2018 Audi S3

2018 Audi S3 Review

It's compact in size but big in sporting capability.
8.1 / 10
Edmunds overall rating
author
by Calvin Kim
Edmunds Editor

Edmunds expert review

If you want the easy-to-drive qualities of Audi's entry-level sedan, the A3, but also desire greater acceleration and handling, shop the 2018 Audi S3. The S3's more powerful engine, performance-oriented tires, sport-tuned suspension and bigger brakes combine to deliver an exhilarating performance without degrading the car's all-around usability.

True, the S3 isn't as roomy as its more expensive sibling, the S4 sedan. But there's enough space for most uses, and the S3's cabin is still handsome and upscale. You can even get it with Audi's trick Virtual Cockpit instrument cluster. Fuel economy remains respectable, too. Factor in the S3's standard all-wheel drive and dual-clutch automatic transmission and you've got a very user-friendly — and reasonably affordable — luxury sport sedan.



What's new for 2018

The 2018 Audi S3 is pretty much unchanged other than minor adjustments to feature availability.

We recommend

There's not much of a difference between the S3's two available trim levels. You could go with the Premium Plus trim level, but if you want the Technology package to get the useful Virtual Cockpit digital gauge cluster and premium audio system, you might as well just step up to the Prestige in our opinion. You get Technology package as standard as well as a few things you can't get on the Premium Plus, such as adaptive cruise control and a HomeLink garage door opener. Either way, get the S Sport package for its adaptive suspension dampers, which expand the S3's comfort and performance handling capabilities.




Trim levels & features

The 2018 Audi S3 is offered in two trim levels: Premium Plus and Prestige. They are pretty similarly equipped, but the Prestige offers more standard technology features. All S3s have a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that generates 292 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. That power is put to the ground through a six-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission and standard all-wheel drive.

Standard features for the Premium Plus include 18-inch wheels, summer performance tires, keyless ignition and entry, front and rear parking sensors, selectable driving settings (known as Audi Drive Select), LED headlights, automatic wipers, a panoramic sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, power front sport seats, driver-seat memory settings, leather upholstery and 60/40-split folding rear seatbacks.

For the Premium Plus, you also get a rearview camera, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, Audi's MMI electronics interface (with a console-mounted controller and a power-retractable display), Bluetooth, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration, a USB port, and a 10-speaker sound system with a CD player and satellite radio.

Optional for this trim is the Technology package, which includes an expanded digital instrument cluster (Virtual Cockpit), an upgraded MMI system (with an improved display and a touch-sensitive controller), Audi Connect online services (with 4G LTE mobile Wi-Fi), native voice controls, a navigation system and a 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system.

The Prestige adds the contents of the Technology package as standard plus heated and power-folding exterior mirrors (with driver-side auto-dimming), LED interior lighting, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and intervention, and two additional USB ports for the rear seating area.

Optional on both the Premium Plus and Prestige are a Black Optic Dynamic package (19-inch wheels with special exterior trim), an S Sport package (red brake calipers with adaptive suspension dampers) and an S Sport Seat package (manually adjustable front sport seats with premium leather upholstery). Stand-alone options include rear-seat side airbags and 18-inch wheels with all-season tires.



Trim tested

Each vehicle typically comes in multiple versions that are fundamentally similar. The ratings in this review are based on our full test of the 2015 Audi S3 Prestige Quattro Sedan (turbo 2.0L inline-4 | 6-speed dual-clutch automatic | AWD).

NOTE: Since this test was conducted, the current Audi S3 has received a few revisions, including packaging changes and a revised in-car entertainment system. Our findings remain broadly applicable to this year's S3.

Edmunds Scorecard

Overall8.1 / 10

Driving

9.0 / 10

Acceleration9.5 / 10
Braking9.0 / 10
Steering9.5 / 10
Handling9.5 / 10
Drivability7.0 / 10

Comfort

7.0 / 10

Seat comfort7.0 / 10
Ride comfort7.0 / 10
Noise & vibration7.5 / 10

Interior

7.5 / 10

Ease of use9.0 / 10
Getting in/getting out5.5 / 10
Roominess6.0 / 10
Visibility7.5 / 10
Quality9.0 / 10

Utility

6.0 / 10

Small-item storage7.0 / 10
Cargo space7.0 / 10

Driving9.0

What happens when you combine a fantastic engine with a sensational chassis? You get the incredibly capable S3. The turbo-four is smooth and eager to rev, with a wallop of midrange torque. Handling is stunning, the steering near-perfect. Low-speed drivability could be improved.

Acceleration9.5

The turbo 2.0-liter four-cylinder feels stronger than 292 hp. Although it can be reluctant leaving the line, once it builds revs, it sprints forward, hitting 60 mph in just 4.6 seconds. The six-speed automatic transmission is smooth and quick-shifting.

Braking9.0

Excellent braking abilities; the pedal is always firm. It's a bit touchy at low speeds, but in most situations the brakes feel powerful and confidence-inspiring. In our panic-brake test, the S3 needed 107 feet to stop from 60 mph. That's a typical result for a car with performance-rated tires.

Steering9.5

Incredibly sharp steering. It's quick without being darty. More importantly, it gives good feedback to the driver, meaning the electric assist steering doesn't completely isolate the road or the grip level of the tires from the driver.

Handling9.5

This car is glued to the road, thanks to the sticky tires but also the stiff suspension that keeps body roll nearly nonexistent. Aim this car at a corner and it goes exactly where you point it.

Drivability7.0

Drivability is marred slightly by touchy brakes in stop-and-go traffic and some delay from the engine and transmission when leaving a stoplight. But it has great passing power, feels light and small, and is generally an easy car to drive.

Comfort7.0

The S3 doesn't coddle you like a luxury sedan. The seats don't have an abundance of cushioning. The ride is firm and not as supple as that of most BMWs, but the suspension is adjustable, and it never gets truly objectionable. Interior noise is kept to acceptable levels.

Seat comfort7.0

The front seats have firm cushions, but they are wide and roomy, with less lateral support than most sport seats. The door armrests have soft cushioning. The rear seats provide enough support, but the seatback is quite upright.

Ride comfort7.0

If you like a floaty ride, this isn't your car. Even the suspension's Comfort mode can feel stiff over rough roads. But some sport sedans are even less comfortable.

Noise & vibration7.5

There's some tire hum on most surfaces, but wind noise is well controlled. You can hear the engine just slightly at highway speeds. The turbo-four makes exciting noises during acceleration.

Climate control

The standard dual-zone climate control uses a simple three-knob system for controls.

Interior7.5

The interior is much like the A3's but with sportier, S3-specific touches throughout. Most controls work well, although the boost gauge is gimmicky. The trunk is small for the segment.

Ease of use9.0

Despite the A3's minimalist interior design, the controls are where you expect them and are easy to use. We always turn the MMI knob the wrong direction, though. Love the infinitely swiveling circular dash vents. The optional finger-writing recognition is cool.

Getting in/getting out5.5

The front doors are relatively long and open wide. The roof isn't too low, and you only have to stoop a bit. On the downside, the door sills are wide, and you can catch your foot on them when getting out. The rear doors are small.

Roominess6.0

There's decent but not abundant front headroom, partly because the seat height is higher than you'd expect. Door-side elbow room is excellent. The center console infringes on the driver's right knee space. Rear headroom will be tight for most adults.

Visibility7.5

The windshield roof pillars are very narrow, though the side pillars obstruct lane changes. The rear roof pillars are also thick, and the rear window is short. Our test car had the optional rearview camera and front and rear parking sensors.

Quality9.0

Interior materials are high-quality, and they look good, too. Beautiful thick-rimmed steering wheel. The knobs and buttons have heft. We did notice a squeak from the plastic center console if we rubbed our knee against it.

Utility6.0

It should be no surprise that trunk volume in a compact car is limited. But the rear seat folds down, and the available cubbies and cupholders are welcome.

Small-item storage7.0

The door pockets are decent size, but the front bin is a tiny sliver. The center armrest bin is just large enough to be useful. The cupholders have good anti-tip design.

Cargo space7.0

The 10-cubic-foot trunk is small, but the opening is wide. The rear seats fold down, and the pass-through is large.

Technology

The cool retractable center screen is intuitive, and it commands the MMI system. Bluetooth is standard, and the S3 is available with a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot system.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.