2015 Audi S3 Review

#Audi, #A3

The 2015 Audi S3 creates little stir on a sunny, cool morning in Monte Carlo. Parked outside a posh hotel not far from the famous casino you know from James Bond films and mere steps from the iconic streets that make up the circuit of the Monaco Grand Prix, the S3 only hints at what it can do. It’s a handsome car, for sure, but it easily blends into the glamorous surroundings of a Royal principality where Ferraris and Bentleys are more common than Fords and Chevys. But the S3 isn’t meant to stand out in Monte Carlo, it’s meant to turn the heads of American consumers seeking a classy sedan with sporting character and luxurious features.

Like the rest of the A3 lineup, the 2015 Audi S3 was designed with the U.S. market in mind. That means the S3 is a legitimate four-place sedan with a real back seat and a respectable trunk. You can sit in this car and not feel like you wish you had skipped a few meals. Though it wears Audi’s familiar understated, elegant styling and is based on the Volkswagen Group’s corporate MQB architecture, the S3 feels more than a bit like a red-blooded Yank. A four-door coupe, a hatchback, and other body styles were considered, but none of them passed muster because Audi wants the S3 to earn its stripes in America, and Americans prefer sedans.

“This car has largely been made with a focus on the U.S.,” says Filip Brabec, Audi project management director. That’s notable because America-first products are not the norm for German carmakers.

Specifically, the focus is on the U.S. small sedan market, an area that Audi and other premium-brand automakers are rediscovering. Slightly longer and lower than the new A3 sedan, the 2015 Audi S3 measures 175.9 inches in length, 70.7 inches in width, and 54.8 inches in height. Those dimensions are very close to the original A4 from 1994, a car whose spirit the new A3 family hopes to recapture, now that the current A4 has grown larger, heavier, and more upscale.

The S3 is the headliner in the new A3 lineup, though it won’t arrive until July 2014 at the earliest. Audi will launch its standard A3 models, with 1.8-liter and 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinders, beginning in the first quarter of 2014. The wide-ranging lineup will also include a diesel model and a cabriolet.

The S3, though, promises to be the most fun thanks to its more potent 2.0-liter turbo. Audi estimates that the S3 will push out 290 hp and 280 pound-feet of torque (European-spec cars are rated at 296 hp). Final numbers for the United States will be announced closer to launch. The TFSI engine works with Quattro all-wheel drive and a six-speed S tronic dual-clutch transmission with paddle shifters. Audi predicts 0-to-60 sprint of 5.0 seconds, which felt very doable during our drive.

The output figures of the 2015 Audi S3 are modest compared to the brash Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG, which nets 355 hp and 332 lb-ft from its turbocharged four-cylinder, and boasts a 4.5-second 0-to-60 time. Although the CLA is the A3’s natural rival, the AMG variant is not directly comparable to the S3. Audi puts its most sporting—and powerful—models in RS trim to face off against Mercedes’ AMG and BMW’s M divisions, meaning we’d have to wait for a theoretical RS3 for a true comparison. And while S3 pricing hasn’t been announced, it’s estimated to come in around $40,000, which well undercuts the CLA45 AMG at $48,375.

As it is, the S3 provides a nice boost over the highest-powered A3 (expected to make around 210 hp). It also includes special design touches such as sportier bumpers with honeycomb inserts, restyled side sills, five-spoke wheels, and a chrome-framed grille with double horizontal bars and a matte gray finish. Inside, we find pleasing materials, an intuitive layout, and seats that are comfortable yet sporty. Our tester’s black interior looked sharp with brushed aluminum trim and red stitching and accents. The tachometer also shows boost pressure, and a driver information system can record your lap times. Other electronics include a seven-inch, high-resolution screen that extends from the dashboard, and an MMI rotary wheel that also functions as a touch pad.

The S3 is plenty of fun to drive, with an eager chassis and a strong engine. It feels like a real sport sedan. Its taut dimensions and good visibility prove welcome during our test drive on the twisting roads of southern France. Though our route begins in the heart of Monte Carlo, we quickly navigate the mid-morning traffic, dash through the famous tunnel where Formula 1 cars run, and arrive at the mountainous region on the border between France and Italy. The most challenging pass we encounter is the Col de Braus, which cuts into the Alps with a spectacular array of hairpins and switchbacks. The 2015 Audi S3 is more than up to it. The car has excellent reflexes, and the suspension maintains its composure through the tightest of turns. The electromechanical steering is direct and communicative, and the system varies the ratio as you move the flat-bottom steering wheel off-center. The result is a purposeful, athletic sedan for enthusiasts.

When the terrain is less taxing, we take note of the engine. The sound is just OK. We goose the throttle in tunnels hoping to get an earful, but the reply is only a grunting, buzzy note. The six-speed manual we drove isn’t scheduled to come to the United States, which is a shame because it makes the S3 more engaging. The throws are long and direct, and the shift gates make a pleasing sound as you click into gear. Still, if you put purist notions aside, the S tronic is a solid gearbox. Punch up dynamic mode, and the car feels noticeably quicker. S tronic holds the gears longer, and the engine sounds better, thanks to the flaps in the quad exhaust system that open at a higher load.

The 2015 Audi S3 really is an impressive car. It’s agile and quick, but subtle. It may not turn heads like it flashy competitors from Mercedes-Benz and Cadillac, but it rewards the driver with an engaging experience and plenty of everyday functionality. That’s a combination that should play well in America -- even more so than on the French Riviera.

2015 Audi S3

On Sale: Summer 2014
Base Price: $40,000 (est.)
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4
Horsepower: 290 (est.)
Torque: 280 (est.)
Transmission: Six-speed dual-clutch
Drive: 4-wheel
L x W x H: 175.9 in x 70.7 in x 103.6 in
Curb Weight: 3400 lbs (est.)

This should be a great car for the keen driver who wants a compact sedan with a little class, standard AWD, and ample performance.  We're still enthusiastic about our 2006 A3 3.2 (V-6) hatchback, although maintenance is expensive. I think it's unfortunate that they're discontinuing the hatchback, but sales figure don't support continuation of that configuration.  Another unfortunate casualty, a few years ago, was the excellent V-6, which offers good performance without the concern of the blower's bearings' ultimate, expensive demise... sooner or later.  But EPA rating politics doomed that fine engine choice.

Mohamed Soosta
Not to put too fine a point on it, but the Mk7 VW Golf R coming to the US in late 2014, with  3 & 5 doors and with 6-speed DCT or manual might be a more apt comparison than a GTI.
No manual because all of the sheep need automatics, sad and pathetic. Don't bother telling me they are faster, people who want and drive real manuals don't care. It's about being connected to the car, not a computer.
Calvin J Malone IV
I see some C class Mercedes-Benz in those body lines !
Steven Matthew Myers
Manual? Purists like driving. Not numbers or being shuttled in a capsule. :)
Hmmmm if the car is for the American market, why are car mag "journalists" being wined and dined in Monte Carlo?  Oh thats right, because they are simply paid prostitutes for Euro car makers.  If one thinks that an auto "journalist" is not influenced by such junkets, they are either stupid, an auto writer or a lemming that believes whatever is written on the internet.  Not ONE review can be trusted when coming from such a trip.  Do you really think that a writer would risk NOT being invited back on such a junket, AND risking their job by reporting anything negative?  What a Joke auto journalism has become.
Craig Stishenko
Johnz Boho how many A3 hatchbacks do you see though? In most cases the A3 5 door hatches closest competition was the GTI. Then in that case, why would you pay an additional $12k (Canadian) for a car which has the same engine, similar interior, and is slower due to weight? The choice was clear for us...
Craig Stishenko
Automobile mag, the reason for the grunting buzzy exhaust note is that the 2.0t while very potent, is a noisy engine. Its not beautiful noisy, its toy car noisy with a free flowing exhaust system. Look at any GTI videos with aftermarket exhausts.. you'll see what I mean. That and loud cars feel slower than they are. Your senses are focusing on the sound, less on the acceleration. Audi did all this for a reason. Much better kept low key - and I personally would love one... but I cannot stomach the price jump from the GTI.
John Boho
Hmmm....would have loved for it to be like the a3...but that would make too much sense for this 'American market.'
M Rick Richards
Looks like an awkward version of the Ford Fusion...
Rob Vance
Gonna look awesome in my driveway.
Dammy Onafowokan
Fantastic little sport sedan
@AP If you want to read about the car being tested on american roads, try waiting for the articles that appear after you actually see the car at the local american dealership.
@AP Ok, so?  what's your point?  Let me guess, you don't think they treat the American made autos fair, right?  The wine and dine is just part of it, don't be so envious.  If the S3 is good, it's just good.  Doesn't take a trip to Monaco to prove that it beats an ATS, or a Camaro, Charger, or whatever American car you prefer.  Although I'm not an Audi guy, I do respect this car.  It's a nice size, well appointed, nice trim, and it can perform.  I'd take an M235i over it, but it's still a very good car and should sell very well.The writers in this magazine are just fine, it's a nice job.
@mr_president_36117 @AP Wow?  How gutless can you get?  How about even acknowledging ANY of my points?  Either you are just another shill for the car companies or Automobile itself if you cant see the basic points of my post are true.  Do you REALLY believe that auto writers are not influenced by such trips and perks?  Here is an interesting point also;  even notice ANY writing about how poor the reliability is with VAG products in general (except Porsche)?  Almost every GM article has some crack about poor quality from 20 years ago but never a PEEP about poor quality on expensive Audi and BMW cars.  The German car companies and its sycophantic internet "journalists" are quite the joke.  And so are you if you dont think money has any influence on car reviews.

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