Now to most this car may seem a little out of place on this list but bare with me. Many of the aforementioned cars deliver blistering performance in the shape of a daily driver, yet almost all are ruinously expensive to run and to own. The Audi S3 has a modest 2.0 litre turbocharged 4-cylinder, producing 306BHP, nothing too exciting right? But when you factor in this little family saloon car will hit 0-60 in under 4.7 seconds, that’s something you just can’t ignore. Launch control as standard and then speccing virtual cockpit, panoramic roof and quilted leather, you’ve a seriously refined interior and the speed to match. The S3 delivers a surprisingly deep exhaust note managing to sound raspy, it crackles on the overrun (S-tronic box especially). It’s amazing where modern technology has brought us, the S3 will outrun near any naturally aspirated B7 RS4. Returning 30-40mpg as it does. Meaning for once you can have performance and economy in what can only be described as one of the best modern performance saloons Audi has ever made.

Audi’s new virtual cockpit is a technological masterpiece.

Published by Sam Busby

a big nosed bearded idiot who likes to write about cars. Lucky enough to have owned a few quick ones too.

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