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2019 Audi S3 Review

Quick, agile and compact, the 2019 Audi S3 premium sport sedan is a well-judged package of fun and luxury. The S versions of Audi vehicles hit the sweet spots of performance and equipment wonderfully, and the S3 is the most affordable version.

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 cannot match the S3’s combination of speed and sophistication.

The 394-horsepower 2019 Audi RS3 is reviewed separately. So is the regular A3 range.

What’s New for 2019?

Audi has changed the way it quotes horsepower figures. The 2018 S3 had 292 hp, the 2019 S3 has 288 hp. But it’s the same engine and torque remains unaffected. This model year also sees some cosmetic changes, such as new alloy wheel designs and an enhanced Black Optic package. See the 2019 Audi S3 models for sale near you

What We Like

  • Serious acceleration
  • Precise handling
  • Classy and sophisticated cabin with cutting-edge technology

What We Don’t

  • Limited trunk and passenger space

How Much?

$45,495-$50,795

Fuel Economy

The S3 has a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine making 288 hp 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 22 miles per gallon in the city, 29 mpg on the highway and 25 mpg in combined driving. That’s quite respectable, considering the S3’s sports-car acceleration. According to Audi, the sprint from 0-to-60 mph takes just 4.6 seconds.

Standard Features & Options

The 2019 Audi S3 subcompact sport sedan comes in Premium Plus and Prestige trim levels.

The Premium Plus ($45,495) has 18-in alloy wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, performance brakes, front/rear parking sensors, variable-ratio steering, selectable drive modes (adjusting steering assistance, gear shift points and throttle responses), full LED lighting with automatic headlights, a panoramic sunroof, rain-sensing wipers, heated windshield washer nozzles, keyless entry/ignition, 8-way power-adjustable front sport seats (heated) with driver’s-side memory settings, leather seating surfaces, a flat-bottomed tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, a self-dimming rearview mirror, aluminum pedals, ambient LED cabin lighting, forward-collision warning, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, Multi Media Interface (MMI) infotainment system, Bluetooth connectivity (phone and audio), a USB port, a SD card slot, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, wireless charging, phone signal booster, and a 10-speaker audio system with HD/satellite radio.

The Prestige ($50,795) adds the Virtual Cockpit configurable driver’s information display, the upper-level MMI system with navigation, handwriting recognition, voice control and online services (including Google integration and Wi-Fi), 705-watt/14-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio, adaptive cruise control, high-beam assist, lane-keeping assist, parking assistance and power-folding/heated exterior mirrors (self-dimming on the driver’s side).

Some of the Prestige’s features are available on the Premium Plus as options, including the Bang & Olufsen audio, Virtual Cockpit and the better MMI system.

Both trim levels are eligible for the S Sport package that brings red-painted brake calipers and adaptive magneto-rheological suspension dampers. This latter feature widens the spectrum of the S3’s comfort and sportiness levels.

Trunk space measures just 10 cu ft., not great even for a subcompact sedan. Anyone carrying longer items on a regular basis, such as golf bags, should make sure they fit properly before buying. 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 S3 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 (IIHS) made the A3 (it hasn’t crash-tested the S3) a Top Safety Pick+ thanks to stellar performances in all the major categories.

Behind the Wheel

The S3 comes with materials and design on a level with luxury sedans costing 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 touches including Google integration and 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. Handling is sharp, aided by precise steering, and tenacious grip from the AWD system and summer tires. The S3’s athleticism can be felt in the hands and hips as it is steered through corners. The brakes, meanwhile, feel strong without being abrupt.

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

2019 BMW M240i — Only available as a coupe or convertible, but enthusiasts should really give this one a try.

2019 Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 — The 375-hp, AMG-tuned version of the CLA-Class sedan is wonderfully fast and capable, but its sloping roof means less rear headroom than the S3.

2019 Volkswagen Golf R — Same engine as the S3, but less expensive. Comes with hatchback practicality and the alternative of a manual transmission.

Used Audi S4 — More spacious and with a delicious 333-hp supercharged V6. A certified pre-owned (CPO) model will also have a great warranty.

Autotrader’s Advice

It’s worth stretching to the Prestige trim for all the extra equipment. If a buyer is splashing out on a high-class car, it’s logical to get the classiest version. The optional adaptive suspension should also be considered. Find an Audi S3 for sale

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