When one's mind turns toward performance Audi's, initial thought usually conjures up images of the glorious Quattros from the 80's, R8s and countless hyper luxury cars carrying the famous 'RS' designation. I'll be the first to admit for having a soft spot for them - especially the now superseded ballistic twin-turbo V10 RS6 (and gosh how I'd trade in my family for one of those too). However, for those who want something rapid in a smaller, more open-plan configuration then Audi has the just prescription for you.
Following on from the recently revealed S3 sedan, the convertible model of the series will largely follow the four-door's recipe - sans the tin roof of course. Now while Audi have yet to officially reveal this variant, we're giving an illustrated preview of how the final product will look.
Firstly, one will notice the traditional single-frame grille with its aluminum bars giving an illusion of visual width, flanked either side with optional full LED headlights with precision laser-cut graphics. Standing back from the front end will yield a view with classic proportions - this is due to being based on the S3 sedan as opposed to the hatchback. In terms of detailing, past Audi convertible themes have re-appeared; for example, those aluminum side mirror caps and windscreen frame are back, emphasizing its premium appearance.
Moving past the car's taut and muscular surfaces towards the rear will showcase sculptured tail lights that are elongated to mirror the front-end's sense of perceived width. Unlike many convertibles that have gone for folding metal roofs, Audi has eschewed that trend by sticking with the soft stuff. With its top off (I mean down), prying eyes are treated to an gorgeous interior with a leather-clad clean, minimalistic feel.
Expect most of the luxuries of the sedan/hatch to flow over into the cabriolet - cue the 7-inch MMI infotainment screen that power retracts from the dash. Bang & Olufsen will take care of the audiophiles with its top-notch sound quality and those who need to be wirelessly connected on the go can do so via Audi Connect. Commuters with a penchant for driving whilst distracted will be pleased to know there are a host of driving assists including adaptive cruise control, lane assist, plus automated park assist - the latter being great for those tight spots.
As for the good stuff; expect the S3 saloon/hatch's 296hp (300PS) 2.0-litre turbocharged engine coupled with Quattro all-wheel drive. Performance should be in-line with the other S3 variants, so cue at least a sub 6 second 0-60mph sprint for the S-tronic automatic. Usually when a hacksaw is taken to any roof, additional strengthening is needed; how handling will be affected using the Volkswagen Group's MQB modular platform remains to be seen. However, doubts aside - the Audi Drive Select system should keep things in check with its electromagnetic damper control program with individual settings for ones desired sport or comfort preferences.
In terms of opposition? Well, besides the BMW 135i and 135is, the S3 Convertible doesn't have much competition (for now) as most other soft-tops are either large (cue Mustang) or smaller and underpowered (i.e Mazda Miata, Volkswagen Eos). Perhaps the closest competition comes from within - in form of the bigger Audi A5 cabriolet. An actual on-sale date is yet to be confirmed; however, we can expect a launch date sometime in 2014 as a 2015 model.
Overall, the S3 Cabriolet promises to be a substantially potent package, and looks great to boot (which is unusual for me to say, as I've never been a huge fan of ragtops). So I have to ask - top up or down?
By Josh ByrnesPhoto Renderings Copyright: Josh Byrnes / Carscoops