2015 Audi S3 Road Test

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2015 Audi S3 Sedan

(2.0L 4-cyl. Turbo AWD 6-speed Automated Manual)
  • 2015 Audi S3

    2015 Audi S3

    The 2015 Audi S3 gives a dose of serious performance to the subcompact luxury segment. | September 26, 2014

38 Photos

Quick Summary
The 2015 Audi S3 is a significantly sportier version of the standard A3 sedan. Although not as aggressively tuned as one of Audi's "RS" models, the S3's suspension delivers a stiffer ride while its more powerful engine assures plenty of additional on demand thrust. It's a significant step up in performance that doesn't make it any less useful as a daily driver.


2015 Audi S3

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MSRP from $41,100


What Is It?
The 2015 Audi S3 is a high-performance version of the A3 subcompact sport sedan. It's available only as a sedan and comes standard with Audi's Quattro all-wheel drive.

There's only one engine available for the S3, which is just fine because it's a dang good one. Displacing 2.0 liters, the turbocharged four-cylinder generates 292 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque from 1,900-5,300 rpm.

Although in the past Audi has made manual transmissions readily available in its smaller and/or sportier cars, the 2015 S3 is outfitted only with a six-speed dual-clutch transmission with paddle shifters. Audi calls it S-tronic, but not to worry, despite the fancy name it operates much like a traditional automatic transmission. If you move the console shift lever to "Drive" it will take care of all the shifting for you.

Pricing for the S3 begins at $41,995 for the Premium Plus model. It features leather seats, a sunroof, dual-zone climate control, a 10-speaker audio system, 18-inch wheels and Audi Drive Select, a system that allows the driver to adjust the engine/transmission, steering and even the engine's sound.

The S3 Prestige model adds navigation with voice control, a rearview camera, front/rear parking sensors, Audi Side Assist (blind-spot warning) and a 705-watt Bang & Olufsen sound system with 14 speakers at a price of $47,895. The $1,500 19-inch Performance package adds the obvious 19-inch wheels along with Audi's three-mode adjustable magnetic dampers.

2015 Audi S3

How Does It Drive?
The first thing you'll notice about the S3 is that it feels lighter than its 3,450-pound curb weight suggests. This is partially due to the car's light steering, and the ease and quickness with which it changes directions.

Despite that light feel, it delivers a surprising and welcome level of feedback to your hands via a thick-rimmed leather steering wheel. Also contributing to the car's nimble, glued-to-the-road sensation is the stiffer suspension settings versus a standard A3 sedan.

All of the test cars we drove were fitted with the 19-inch Performance package, which not only includes 19-inch wheels with 235/35R19 Continental ContiSportContact 5P performance tires but, more importantly, Audi's magnetic suspension system. The continuously adaptive dampers can be switched between Comfort, Auto or Dynamic to suit your tastes.

In Dynamic mode the suspension firms up the ride, but in return it delivers more precise handling that allows you to go from corner to corner with minimal body sway. There's a penalty in terms of ride quality, but it's not dramatically different.

2015 Audi S3

How Much Better Is the Engine?
The S3's 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder is based on the 220-hp version of the same engine found in the A3. In order to cope with and deliver the S3's extra 72 hp Audi made significant changes, including a new turbocharger and exhaust valves, reinforced connecting rods and crankcase, and a new cylinder head. In the A3 this engine has a reputation for delivering smooth, silky power, and the only thing that changes in S3 form is that there's more of it to go around.

Out on the road you won't be blown away by its acceleration, even though Audi claims an impressive zero-to-60-mph time of just 4.7 seconds thanks in part to a standard launch control system. This puts the S3 on par with the more powerful 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG which delivered a similar number in Edmunds testing.

Although your hair might not be getting blown back, you will enjoy the S3's ample midrange torque and willingness to rev. It's also buttery-smooth no matter how large of a number the tachometer needle is pointing at.

2015 Audi S3

Thanks to an intake sound generator and a quad-outlet exhaust, full-throttle operation gives a throaty snarl, sounding almost like a five-cylinder with its slightly odd (yet cool) note. Enthusiasts will enjoy the satisfying "burp" from the exhaust on upshifts.

The six-speed dual-clutch S-tronic transmission gives reasonably smooth, split-second upshifts in Drive mode, and does a nice job of staying in its current gear rather than kicking down when you only want a bit more power. In other words, it puts the engine's plentiful torque to good use. Using the paddle shifters in Manual mode gives stirring throttle blips on downshifts.

How Does It Rate in Terms of Interior Comfort?
The leather sport seats that come standard in the S3 have firm cushions with generous lateral support to hold you in place during aggressive cornering, yet they remained comfortable throughout our drive. The side bolsters aren't so large that they make entry/exit difficult. We're also especially fond of the S3's shapely, small-diameter steering wheel.

Not only does the S3 drive small, but it is small. There isn't an abundance of front headroom, and there's even less space in the rear-seat area. On the plus side, the rear seats fold down and there's a good-size pass-through from the 10-cubic-foot trunk.

2015 Audi S3

The S3's interior is an amped-up version of the A3, with sporty touches throughout. The large, S3-specific instruments are easily legible and include a boost gauge that, to be honest, is more gimmicky than necessary. The most glaring fault is the tiny gear indicator in the center of the instrument panel. It's hard to find quickly during spirited driving, or even non-spirited driving for that matter.

The interior follows Audi's latest design theme, with precious few buttons on the center stack other than the climate controls. We particularly like the ease with which the circular dash air vents swivel in any direction.

The storage bins are on the small side, with just a tiny shelf ahead of the console cupholders, a small center armrest bin but roomy door pockets. Materials aren't quite as upmarket as most Audis, but considering the price point here, most owners will feel they got a well-made car for the money.

Could It Be Too Sporty for You?
A fair amount of road noise creeps into the cabin, particularly on the coarse Texas roads we were driving. We can't make a completely fair judgment on this, though, because we only drove S3s with the optional 19-inch summer performance tires, versus the standard 18s which would likely make less noise.

Even with our test car's optional magnetic dampers set to full Comfort mode, the S3's ride is on the stiff side. On most roads the firm ride quality won't be blatantly obvious, until you get on a stretch with potholes or other road ripples. It's never bone-jarring, mind you, but if you're expecting full plush with your sport, you might be buying the wrong car.

2015 Audi S3

What Kind of Mileage Does It Deliver?
The 2015 Audi S3 comes with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder and a six-speed dual-clutch transmission with paddle-shifting ability. The EPA rates it at 26 mpg in combined driving (23 city/31 highway).

For comparison, the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG, with 355 hp, is rated identically by the EPA, at 26 mpg combined (23 city/31 highway). The 2015 BMW 328i xDrive with its 240-hp turbo four-cylinder gets an EPA-rated 26 mpg combined (22 city/33 highway).

How Safe Is It?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety haven't published crash-test data on the 2015 Audi S3 yet. The S3 comes standard with Audi's Pre-Sense Basic system which evaluates stability control information to determine if the car is going into a skid. If it thinks it is, it can turn on the hazard lights, close side windows and the sunroof, and pretension the front seatbelts. Audi's Pre-Sense Front is optional, this system monitoring front traffic for possible collisions. If it senses something detrimental, it could provide a warning signal, a brief braking pulse/jolt or, if the driver still hasn't reacted, give partial braking.

Optional safety features on the S3 include a blind-spot monitoring system, a lane-keeping system and adaptive cruise control, the last automatically keeping a set distance from the car ahead. A back-up camera and front/rear parking sensors are available.

Audi outfitted the S3 with a suitably higher-performing, larger brake system than what's found on the A3. The brake pedal gives a powerful, reassuring feel yet wasn't jumpy or touchy in around-town use.

What Are Its Closest Competitors?
The Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG is similar in size to the Audi S3, and also comes with all-wheel drive and a turbo four-cylinder. But this full-zoot AMG model has considerably more power than the Audi, to the tune of 355 hp, and a seven-speed transmission. However, the Merc's ride quality is on the stiff side, the rear seat is cramped, and it's several thousand dollars more expensive than the S3.

The BMW 328i is slightly larger than the Audi S3, but with a nearly $4,000 cheaper base price it's worth a look. BMW is the renowned leader in terms of sport sedan driving dynamics, and even though the 328i's turbo four-cylinder doesn't make quite as much power (just 240 hp), it should be able to keep a reasonable pace versus the S3 thanks to its superb driving dynamics. All-wheel drive is available.

If size is less of an issue, the two-door BMW M235i is also worth a look. In terms of sporting intentions, though, it delivers the goods enthusiasts crave. Pricing for the M235i starts a couple thousand dollars higher, but its turbo six-cylinder engine pumps out 320 hp and its handling is fantastic.

Why Should You Consider This Car?
If you need more stimulation than merely a cup of coffee on your morning commute, the S3 could be the boost you crave. Sharp, extremely capable handling and a willing and aurally enjoyable turbo four-cylinder make this thing a hoot to drive. The interior looks and feels good, fuel mileage is reasonable and the entry price is competitive given the performance available here.

Why Should You Think Twice About This Car?
You might be looking at the wrong car if you want to be coddled. Sure, its seats are comfortable and the interior looks upmarket, but this is a pretty serious sports machine. While the ride is far from truly objectionable, rough roads will quickly remind you this isn't a soft cruising machine. It's a true sport sedan.

The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.

Most Recommended Comments

By gurds7
on 11/07/13
4:46 AM PST

Looks like a great car and I would like to replace my S4 with a smaller and lighter car such as this. The deciding factor will be the availability of a manual transmission. Dual Clutch = Excluded, 6-speed manual = guaranteed purchase. I will only buy any vehicle if it is a manual transmission. If you are drag racing or constantly racing on the track, I understand the dual clutch, but there is no reason for it outside of that. Real world fuel economy (not the easily tricked EPA numbers), fun factor, and driver engagement are much better with a manual. Audi, please give us the manual.

Recommend  (139) (35)

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By themandarin
on 11/07/13
12:52 PM PST

Appears to have been designed in the 80s

Recommend  (17) (72)

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