On the road, the lower center of gravity and the low-profile Pirellis make steering response instantaneous. Quattro all-wheel drive keeps the car relatively balanced, but a stiffer rear antiroll bar would reduce the inevitable understeer. The reprogrammed engine delivers smooth power with OEM-like refinement, and the 72-hp boost is noticeable and appreciated from a stop or at speed. MTM's exhaust note is louder and deeper but isn't obnoxious, fading from notice when you're cruising. The turbo also makes its presence known as it spools up louder, thanks to increased boost and the new exhaust. Front brake discs measure 13.6 inches in diameter, compared with 12.3 inches stock, and provide ample stopping power. The most impressive thing about MTM's S3 is the consistent quality. From body-panel fits to sophisticated performance, the car feels as if it came from the factory.
Our biggest complaint is that the S tronic transmission lags coming off the line, slowly engaging the clutch as the tach needle climbs toward 3000 rpm. The transmission character is similar at speed, shifting gently and never hurrying. That's not bad for comfort, but in a car like this, we wouldn't mind a bit more aggression.
For the power hungry (and the financially flush), 310- and 380-hp tunes are available with additional external engine hardware. On our test car, the complete package of wheels, tires, suspension, brakes, exhaust, and body upgrades cost $17,000. Adding the price of the A3 brings the total ticket for our S3 to $55,000. That's a lot of money, to be sure, but if you want something you're not supposed to have, it's gonna cost you.
On sale: Now
Price: $48,325/ $55,000 (base/as tested, est.)
Engine: 2.0L turbo I-4, 272 hp, 274 lb-ft