Long-term Update: Audi S3 Cabriolet
Being in Pretoria or Cape Town, you often forget how beautiful other parts of the country can be. The Klein Karoo has its brand of breathtaking scenery while forests await up north towards Tzaneen.
But there are unmatched landscapes in the ‘Berg family. Between Underberg and the Midlands, you could easily forget that you are somewhere in between the two capitals.
And that is where I ventured this past weekend; to the Midlands. It’s not too rural, thanks to the bustling influence of Nottingham Road residences and their visits to Michael House, Hilton and St Anne’s. I am thankful for this because I have opted to take the long-term Audi S3 Cabriolet mostly because we have yet to enjoy each other over a long stretch of road.
The last time I had the S3, it was moaning about the engine water temperature, which turned out to be a faulty thermostat. That has since been replaced and just in time because even though we are approaching March, the midday temperatures are still in the high 30s.
After a late start, thanks to a longer than expected shopping expedition, it is well past noon when we set out, but inside the Audi things are cosy. It is true that you only need three pedals and a steering wheel to get you to your destination but I do enjoy the S3’s adaptive cruise control for long journeys.
The technology is not new; our A7 from many moons back also had it, but the S3 was one of the first vehicles in its bracket to offer the traffic-aware system. It is not without its problems and gets confused if there is a slower moving vehicle ahead mid-corner. I’m not saying that it will ignore the car and plough right through it, it just sees it a bit late, resulting in the brakes being used more aggressively than needed.
The same system is also used for Audi’s Pre-Sense crash avoidance technology, and while I have in the past commented about how easy it is for this to be confused with any metal ahead, it is reassuring to know that there is an autonomous system watching the road.
We reached the Midlands in a comfortable and rested state even though the S3 can be classified as a performance vehicle. On top of that, it managed an average fuel consumption of 6,9 l/100 km although that was due mainly to huge portions of the road classified as 100 km/h zones.
We were in the Midlands for a wedding, which was beautiful and in the traditional Midlands fashion was interrupted by a mist that was so dense you couldn’t see more than 10 metres ahead. That made for an unmatched atmosphere, but when it was time to navigate the short distance back to our guest house it made me aware of another great S3 feature, the LED headlights.
I have heard British journalists say that when you buy a vehicle, you get the best possible lights that are on offer, and I now understand why. The very English weather was no match for the piercing white gaze of the Audi’s LED lights which illuminated the road despite the mists.
This is not the sort of journey that the S3 Cabriolet was built for. We didn’t take the top off once because it was either skull-meltingly hot or raining and the mountain passes there require a tractor, not better traction. But the S3 was still a pleasure to drive there and back, keeping us comfortable and not breaking the bank with fuel costs.
The standard A3 is one of the most practical cars that I can think of, with the S3 Sportback simply adding performance onto that package. The S3 Cabriolet does sacrifice practicality (I doubt you’ll fit a door in the back) but in the right setting and with the roof down it can easily pass as a grand tourer. And the rest of the time it is still a loveable A3.