Audi is readying its new A3 range for the 2012 Geneva motor show, but our man on the Continent has papped these crystal-clear spy shots of the new A3 - possibly in S3 spec - a few weeks early.
What makes you think this is the new 2012 Audi S3?
See those twin pipes at the rear? That's a signature flourish of Audi's go-faster S models. We can't see if the mirror caps are in metal-effect aluminium finish under that black-and-white disguise.
The new A3 range will be shown at the 2012 Geneva auto show, which opens to the world's media on Tuesday 6 March.
These new spy photos confirm the new A3 will follow the path trod by today's car; we've photographed the three-door hatchback, but a five-door Sportback A3 will be sold too.
What's new on the 2012 Audi A3 range?
Sadly, we're not expecting most A3s to get the cop-car flashing light on top. That's part of the telemetry systems used by Audi engineers putting this prototype through its paces ahead of launch.
But like the new VW Golf Mk7, the new A3 gets a radically different technical architecture. Called MQB, standing for Modularer Querbaukasten, or Modular Transverse Matrix, the new platform means the mid-sized Volkswagens will have access to the latest technology - and be easier to build.
Our sources in Germany suggest MQB will be as much as 20% cheaper to manufacture; a significant saving when you consider the group aims to manufacture around 2 million cars off this platform annually.
Because the Audi A3 is positioned at the premium end of MQB, it is unlikely to offer the 1.2 engines planned for the Golf. But a 2.0-litre turbo TSI with four-wheel drive is very much on the cards. Sources at the group suggest 300bhp and 295lb ft is possible; kept in check by Quattro four-wheel drive, naturally.
Perhaps of more interest, bearing in mind Audi's imminent E-tron experiment with electric cars, is the planned suite of alternative powertrains: hybrids, range-extenders and full electric drive are all planned for MQB.