New & Used Audi S3: In Depth
Angular Front Exterior View - 2016 Audi S3 4-door Sedan quattro 2.0T Premium PlusEnlarge Photo
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Audi's S3 is the sporty version of the compact A3 and comes to the North American Audi lineup for the first time alongside an A3 that was fully redesigned for the 2015 model year.
The S3 is a rival for cars such as the Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG, the BMW M235i, and even the Subaru WRX and STI. It is available here only as in sedan form, although in other markets Audi offers the S3 Cabriolet and Sportback (hatchback). European buyers can get an even more powerful RS 3 Sportback.
Within the A3 range, the S3 is joined by a plug-in hybrid A3 e-tron hatchback and a turbodiesel A3 TDI. The S3's powerful turbo four and suspension tuning set it apart from the rest, making it the most fun choice.
MORE: Read our 2016 Audi S3 review
The A3 and S3 are the smallest cars Audi offers in the U.S. at this time. Both ride on VW Group's "MQB" architecture for transverse-engine compact vehicles, which is shared with the latest Volkswagen Golf, among many others. Despite their relative smallness, the A3 and S3 are about the same size as a 1994 Audi A4, which shows how much cars have ballooned in size in 20 years.
The new A3/S3 family of cars includes the sedan, a pretty convertible, and a plug-in hybrid hatchback all to be offered in the U.S., as well as an Avant wagon unlikely to be sold in America. Also related, but a little more distantly, is the compact Audi Q3 crossover, which shares some drivetrain and suspension pieces. For now, the S3 is offered here only as a sedan.
While other versions of the A3 offer efficient four-cylinders, diesels, and plug-in powertrains, the S3 takes to the road only with a 292-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter four. The S3 is said to be good for a 0–60 mph time of 4.8 seconds, and a top speed of 155 mph.
Standard equipment includes a six-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission, though Audi of America is considering importation a six-speed manual version. The S3 has all-wheel drive, and it rides on a front strut/rear torsion-beam suspension, with a lower ride height than the A3.
The S3's electric power steering can be tuned to different amounts of effort using Audi's Drive Select controls. Drive Select also manages the optional magnetic shocks if equipped, as well as throttle, transmission, and sound settings. All S3s come wearing a set of sticky 19-inch Continental ContiSport tires as standard equipment.
Given its compact dimensions, the S3 lends good room to front passengers, and slights those in the rear a little. At 175.9 inches long, the S3 is about nine inches shorter than a CLA, and its 103.4-inch wheelbase is nearly three inches shorter, though its more upright style nets better interior room than the Benz. The trunk space measures in at 13.7 cubic feet.
Safety features include simulated torque vectoring and options for blind spot monitors and adaptive cruise control.
Every S3 will come with standard power windows, locks, and mirrors; cruise control; leather upholstery; Bluetooth; and a panoramic sunroof. Audi's MMI system with touchpad input is also standard, with a big retractable screen displaying output from the dash. Audi Connect delivers LTE-speed data from AT&T and renders Google Earth maps and other rich feeds to the car, and also enables wireless service to as many as eight devices.
Audi recently announced that it will offer an RS 3 in the U.S. soon, but instead of the hatchback that's offered elsewhere, our model will use the sedan body. That minor letdown aside, the RS 3 should use the same 367-hp turbocharged five-cylinder engine, seven-speed dual-clutch, and aggressive bodywork. The RS 3 could arrive for 2016 or 2017.
Just a few changes come to the S3 for 2016. The most noteworthy is the addition of an available Black Optic Performance package, which bundles Audi Sport multi-spoke titanium-matte wheels, Black Optic exterior trim, and magnetic ride suspension.