What is it?
The 2015 Audi S3 is a high-performance version of the Audi A3 that also debuted at the New York Auto Show. While the new A3 offers a maximum of 180 horsepower, the S3's 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder produces a muscular 300 hp. It also produces 280 lb-ft of torque, which helps zoom from 0-60 mph in 4.7 seconds. Quattro all-wheel drive is standard on all S3 models, as is a 6-speed S-tronic dual-clutch automatic transmission. We're not sure if a hatchback model, like the current A3, is in the cards for the new A3 and S3 in the U.S.
Audi hasn't announced official pricing, but we'd expect the S3 to start in the low-$40,000 range.
When can you get it?
The 2015 Audi S4 should arrive in Audi showrooms in spring 2015.
Add it to your shopping list because...
The 2015 Audi S3 skips out on the "bigger is better" game that's so common among today's automakers. That's good news for enthusiasts, since the S3's smaller size is sure to make more nimble and involving to drive. Plus, with 300 horsepower, it's almost as powerful -- and as quick -- as the larger, more expensive S4. Our only gripe is that there won't be a manual transmission, which seems like a no-brainer on a car like this. Still, standard all-wheel drive and an attractive price tag will make that quickly forgotten.
Other cars to consider:
BMW 135i: The 135i is only offered as a coupe. So if four doors are essential, don't consider it. But with the same power as an S3 - plus rear-wheel drive and an available manual - the 135i is hard to overlook. That's especially true considering its comparable base price of around $41,000.
Mercedes CLA45 AMG: Also unveiled in New York, the CLA45 AMG is the S3's closest competitor. Like the S3, the CLA45 AMG based on an all-new, entry-level luxury model. It's also all-wheel drive. But the CLA45 will offer 350 horsepower and, we think, a higher price to go with the higher performance.
Used Audi S4: Those who like the Audi badge but want more power should consider a certified pre-owned S4. The current model came out in 2010. It produces 333 horsepower and offers a slightly larger interior than the S3. Best of all, it's available with a 6-speed manual transmission.
Used Mercedes C63 AMG: If the S3 isn't quite big enough, you can always consider a slightly larger used or certified model with a few more miles on the odometer. A top choice is the Mercedes C63 AMG, which offers a whopping 451 horsepower and is now available well under $50,000.
Are you ready for a high-performance compact luxury sedan like the Audi S3? Tell us in the comments below.