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- Highs Spirited acceleration, excellent handling, upscale cabin trimmings.
- Lows Cramped back seat, limited trunk space, no manual transmission.
- Verdict The S3 combines the comfort of a near-luxury sedan with the zesty driving dynamics of a sports model.
Audi introduced the S3 sedan in the 2015 model year as a performance sedan designed to compete with the Mercedes-AMG CLA45 and the more affordable Subaru WRX STI. Like the AMG CLA, the S3 is available only with all-wheel-drive, in this case the tried-and-true Quattro system. Based on the second-generation A3, the S3 shares its Volkswagen Group MQB platform with the VW Golf GTI, though with aluminum knuckles affixed to its strut-type front suspension and optional magnetic-adjustable shocks. The S3 is a sporty, performance entree for young, relatively well-healed drivers who want to get into the Audi brand.
What's New for 2018?
Audi added a new S Sport package as an option for the 2018 S3, with red brake calipers and Audi magnetic ride shocks.
- Premium Plus: $44,625
- Prestige: $49,925
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Engine, Transmission, and Performance
A mild mid-cycle update for the 2017 model Audi S3 concentrated on mechanical upgrades. The old model’s 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4 was replaced with the EA888 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4, making 306 horsepower, and 295 pound-feet of torque . The 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. It’s available only with a six-speed dual-clutch automatic, however. There are also suspension, steering, and all-wheel-drive updates, including integration of the electronic control for the BorgWarner AWD’s multiplate clutch into the same system as the stability control, traction control, and anti-lock braking, for quicker, more coherent mechanical reactions to driver inputs. Steering is accurate and lightly weighted, and the 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 is Audi’s conception of a hot compact softened slightly on the inside, with premium design and materials to separate it from its VW GTI platform sibling. It’s a quick car you can live comfortably with. Well-bolstered, heated front seats, hold the driver and front passenger nicely through the corners. Those in the back, however, will find space at a premium. All S3 models come with such features as a panoramic sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, and ambient interior lighting. Options include quilted diamond-patterned nappa leather upholstery, adaptive cruise control, and additional driver-assistance features. The trunk offers just 10.0 cubic feet of cargo room, but the rear seats fold down for extra storage space.
Infotainment and Connectivity
Standard tech in the S3 includes Bluetooth connectivity, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integrations, two USB ports, and a 10-speaker audio system. The Technology package—standard on the Prestige trim—adds such features as navigation and premium 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio. The retractable Audi Multi-Media Interface (MMI) screen at the top of the center console looks a bit small compared with competitors’ screens. 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.
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.