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Audi S3 Cabriolet

ROOFLESS RESPONSE (some text hidden)

By Jonathan Crouch

Audi's improved S3 Cabriolet offers a strange blend of talents. Any takers? Jonathan Crouch reports.

Ten Second Reviewword count: 50

Small cabriolets haven't really tended to be that purposeful. Cute, yes; fun, sometimes. Audi improved S3 Cabriolet aims to prove that just by owning a drop top you haven't dropped the ball when it comes to performance. Now with 310PS and all-wheel drive beneath you, it's got some serious firepower.

Backgroundword count: 198

There are certain classes of car where the competition is white hot. If you were building a car to seriously challenge the Volkswagen Golf, the Ford Fiesta or the Porsche 911's market position, your vehicle would need to be hot stuff, with the sort of investment ploughed into its R&D that would keep a third-world dictator in diamond-encrusted loo seats for years. Then there are some vehicle sectors where mediocrity tends to rule. For altogether too long, the compact convertible sector has largely been populated with - and let's not be overly delicate here - outdated rubbish. This is the domain of fat-bottomed and wobbly coupe cabriolets, previous generation chop tops seeing out their dotage and ideas that should never have left the drawing board. It's where car manufacturers hide their models that look like dumpsters. Thankfully, it doesn't have to be so. Take Audi's much improved second generation A3 cabriolet, for instance. Here's a properly developed, well-proportioned car that drives well, now that (unlike its predecessor) it's been spun from a longer-wheelbase saloon. It's offered in upgraded tarmac-tearing S3 guise too. Is that a step too far for a market that's been perfectly happy with ambling ineptitude?

Driving Experienceword count: 243

The idea of a genuinely quick compact convertible takes a bit of getting used to. Thanks to an improved 2.0 TFSI turbo engine that now puts out 310PS (10PS more than before), the S3 Cabriolet smashes its way through 62mph in a mere 5.1 seconds and keeps going to an electronically limited 155mph. The seven-speed S tronic auto transmission you have to have is new, a replacement for the previous six-speed S tronic 'box. Its added ratio allows Audi to fit a lower first gear - which accounts as much as the increased power for the 0.3s improvement in the 0-62mph sprint time. Changes to the software controlling the Haldex multi-plate-clutch four-wheel drive system now allow it to send up to 100% of drive to the front or rear wheels, depending on the traction available. Audi claims to have programmed the system to provide a greater percentage of drive to the rear wheels during spirited driving. The idea is that this will provide the S3 with more neutral on-the-limit handling traits, with less of a tendency towards understeer and a more tail-happy character than previous model. Audi drive select is standard and incorporates the characteristics of the electronic accelerator, the boost of the progressive steering and the shift points of the transmission. The driver determines with the push of a button whether these systems operate in comfort, auto, dynamic, efficiency or individual mode. In individual mode, drivers can compose their own preferred profile.

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Category: Convertibles

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