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- Highs Lively acceleration, excellent handling, upscale cabin trimmings.
- Lows Tight rear seat, limited trunk space, no manual transmission option.
- Verdict The S3 combines the comfort of a near-luxury sedan with the zesty driving dynamics of a sports model.
The S3 sports compact sedan was added to Audi’s U.S. lineup with the introduction of the second A3, sold here for the 2015 model year. While the A3 is available in the U.S. as a four-door sedan or a two-door convertible with front- or all-wheel-drive, the S3 is sedan-only, with a high-performance turbocharged 2.0-liter engine. It powers all four wheels using Audi’s vaunted Quattro all-wheel-drive-system and a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic with paddle-shifters. The S3 spices up the A3’s exterior sheetmetal with a trunk-lip spoiler, aluminum-optic mirror housings and diffuser blades, aluminum door sills with S3 emblems, quad exhaust pipes with finishers, and platinum gray matte grille.
What's New for 2017?
A mid-cycle update for the 2017 S3 concentrated on mechanical upgrades. The 2016 model’s 2.0-liter turbo engine was replaced with the new 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 with both direct- and port-injection, increasing horsepower and torque. The 2017 S3 also comes with suspension, steering, and all-wheel-drive updates and anti-lock braking. Retuned differentials allow 100 percent power to the front or rear wheels. The entire S3 and A3 line was treated to a facelift for 2017, with slimmer headlamp lenses and a new front fascia with the latest version of Audi’s signature single-frame grille.
- Premium Plus: $43,850
- Prestige: $49,350
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Engine, Transmission, and Performance
The S3’s new 2.0-liter turbo four is rated at a healthy 306 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. This new engine uses both port and fuel injection, and the power peaks just 100 rpm after the torque peak drops off, resulting in smooth, linear acceleration.The S3 comes with model-specific sport suspension and braking, with segment-exclusive magnetic ride suspension, adjustable by Audi’s Drive Select system, which provides an array of settings from comfort to sport-plus, as well as customized individual settings for suspension, throttle response, and transmission response. Special 18-inch wheels with summer performance tires are standard, and 19-inch wheels are available as part of an optional performance package. Steering is accurate and lightly weighted, and the S3's suspension feels taut and precise at every corner.
EPA fuel-economy testing and reporting procedures have changed over time. For the latest numbers on current and older vehicles, visit the EPA’s website and select Find & Compare Cars.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
The S3’s interior uses premium design and materials to separate it from its “kid racer” Volkswagen GTI platform sibling, making it a quick car you can live with. Standard features include well-bolstered, heated front seats, leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control, and upscale aluminum and chrome trim. The greenhouse is upright and more sedan-like than coupe-like, as is popular among sporty sedans lately. The rear seat is tight, however, especially if three adult-size people attempt to squeeze in. Trunk space is limited, but typical of compact sedans, at 10 cubic feet.
Infotainment and Connectivity
The Audi Multi-Media Interface (MMI) screen at the top of the center console looks a bit small compared with competitors’ screens. But it pops up and down, “monolith”-style, and it’s best to press the button to hide it down in the dash and use the driver instrument panel’s 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit screen, which replicates most of the same functions. Standard tech includes two USB ports, Bluetooth connectivity, and a 10-speaker audio system.
Safety Features and Crash Test Ratings
Overall Safety Rating (NHTSA)
Some older vehicles are still eligible for coverage under a manufacturer's Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) program. For more information visit our guide to every manufacturer's CPO program.