SPORTY and topless is sure to raise an eyebrow, and although that concept may lead to some unsavoury thoughts, the Audi S3 Cabriolet is nothing but class.
Initially launched in basic guises mid-way through last year, this sporting derivative was a late arrival but is deserving of its own spotlight... this is the first drop-top version of the A3 that we've seen here with an 'S' badge.
Starting just shy of $70,000, it's a heavy premium over the base A3 convertible price which starts at $47,300. For the extra investment you get a meaty powerplant, Quattro all-wheel drive and gorgeous proportions.
Like others in this genre the dimensions are tight. Back seat legroom is limited and best left to kids, and even then the front passengers have to slide a fair way forward.
Our test ride had the $4990 optional package which incorporates sports seats in fine Nappa leather with diamond stitching. They are cosseting and look the part, fitting beautifully with the flat-bottom steering wheel which begs for some see-sawing on challenging roads.
All the materials feel and look the goods, while the acoustic cloth roof (for a quieter ride) will fold into the boot within 20 seconds and at speeds up to 50kmh.
Having sampled the new TT coupe recently we're converts to the groovy cabin style and functionality. It features niceties like all the sat nav and digital features within the driver's instruments, while fan and temperature controls are on the vents.
It's good. Actually it's outstanding, and really has set the Audi standard in our opinion.
Not that there are too many issues with the S3's cabin - the driver has two large instruments, speedometer and tachometer, and can toggle between information on the mid-mounted digital computer.
On the road
Compact convertibles are often labelled "hairdresser cars", but this turbocharged four-cylinder donk has an ability to remove follicles from your head with the top dropped.
Wind it up and the S3 will sprint from stationary to 100kmh in just over five seconds. That's impressively quick and you'll need to dig far deeper in your pocket to get something that does the job equally as well.
There are some brilliant exhaust pops on shifts when under power, and it's best to embrace the lovely tune with the lid tucked away.
It doesn't feel as nimble as its S3 sedan or Sportback siblings, the additional rigidity required for the convertible does add some weight, and sharp bumps can cause some steering wheel shake.
Still no slouch in a bend, the convertible hangs on nicely - just not super-light on its feet.
Various suspension and drive modes suit a range of conditions, although some speed humps cause some serious bouncing when in the comfort setting.
What do you get?
Complimentary items include Xenon headlights and LED daytime lights, sat nav, rear view camera with front and rear sensors, 18-inch alloys, "acoustic" roof, body kit, special exhaust system, leather seat trim with heaters up front, full Bluetooth integration, dual zone air con and push button start.
You still need to tick some boxes to get the really cool stuff, like the S performance package with magnetic ride control, Bang and Olufsen sound system, red brake calipers and 19-inch alloys for $4990.
Or the $1800 assistance pack with radar cruise control, blind spot warning and automatic high beams - which we think should be standard. Metallic or pearl effect paint is $1150.
Premium customers don't traditionally want capped-price servicing which has become popular mainstream, but there is an all-inclusive program which looks after servicing for three years or 45,000km.
We managed an average of eight litres for every 100km which is close to the official figure.
Typical of convertibles, the boot isn't massive but it can cope with several small bags and a reasonable trip to the supermarket. The rear seats have a split-fold ability but the load-through space is restrictive.
For those with littlies, there are two child seat anchor points but those in the back do cop more wind buffeting whereas things are pretty serene in the front pews.
It's hard to find a competitor for seats and performance ability, but there is the BMW M235i ($85,800) and Mini Cooper S Cabrio ($48,800).
With its body kit, alloys and quad exhaust system, it sounds and looks brilliant.
For those seeking the top-down experience along with some serious punch, the S3 really sets the standard in four-seaters.
Boasting wonderful straight line speed, the driver and front passenger can enjoy high levels of comfort in a package which performs as good as it looks.
What matters most
What we liked: Exhaust pops, acceleration in a straight line, electric roof operates at up to 50kmh.
What we'd like to see: Blind-spot warning and radar cruise as standard, less weighty feeling in corners.
Warranty and servicing: Three year/unlimited kilometres warranty with roadside assist. Servicing is every 15,000km or 12 months.
Model: Audi S3 Cabriolet.
Details: Two-door four-seat all-wheel drive luxury compact convertible.
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol generating maximum power of 210kW @ 5300-6200rpm and peak torque of 380Nm @ 1800-5200rpm.
Transmission: Six-speed automatic with paddle shifts.
Consumption: 7.1 litres/100km (combined average).
Performance: 0-100kmh in 5.5 seconds.
Bottom line plus on-roads: $69,300.
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