The Audi S3 is a pricier and more potent version of Audi’s entry-level sedan, the A3, and for those looking to spice up their compact sedan experience, this little jewel is a winner. With a starting MSRP of $45,400, the 2016 S3 arrives with Quattro all-wheel-drive, a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission with paddle-shifters, a 292-hp 280 lb-ft 2.0L TSFI turbo four-cylinder and peerless build quality. Essentially a mechanical twin to the Volkswagen Golf R, the S3 brings that performance in a classier, albeit less practical form. While a manual transmission is available in Europe, North America is auto only.
You’ll spot the S3 by its lowered ride height, extended side sills, body coloured rear spoiler, quad tailpipes and the badass 19-inch rolling stock (okay, optional at $1600 but recommended).
The cabin initially looks a bit plain, but the high quality and attention to detail win over. On start up the 5.8-inch MMI screen glides up from a slot in the dash. Every surface appears to have been vetted for scrutiny. Being a compact car, back seat room is just adequate for two adults. The trunk is not large and has a small opening.
This is a deceptively quick car and it will chew up a winding road with composed neutrality. With four driving modes (Comfort, Normal, Dynamic and Individual), the S3 will accommodate the driver’s every mood. Highway driving is stable, quiet and relaxed, although ride can get choppy over rough surfaces if the car is rolling on 19-inch wheels.
Standard equipment includes leather, 18-inch alloys, panoramic roof, aluminum pedals, Xenon headlights, S Sport Suspension, auto climate, rain sensing wipers, heated front seats, driver memory settings, Bluetooth, driver and passenger powered lumbar and powered/heated exterior mirrors. The $3500 Technik package adds navigation, rearview camera, Audi side assist, advanced proximity key, Bang and Olufsen sound, parking system with front and rear sensors. Active lane assist, adaptive cruise and forward collision mitigation come in the $1400 Technology Package.
The $1500 S Sport Seats Package bestows snug front buckets, Nappa leather with silver diamond stitched shoulder pads plus leather door and centre arm rests. Adaptive LED headlights run $1050.
The 2016 Audi S3 gets pricey when optioned up, but with its only real competitor being the brutish and more expensive 375-hp Mercedes CLA45 AMG 4Matic, the S3 sets itself apart with stellar build quality, better fuel economy and a more rounded, civilized driving experience.
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