Franschhoek, Western Cape – For a very long time, the Germans insisted that the 2,0-litre TFSI engine found in the Audi S3 and Volkswagen Golf R had to be restricted to 206 kW here in South Africa due to our climate. Finally, Audi South Africa has convinced the hierarchy that our conditions are suitable for a higher-output engine, which means the S3 now delivers 228 kW and 400 N.m of torque to all four wheels through the new-to-the-range seven-speed S tronic wet dual-clutch transmission.
This is just one of the handful of updates that comprise the A3 facelift for 2017. There's also a slight exterior redesign, including revised head- and taillamps, as well as the inclusion of Audi's (optional) virtual cockpit inside.
The range furthermore now features an array of new and updated engines, but with a high possibility of the new S3's engine making its way into the upcoming Golf R (via the latter's latest facelift), we thought it would be pertinent to give the S3 Sedan a whirl to see whether that extra grunt makes much of a difference.
The Audi S3 Sedan has never been a "shouty" performance car, and it often requires a second look to differentiate it from lesser A3 derivatives. This remains the case with the facelift, although the most obvious visual enhancements include the LED head- and taillamps, revised front and rear bumpers and a restyled bonnet.
Changes to the interior are just as subtle. The sports seats, steering wheel and pedals appear unchanged, along with the 7-inch infotainment screen (with a USB port) and brushed aluminium finishes. The brand's clever virtual cockpit, however, is now optionally available.
As mentioned, there is more oomph on offer than before, although it's quite hard to notice this at the lower end of the powerband. Indeed, in urban driving situations, the S3 feels composed and serves up a fairly comfortable experience.
Sure, the 18-inch wheels and sports suspension render the ride a bit choppy, even on fairly smooth tarmac, but it's nowhere near unbearable. The progressive steering and wet clutch system also make for an easier drive than before.
Once you kick things up a notch, the true capabilities of the S3 become apparent. Much like before, it is exceptionally grippy and deals with high-speed corners with little or no signs of understeer. Here the extra power really makes its presence felt, and there's very little turbo-lag to speak of.
Overall, the S3 Sedan does a fine job of inspiring confidence, all without sapping the driver's energy levels, which makes it particularly adept at long-distance driving.
The S3 Sedan gains a number of minor improvements that come together quite pleasingly. The bump in power is welcome, and thankfully does not come at the expense of comfort.
In its original form, the Audi S3 Sedan was an accomplished vehicle, and these latest improvements simply add to its appeal. Next up: a facelifted Golf R with 228 kW?