New Car Review

2015 Audi S3: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader January 2015

The 2015 Audi S3 sedan is a sportier version of the compact A3, which sits at the entry-level end of Audi's lineup. The S3's performance is anything but entry level, however. This pint-sized rocket nearly matches the larger, more powerful S4 in straight-line acceleration. Handling impresses as well, and the interior displays typical Audi excellence. Is this the ultimate luxury sedan for the price?

We wouldn't go that far, because the S3's price turns out to be somewhat steep. You could get into a number of larger, more cosseting sedans for roughly the same cost. You likely wouldn't match the S3's combination of speed and sophistication, however, and therein lies its appeal. As an all-around solution for the driving enthusiast, the 2015 S3 makes a lot of sense.

What's New for 2015?

The S3 is all new this year.

What We Like

Seriously quick acceleration; razor-sharp handling; classy, sophisticated cabin with cutting-edge technology

What We Don't

Modest interior and trunk space; high price for an entry-level luxury sedan

How Much?

$41,995-$47,895

Fuel Economy

The S3 comes standard with all-wheel drive, and it gets its motivation from a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine rated at a heady 292 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque. A 6-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission (S tronic) is mandatory.

S tronic essentially works like a conventional automatic, but there's also a manual mode that provides driver control over gear changes via shift paddles at your fingertips.

Fuel economy is 23 miles per gallon in the city and 31 mpg on the highway, a respectable showing considering the S3's sports-car-grade acceleration (Audi estimates a 0-to-60 miles-per-hour sprint of just 4.7 seconds).

Standard Features & Options

The 2015 Audi S3 sedan is offered in two trim levels: Premium Plus and Prestige.

The Premium Plus ($41,995) comes standard with 18-inch alloy wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, performance brakes, variable-ratio steering, multiple Audi drive-select modes (controlling steering effort, shift points and throttle response), automatic xenon headlights, LED running lights and taillights, a panoramic sunroof, keyless entry and push-button ignition, 12-way power front sport seats, a flat-bottom tilt/telescopic steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, aluminum pedals, the Multi Media Interface (MMI) infotainment system, Bluetooth connectivity (phone and audio) and a 10-speaker audio system with satellite radio.

The Prestige ($47,895) adds LED headlights, an upgraded MMI system with navigation and online services (including Google integration and mobile Wi-Fi), a 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system, the Convenience package (LED interior lighting, power-folding heated exterior mirrors and an auto-dimming inside rearview mirror) and the Driver Assistance package (front and rear parking sensors, rearview camera and blind spot monitoring).

Some of the Prestige's features are available on the Premium Plus as options, including the two packages and the upgraded MMI system. The Prestige-only Advanced Technology package bundles adaptive cruise control, a frontal-collision warning system and lane-keeping assist. Available on both trims is the Performance package, which includes 19-in wheels and adaptive magnetorheological suspension dampers.

The S3's trunk checks in at just 10 cu ft., a low number even for a compact sedan. If you regularly carry longer items, such as golf bags, we recommend verifying that they fit to your satisfaction before you buy.

Safety

The 2015 S3 comes with standard stability control, 4-wheel anti-lock brakes and six airbags (front, front-side and full-length side-curtain). Rear-side airbags are optional, as is a frontal-collision warning system and lane-keeping assist.

In government crash tests, the regular A3 sedan (the S3 hasn't been tested) received a perfect five stars overall, including four stars for frontal impacts and five stars for side impacts. The independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the A3 its highest rating of Good in every category.

Behind the Wheel

In our interior evaluation, we found that the S3 transcends its entry-level status, offering materials and design on par with luxury sedans costing tens of thousands more. Sport-themed flourishes such as the flat-bottom steering wheel are subtle but effective, and the standard front sport seats provide superb support. Rear passenger space is predictably tight, however, so if that's a priority, you might be better served by a different model.

As with the larger S4, the S3's MMI infotainment system comes in two flavors, with the base version's controller knob mounted relatively inconveniently on the center stack. The optional MMI upgrade features a more ergonomic knob between the seats, where it falls readily to hand, and the display screen gets a bit bigger and brighter, too. Notably, the fancier system also includes the Audi connect telematics suite with cool touches including Google integration and mobile 3G Wi-Fi.

On the road, the S3 is a certifiable speed demon, building pace with breathtaking ease thanks to its lag-free turbocharged engine. The transmission shifts instantaneously and matches revs on downshifts, making for a nearly seamless drive in all conditions. Handling is tack sharp, aided by ultraprecise steering and a tenacious grip from the quattro all-wheel-drive system and summer tires. You can feel the S3's additional athleticism in your palms as you carve through the corners.

In more sedate driving, the S3 continues to impress, though the optional 19-in wheels don't do the ride comfort any favors. In general, the S3 rides firmly but not harshly, and road noise is mostly held at bay. The experience isn't over-the-top luxurious, but there's a nice blend here of sport-tuned tautness and premium character. For the target consumer who genuinely values performance, it's a compelling proposition.

Other Cars to Consider

BMW 335i -- The 3 Series is larger than the S3, of course, but the 335i's awesome 300-hp inline-6 makes that extra size melt away at full throttle. Plus, the larger interior and trunk dimensions may be welcome.

Cadillac ATS -- Although the ATS technically competes against the 3 Series and company, it feels a half-size smaller. You should be able to find a suitable specimen for S3 money.

Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG -- The AMG-tuned version of the CLA-Class sedan is ridiculously fast, and its swoopy styling is an interesting counterpoint to the chiseled S3.

Used BMW M3 -- The compact previous-generation M3 sedan (2008-2013) is widely available for S3 money with a certified pre-owned factory warranty, and the S3's turbo four pales in comparison to the M3's mighty 414-hp V8.

AutoTrader's Advice

Given how much the Prestige package costs, we recommend thinking hard about whether you really need it. If you can find a base S3 with few or no options, that's the best value of the lot.

Find an Audi S3 for sale

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Used 2015 Audi S3 Prestige
Used 2015 Audi S3
$28,800
This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2015 Audi S3: New Car Review - Autotrader