Two years after first being launched, Audi has given its pint-sized Autobahn rocket its first update. During those two years, it’s had to face competition from Benz's potent CLA and GLA 45 AMGs, upgraded high-performance BMW 2 Series models including the all-new M2, and the 350-hp all-wheel-drive Ford Focus RS.
While Audi is still debating whether or not to develop an RS3 for the North American marketplace, 2017's refresh brings an additional level of finesse to the already talented sports sedan, as well as a new look.
The S3 adopts the latest front-end styling treatment that includes redesigned L-shaped headlamps with C-shaped LED accents. A new, wider grille with horizontal spars has been fitted; a lower front valance with additional vent slats further emphasizes these changes. 18-inch wheels come standard on the S3, with lightweight five-spoke 19-inchers available as an option.
Under the hood, the S3 features VW Group's high-performance E888A turbocharged 2.0-litre engine, however, for 2017 it's been given a slight power hike. The engine now develops 306 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, which drives through a seven-speed dual clutch automatic transmission. This is the same basic powertrain as featured in the VW Golf R, but with more power and no manual transmission option.
S3s also get standard Quattro all-wheel drive to harness that power, with brake torque vectoring to keep the car feeling neutral when driven hard through corners. Subtle tweaks were made to the S3's suspension and electromechanical power steering, while the Quattro all-wheel-drive system has been given a thorough upgrade. Not only can the car now handle up to 100 percent power to the front or rear wheels, the Quattro's power-shuffling abilities are now governed by the same computer system that handles the stability control, allowing for faster reaction times and more grip.
Visually, Audi hasn't changed the S3's cabin much other than the adoption of the stunning Virtual Cockpit digital instrument cluster. First seen in the TT, R8, and Q7, it offers jaw-dropping graphics and a fully reconfigurable layout. Meanwhile, the nifty retractable MMI display screen remains; it's small at either 5.8 or 7.0 inches, but has been given an update with new menu designs. A flat-bottom steering wheel with a new design and sports seats further set the S3 apart from its standard counterpart, and standard equipment includes a panoramic sunroof and power-adjustable front seats.
Parking sensors, proximity key, reverse camera, navigation, and a premium sound system are a part of the high-level Technik trim grade, but can be added to the base Progressiv trim with various option packages.