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Battle of the booted bruisers - Audi S3 sedan and the Subaru WRX CVT


I’VE been fortunate enough of late to drive two very fast saloon cars. On paper they both sound similar; both have large boots, both have 2.0-litre turbo charged engines, are four-wheel-drive and have automatic gearboxes. But after spending a week with each I can report that the Audi S3 sedan and the Subaru WRX CVT are very different beasts, indeed.

Let’s start with what makes these cars great. Much like the WRX models of the past, the current generation gives the everyday person access to performance with enough practicality to rival a Corolla. Underneath the head of the new Rex is a 2.0-litre direct injection turbocharged motor with 197kW/350Nm. When you couple this with the brand’s Lineartronic CVT gearbox, you have a fast car. Although it was hesitant to launch off the line, it certainly has enough shove in-gear.

Then there’s the Audi. The A3 is traditionally known as a hatchback, however, the new sedan variant is my favourite in the range in both looks and in terms of practicality. Under the hood we find a 2.0-litre turbocharged motor with 206kW/380Nm. To put it in perspective, the Scooby is fast but the S3 is insane. It murders the WRX in a straight line. In fact, we arranged a race, the S3 versus the mighty A45 AMG at The Rock Raceway and after two dud runs where the Audi delayed its launch we eventually got it right and the two were very much even with the Mercedes slightly ahead, up until around 160km/h.

In terms of handling, I believe the Scooby has the S3 beaten all ends up. When pushing the Audi on there’s safe under-steer and the same can be said for the WRX. However, the Subaru’s limit was a lot harder to find than the German’s. Each car has settings for the throttle mapping, engine response and suspension. I found the WRX was best in Sports Sharp as opposed to Intelligent or plain Sport while the S3 felt best when in Individual with the Suspension set to Comfort and the rest in Sport.

In terms of practicality, both vehicles have big boots and large interior spaces - the WRX more so. The Audi claws back in the quality stakes as the S3 simple feels a cut above in terms of tangible material quality and design aesthetic. You do get an impressive amount of kit in the WRX and the interior certainly looks the part but I found myself in awe of the Audi’s ergonomic brilliance.

There’s no getting around the next point, pricing… The S3 I had on test was R610 000 whereas the WRX was R470 000. I will concede that the majority of the features fitted to my Audi test vehicle aren’t necessary. However, with niceties like the MMI navigation plus with MMI touch as well as the LED headlights and fantastic Bang and Olufsen sound system, the car is still around R570 000. The Audi does have a longer maintenance plan, a five-year/100 000km versus the three-year/75 000km on the WRX.

In terms of fuel consumption, both vehicles managed to dip just below 10.0 litres/100km over the combined cycle. I believe these figures are impressive considering the kind of performance one gets.

Each car has its own distinctive sound; I know I said that I didn’t like the sound that the S3 Sportback made, but in a direct comparison with the WRX, the S3 sounds decidedly sporty with those distinctive S tronic burps accompanying the four-cylinder thrum. There’s a much-needed performance exhaust available as an optional extra on the WRX; it’s certainly something that I’d tick on the options list.

Overall, if it was my money and I needed something practical for my family and fast for myself, I’d go for the Audi. The WRX in CVT guise doesn’t cut it for me the way its manual sibling did, but at the end of the day it’s almost R100 000 cheaper, which makes it very tempting indeed.

Article written by Sean Nurse
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