People are either drop-top people or they’re not. As they are usually not – at least so far as the commitment to buy one is concerned – all convertibles, cabriolets, spyders, roadsters, barchettas et al. are strictly niche cars. So, we ask a noticeably higher price for them. It’s the logic of paying a premium for a heavier car that emphasizes sun worship and being seen while driving less well than its fixed-roof version and offering less cargo and awkward rollover safety. Chu-ching!
The Audi S3 cabriolet is about as niche as you can get in the open daylight of the mainstream. There will be no four-door A3 or S3 convertible, so this is as small as open Audis get, unless we see an A1/S1 ragtop in future. The S3 Cabrio doesn’t really need to sell much either, to be honest; it’s there because it is an easy and not too costly bit of flair for the company. You’re looking at spending a minimum of €48.500.
Perhaps a sign that Audi is essentially okay with all this, they had me up to central Sweden to twist around on the snow and ice in their open S3. There ended up being precious little ice and snow, so I drove the two-door ragtop on Scandinavian dusty, thawing roads. This was a blessing really, since ice driving in a cabrio, albeit a Quattro one, doesn’t really reveal much of anything about such a car in its foreseen typical day-to-day.
Seeing what the Volkswagen Group is now doing with their 2.0-liter TFSI four-cylinder engine is impressive. [Witness the 420-horsepower TT Clubsport show car from the recent Geneva motor show.] Here, we’re at 300 ps and 380 Newton metres of torque.
In the white test car I had for the driving, the optional colour scheme for the interior that uses the hot red accents is not only cool looking but beautifully put together. Am I surprised by that?
Appropriately, for the folks typically buying a white four-passenger open car with pretty silvery mirror housings, the only transmission available for this S3 is the six-speed S-tronic. The shifting is by now really slick with this well-used gearbox. It is made all the better here by making Audi Drive Select a standard feature, able to be dialled in Efficiency, Comfort, Auto or Dynamic via the onboard MMI screen.
The S sport exhaust system sound is a good sound, and in Dynamic mode of the ADS the exhaust flaps are left open to increase the thrum of the four tailpipes.
Audi’s default S sport suspension is also a standard feature, so the S3 cabriolet looks the part, sitting a full inch lower than any standard A3. The stance over its standard 18-inch wheels and tyres – Dunlop SP Winter Sport for late winter in Scandinavia – is a good show, though optional 19s would look nice on Sunset Boulevard.
The proportions of the S3 Cabrio overall are okay, but a little off due to the quite truncated front overhang and long rear overhang of this two-door configuration of the saloon body used.
The all-important cloth roof has an entirely showboating action for opening and closing, which takes 18 seconds by my watch. You can do these moves while rolling along at 31 mph or less, but that seems pretty silly to do given the opening and closing drama..
Versus all other A3/S3 models, the Cabrio adds some 200 kgs plus in the effort to keep the wide-open configuration from flexing too much under twisting and bending forces. The weight is felt in the car’s half-second slower acceleration to 100 km/h in around 5,4 seconds, which is honestly still quick enough for this stylish crowd.
Cranking the climate control to hot and strong, switching on the optional heat ventilation on the sport seats, and wearing cosy clothes in the cold is one of my favourite exercises and this was good fun in the S3 quattro once I got everything set up in Dynamic of the ADS. All elements that make this an S model add so much the normally uneventful non-S four-door setup.
The S3 quattro cabriolet starts deliveries in Western Europe at the beginning of June this year. The possibility of offering a no-cost switch to the six-speed manual is not out of the question according to sources, but it would be no surprise if Audi stuck to the base S-tronic.
- Engine: 2,0L turbo 4cyl
- Power: 300 PS / 380 NM
- Transmission: 7-Speed automated dual-clutch
- 0-100 km/h: 5,4 Seconds (est.)
- Top Speed: 250 km/h
- Drivetrain: All-Wheel Drive
- Kerb Weight: 1.620 KGS (est.)
- Seating: 2+2
- Cargo: 320 lts (270 lts roof open}
- Fuel/100kms: 6.0 HWY/ 9.5 City (est.)
- Base Price: €48.500 (est.)
- Price as tested: €52.500 (est.)