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2016 Audi S3: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader April 2016

The 2016 Audi S3 is the sportiest version of the A3 compact sedan. In straight-line acceleration, it nearly matches the larger, more powerful S4. The handling is also impressive, and the interior displays typical Audi excellence. Naturally, there's a price to pay for such goodness. Some larger, more cosseting sedans cost roughly the same, but they can't match the S3's combination of speed and sophistication.

What's New for 2016?

A rearview camera and front and rear parking sensors are now standard. The top Prestige trim now includes the equipment from the previously optional Advanced Technology package (forward-collision mitigation, adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist). The optional adaptive suspension can now come with black exterior trim accents and special-design alloy wheels as part of a Black Optic Performance package.

What We Like

Serious acceleration; precise handling; classy and sophisticated cabin with cutting-edge technology

What We Don't

Limited trunk and passenger space; lack of USB port

How Much?

$43,425-$49,575

Fuel Economy

The S3's engine is a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine making 292 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque. This is linked to a 6-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission, and all-wheel drive is standard. The transmission (Audi calls it S tronic) is like a conventional automatic to operate, but there's also a manual gear-change mode via shift paddles mounted behind the steering wheel for fingertip control.

Fuel economy is 23 miles per gallon in the city, 31 mpg on the highway and 26 mpg combined. That's quite respectable considering the S3's sports-car acceleration. According to Audi, the sprint from a standstill to 60 miles per hour takes just 4.7 seconds.

Standard Features & Options

The 2016 Audi S3 compact sport sedan comes in Premium Plus and Prestige trim levels.

The Premium Plus ($43,425) comes standard with 18-inch alloy wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, performance brakes, front and rear parking sensors, a rearview camera, variable-ratio steering, selectable drive modes (adjusting steering assistance, gear shift points and throttle responses), automatic xenon headlights, LED running lights and taillights, a panoramic sunroof, rain-sensing wipers, keyless entry with push-button ignition, 8-way power front sport seats (heated) with driver's-side memory settings, leather upholstery, a flat-bottomed tilt-telescopic steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, aluminum pedals, a Multi Media Interface (MMI) infotainment system, Bluetooth connectivity (phone and audio) and a 10-speaker audio system with HD Radio and satellite radio.

The Prestige ($49,575) adds LED headlights, an upgraded MMI system with navigation and online services (including Google integration and mobile Wi-Fi), 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio, adaptive cruise control, forward-collision mitigation, lane-keeping assist, a blind spot monitoring system, LED interior lighting and power-folding heated exterior mirrors (auto-dimming on the driver's side).

Some of the Prestige's features are available on the Premium Plus as options, including LED lighting, Bang & Olufsen audio, the blind spot monitoring system and the upgraded MMI system.

Both trim levels are eligible for a Performance package that includes 19-in wheels and adaptive magnetorheological suspension dampers.

Trunk space measures just 10 cu ft., which is not great, even for a compact sedan. If you carry longer items on a regular basis, such as golf bags, make sure they fit properly before you buy. The rear seats can split and fold in 60/40 fashion.

Safety

The S3 comes with standard stability control, 4-wheel anti-lock brakes and six airbags (front, front-side and full-length side-curtain). Side airbags for the rear seats are an option.

In government crash tests, the regular A3 sedan (the S3 hasn't been tested) received a perfect five stars overall, including four stars for front 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

The S3 comes with materials and design on a level with luxury sedans that cost thousands more. Sport-themed flourishes such as the flat-bottomed steering wheel are subtle but effective, and the standard front sport seats provide superb support. Rear passenger space is tight, however, so you might be better served by a different model if that's a priority.

As with the larger S4, the S3's MMI infotainment system comes in two degrees, with the base version's controller knob mounted somewhat inconveniently on the center stack. The optional upgrade features a more ergonomic knob between the seats, and the display screen is also bigger and brighter. This fancier system also includes the Audi connect telematics suite, with cool touches including Google integration and mobile 4G LTE Wi-Fi.

The S3 builds pace with breathtaking ease thanks to its lag-free turbocharged engine. The transmission performs near-instantaneous shifts and matches revs when changing down, contributing to a virtually seamless drive in all conditions. The sharp handling is aided by precise steering and tenacious grip from the all-wheel-drive system and summer tires. The S3's athleticism can be felt in your hands and hips as you steer through corners.

In more sedate driving, the S3 continues to impress, but the optional 19-in wheels have an impact on comfort levels. In general, the S3 rides firmly but not harshly, and road noise is mostly subdued. The experience isn't over-the-top luxurious, but there's a fine blend here of sport-tuned tautness and premium character.

Other Cars to Consider

2016 BMW M235i -- The M235i is only available as a coupe or convertible, but enthusiasts should really give this one a try.

2016 Cadillac ATS -- Although the ATS technically competes against the 3 Series and company, it feels half a size smaller. You should be able to find a suitable specimen for an S3 price.

2016 Mercedes-Benz AMG CLA45 -- The AMG-tuned version of the CLA-Class sedan is wonderfully fast, but its sloping roof means less rear headroom than the S3.

2016 Volkswagen Golf R -- The Golf R has the same engine as the S3, but it's less expensive. This model comes with hatchback practicality and the alternative of a manual transmission.

Used Audi S4 -- The S4 is more spacious and comes with a delicious 333-hp supercharged V6. A certified pre-owned model will also have a great warranty.

Autotrader's Advice

The Premium Plus S3 already comes with a lot of standard equipment. If the substantial difference in cost between this and the Prestige is not an issue, then by all means indulge yourself. Just give it some thought.

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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.
2016 Audi S3: New Car Review - Autotrader