Compact luxury cars are rightly perceived as the logical gateway to most premium brands. Based on the Audi A3, the 2017 Audi S3 takes Audi’s small-car platform and transforms it into a performance sedan worthy of much praise.
Offering space for five, the all-wheel-drive Audi S3 is powered by a turbocharged four-cylinder engine paired with a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Two trims are offered: Premium Plus and Prestige.
The 2017 Audi S3 benefits from minor cosmetic changes. The previously optional forward collision mitigation system is now standard, and the infotainment system has been updated. New features for the current model year include a USB port and rear cross-traffic alert.
We expect most shoppers would deem the Audi S3 a handsome sedan. It is a tidy package, one that successfully brings Audi’s stylish design language to a small frame. Although the S3 shares its sheet metal with the Audi A3, it is the special touches that give this performance sedan its unique character.
The front fascia features a more pronounced chin than the A3 and offers a unique grille and decisive chiseling. The LED light signature is unique, offering a warning to the vehicle in front that an above-the-ordinary sedan on its heels.
Crisp lines flow across the hood and along the sides, pushing back to the raised rear deck. All models are outfitted with 18- or 19-inch alloy wheels in a variety of five-spoke designs, and heated power-folding side mirrors are available. Sporty skirts offer flair and distinction. The rear fascia is marked by a trunk-lip spoiler, flared combination lamps and quad-exhaust outlets.
If the 2017 Audi S3 has a weak point, it’s the lack of spaciousness found in the cabin. The back seat is tiny, with a dearth of reasonable room for adult passengers.
That aside, everything else about the cabin is top notch. The front seats are unusually attractive and offer excellent support, and they are just the type of seats you want when taking long trips or navigating twisty roads. Audi delivers interiors that are clean, orderly and dressed in high-end materials, and the S3 features gorgeous leather seats with contrast stitching and embossing.
The sedan’s cockpit features a configurable LCD screen offering the expected driver readouts and Google maps. Oversized circular vents bedeck an otherwise spartan dashboard. A natty flat-bottomed steering wheel and metal pedals advance this sedan’s sporty yet fashionable disposition.
The S3’s cargo space measures just 10 cubic feet, but the split-folding rear bench seat works to enhance cargo capacity. Thoughtfully, Audi added a center pass-through for those times the back seat is needed but long items (such as a set of skis) must be stored within.
Standard equipment includes full power accessories, dual-zone automatic climate control, a panoramic sunroof, a tilt-and-telescoping steering column, heated front seats, leather upholstery and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. The Prestige grade supplements ambient LED lighting.
Weighing in at just under 3,500 pounds, the relatively lightweight S3 is no slouch. The sedan’s turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine makes 292 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque, and this spirited power plant offers immediate throttle response.
Four drive modes are offered: Comfort, Auto, Dynamic and Individual. These are controlled via the MMI interface or a switch located near the bottom of the center stack. Switch to Dynamic mode and the engine perks up, delivering bubbly noises that are sent into the cabin. It’s definitely a pleasing sound for those who value a close connection to the engine, even if the tune is mechanically enhanced.
The S3 inspires confidence thanks to its excellent all-wheel-drive system and magnetic fluid dampers. Add in the standard summer performance tires, and this sedan handles curved roads with precision. The steering has a pleasantly substantial feel while remaining light to the touch.
The fact that the S3 doesn’t offer a manual gearbox in the U.S. market is a demerit for ardent enthusiasts. At the same time, the dual-clutch automatic transmission is more than sufficient, especially when the paddle shifters are engaged. The turbo eagerly pulls the engine through the lower gears with a high output of power present at top speeds.
In recent years, Audi has improved its technologies, replacing the previous cables to connect a smartphone with a USB port. The MMI interface takes some getting used to, with a dial and switches controlling same.
The color display emerges from the dashboard once the ignition is activated. The screen features a black background with orange and white lettering. It is easy to read and does an excellent job in adjusting to lighting conditions. The maps are highly detailed, clear and understandable.
Smartphone integration with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is included. The standard 10-speaker audio package offers high-quality sound and clarity and may be upgraded to a 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen system. All models come with HD radio, satellite radio, an SD card slot and Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity.
The 2017 Audi S3 earned a perfect five-star rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
This sedan is equipped with a rearview camera, forward collision mitigation with automatic braking and front and rear parking sensors as standard equipment. Package and trim upgrades bring in lane keeping assist, blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control and rear cross-traffic alert. Rear-seat side airbags are optional.
The 2017 Audi S3 Premium Plus starts at $42,900, plus $950 for destination. The S3 Prestige is priced from $48,400.
Our test S3 (a Prestige model with no upgrades) carried a suggested price of $49,350 after destination. This model builds on the Premium Plus, adding navigation, heated power-folding mirrors, a 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system, active lane assist, adaptive cruise control and rear cross-traffic assist.
Opting for the Prestige package brings in many of the amenities that round out any luxury car. The additional safety features are handy for the individual who regularly drives long distances. Various option packages, including S Sport seats ($1,450) and black optic dynamic wheels ($2,000) can push your final price above $55,000.
The S3 has a price advantage relative to the other German models it is likely to be cross-shopped against, while offering strong feature content and pleasing performance. As such, it represents good value.
If a roomy rear seat is important to you, then the S3 will disappoint. This performance sedan is ideal for two, with the back seat best utilized for extra storage space or for young children.
The S3’s most favorable attribute is the way it handles on twisty roads, with its all-wheel-drive system enhancing this sedan’s impressive driving dynamics. The 2017 Audi S3 is a solid bet for shoppers seeking a small luxury sport sedan offering thrilling performance and a reasonable price.