Audi's entry-level model, the A3, already has solid fun-to-drive credentials. Whether or not you think its sportier sibling, the 2017 Audi S3, is worth the extra money comes down to this: How much fun do you want to have?
While the A3 comes in front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive versions, the S3 is offered only with AWD. It has bigger brakes, uprated tires and a sport-tuned suspension that increases the car's handling prowess. The S3 is planted at speed and tackles corners with confidence.
Another key difference between the A3 and S3 is under the hood: The S3 gets a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that pumps out 292 horsepower. No manual transmission is available, but the six-speed dual-clutch automatic executes fast, smooth shifts. Given the power available, you might expect mediocre fuel mileage, but the EPA-rated combined mileage of 24 mpg (21 city/28 highway) is pretty good for a powerful, sporty car.
Audi offers the S3 in two trim levels: Premium Plus and Prestige. The Premium Plus starts you out with features such as automatic LED headlights, automatic wipers, a panoramic sunroof, power-adjustable and heated front seats, dual-zone climate control and Audi's MMI infotainment system. When you move up to the Prestige, you also get a premium Bang & Olufsen sound system and the Technology package, which adds Audi's new reconfigurable 12.3-inch high-definition Virtual Cockpit screen that replaces the traditional instrument gauges.
The S3's cabin is stylish and functional. The front seats are suitably supportive, but the rear seats can be tight for adults. Trunk space is also smaller than what some other compact luxury sedans offer. But not many of those cars can keep up with the S3 when the road gets twisty.
The 2017 Audi S3 is a blast to drive, no argument there. Even better, it sacrifices none of the luxury feel or options of its more comfort-oriented sibling. Whether you think its extra power and agility are worth the increase in price compared to the base Audi A3 remains a personal decision. But if you're looking for luxury and speed from a compact luxury sedan, Edmunds can help you figure out which S3 is best for you.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.