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2014 Audi S1 Sportback Review

It barks, and will bite should it feel the need. The A1 is Audi’s lowest step in the brand echelon in Europe and other markets, but is obviously not a lesser car. Audi’s not known for doing things half-assed, and the A1 is no different.

If you happen to be a fan of the make, the previous entry-level A2 was not quite what it should have been which explains why it was pulled by Bernd Pischetsrieder, ex-CEO of VW/Audi, almost immediately when he took the job. The point is that the A1 is a true Audi, through and through. The S1 is that much more.

Seriously. An AWD pocket-rocket with this much attitude and guts gnaws away at my sanity. The S1 is an RS6 that’s been compressed into a diminutive package that desires nothing more than to tear up the Autobahn and curvaceous Alpine roads. The Audi S1 is fast, uber sharp, and a life-size toy that could be used every day.
 

What is an Audi S1?
The Audi A1 is the spiritual successor to the Audi 50 from the mid-‘70s. The S1 is the juiced-up critical business version of the small car.

The A1 is available as a 3- or 5-door hatchback and can be ordered in various trims and nearly a half-dozen engine and transmission configurations. The “S”auce for the S1 includes all the necessary go-fast bits, both mechanical and aesthetic.

2014 Audi S1 Price and Specs
Sadly, do not expect to see the Audi A1 or the S1 in North America anytime soon. There may be a case for the regular A1 in the not-too-distant future. The 140-horsepower 1.4L TFSI would be the most likely powertrain. With this mill, transmission choices reside between a 6-speed manual and a 7-speed S-tronic.

My delectable S1 featured the well known and appreciated 2.0L TFSI. Within the diminutive confines of the S1’s engine bay, it produces 231 horsepower and (crucially) 273 lb-ft of torque. A joy-to-the-world 6-speed manual transmission sends the mojo to Audi’s Quattro AWD system.

If the 2014 Audi S1 were to be available on our shores, it would likely sport a retail price close to that of the Golf R or around $40,000.

Driving the 2014 Audi S1
Walking up to tiny Viper Green S1 got me all tingly inside, and out. The very sight of the car was enough to get me excited at the prospect of barrelling down the Autobahn towards the Alps, then on to Austria for the 2014 edition of Worthersee.

When my expectations are this high, the car had better deliver. The 2014 Audi S1 did not leave me wanting more. The peppy, primed and pouncing python proved to be incredibly alert, sharp, and astoundingly willing to be tossed into any scenario. The relatively short wheelbase with wide-ish track combined with all four wheels at the very corners enable the S1 to remain firmly planted on the road.

The S-specific electromechanical steering, Audi Drive Select (best left in Dynamic) and ultra-efficient Quattro AWD system create an unspoiled scenario for pure unadulterated driving pleasure. The S1 is the closest any car has ever come to the MINI Cooper S JCW I drove a few years back where the interaction between man, machine, and road were in near perfect synchronicity.

Here, Quattro provided that extra grip and control on slipperier portions of the road, besting the MINI; however, the Cooper afforded better tactility at the fingertips than the Audi. In other words, the Audi S1 is a blast.

On the subject of blasting off, the S1 will reach 100km/hr in 5.9 seconds on its way to a top speed of 250. The “weakness” comes from the output lull between 3,500 and 5,500 rpm where torque drops off before max hp chimes in. Off the line, the S1 is very quick, but slightly runs out breath midway through the powerband.

Charging through the Alps at the wheel of the S1 was yet another unbelievable opportunity afforded by Audi. In this instance, the compact S1 was perfectly suited to tighter switchbacks and mustered plenty of power for clean charges out of corners.

Inside and Out of the 2014 Audi S1
I hesitate to use the pit-bull analogy for the S1, but I guess I just did… The squat yet tall-ish front fascia looks as though it’s planning its next move, which when I was at the wheel, was a constant. The large gaping grille is imposing especially blacked out. The rear quarters are akin to those of a conniving raccoon, having just pulled off some dirty-handed stunt, which when I was at the wheel…

The combination of the optional 18” wheels, black accents, Viper green shade and five doors make this pocket-rocket irresistible. Oh, and the QUATTRO decals help, too. A drive and the deal will be sealed.

The want factor will further increase once aboard. The S1’s front seats are supportive and cozy. Front liveable volume is good. The rear bench is snug but suffices, same goes for the trunk.

The level of kit is complete, and I happen to be a fan of the pop-up nav/HMI screen. Ergonomics are good and generally clear in typical Audi fare. Love the flat-bottom steering, and I tremble at the memories provided by the aluminum R8-inspired shift lever.

Comparing the 2014 Audi S1
The Audi A1 has a number of competitors in Europe and other markets. The Mercedes A-Class, the BMW 1 and 2 Series (the 1 was available as a hatch) and MINI products compete with the A1. As stated earlier, the S1 reminds me of the Cooper S JCW and, to a certain extent, the M235i recently evaluated by my colleague.

I felt at home within the confines of the S1 but, truthfully, I’d opt for the Golf R for equal coin.

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