Overall rating: 4/5
The fourth and final piece of the Audi S3 mini-range jigsaw drops into place as the A3 Cabriolet gets the 300hp quattro drivetrain.
In the Metal:
Merging the beautiful A3 Cabrio with the Audi S3 themes of a well-judged body kit, bigger alloys and quad tailpipes has hardly hurt the open-top's aesthetic appeal, resulting in a neat and clean-cut shape that would be the envy of any four-seat convertible. The car shares a platform with the A3 Saloon, but the same wheelbase as the A3 hatch and this combination blesses the S3 Cabrio with near-perfect proportions. Inside, the sports upgrades to the seats, steering wheel and finishing trims lift the cabin of the S3 above and beyond the exemplary cockpit found in models lower down the A3 Cabriolet food chain. There's very little to complain about, although we're not sure about the alloys fitted to the cars in Sweden; they looked strangely 1970s.
At 1,695kg, the new S3 Cabriolet is fairly weighty and it carts an extra 245kg about compared to its Saloon brother in S tronic trim. This has the expected impact on 0-100km/h times and economy, the former increasing by half a second to 5.4 seconds overall, the latter dipping below the 40- mark to 39.8mpg, as opposed to the Saloon's 40.9mpg. And to be honest, the acceleration is noticeably dulled in comparison to its stable mates, with even 5.4 seconds looking optimistic, although it sounds good as it pulls cleanly round the rev counter in all gears.
However, that extra weight is better distributed at 56:44 front-to-rear (the Saloon loads 59 per cent of its bulk onto the front axle) and as such the S3 Cabriolet is perfectly capable as an entertaining vehicle on a more sinuous road. OK, it's never going to be the first port of call for someone who fancies demolishing the Col de Turini, but neither is it a simple straight-line cruiser. The Cabrio suffers from the same weight-but-not-feel 'progressive steering' attitude of the other S3s, but thankfully also replicates those cars' ability to finesse out the worst imperfections in the road and maintain control of its body at all times, certainly with Audi's magnetic ride damping system fitted. The S tronic is the only transmission for the cabrio and it makes perfect sense here, making driving the soft-top at a brisker pace a relaxed affair.
The only fly in the ointment is scuttle shake. Dropping the Cabrio by 25mm and firming up various bits of suspension componentry has introduced windscreen frame shudder over the very roughest surfaces with the hood down. It quickly evaporates on smoother roads and shouldn't really be a major issue, but having driven the normal A3 Cabrio last year, which never exhibited such archaic behaviour, it's a shame it's there at all on the range-topping S3 version.
What you get for your Money:
Deliveries for the new S3 Cabriolet will begin in Ireland this summer. It's priced at €58,950. Perhaps its biggest selling point is that it doesn't really have any direct rivals... yet. Of the three cars we could think of above, two of them (the BMW and the Volkswagen) aren't even available at the time of writing and the Merc is a bigger class of car than the A3. So a key selling point for the S3 Cabriolet is that it is class leader in a highly specialised field of one.
As standard you'll get S tronic, the MMI interface and climate control, Xenon headlights, Bluetooth, 18-inch alloys, half cloth/leather seats, rear parking sensors plus other luxuries too, and it feels like a properly top-line car. Loads of temping options are available and will no doubt push the price well beyond €70,000 if you're injudicious when ticking the boxes on the order form.
There are three roof colours for the S3 cabrio and ten body colours, one of which is exclusive to the model, Panther Black crystal effect. Like any other A3 Cabriolet, the S3 version can raise and lower its hood at up to 50km/h, and it gets the top-spec five-layered fabric roof as well. Boot space is 285 litres maximum and 245 litres with the roof stowed away.
Audi's new S3 Cabriolet mixes the DNA of the A3 cabrios and its three S3 brethren together in a seamless fashion, resulting in a classy-looking open-top four-seater that is quicker than anything else even remotely like it out there. When BMW gets round to doing an M235i Convertible, the S3 won't have things all its own way but the quattro drivetrain, S tronic gearbox and 300hp engine all combine to make a secure yet rapid sunny weather cruising machine. Keener drivers should look at one of the tin-topped S3 variants.