In just under a decade, the term “compact luxury car” has taken hold. Prior to that time frame, the term “luxury car” almost always referred to a mid- or full-size sedan. If you wanted a smaller-sized sedan, you did not shop the luxury brands. Well, Audi and the rest of the premium car manufacturers realized they were missing out.
So, Audi created the compact entry-level A3 sedan and added big luxury-car features, performance and engineering to pull in buyers who wanted more from less. I recently tested a performance-oriented 2017 Audi S3 2.0T quattro S tronic sedan.
While the S3 has been around since 2014 (as the 2015 model), Audi has bolstered it with updates to keep it current.
For 2017, the changes are subtle, and visually I had to look hard to distinguish the S3 from the larger S4. I like the revised, aggressive front fascia featuring standard xenon headlamps, and the new wheel design looks sharp, but aside from those upgrades, the 2017 S3 resembles the 2016 version. The S3’s specs include a 175.5-inch overall length and a 103.4-inch wheelbase.
As the entry-level car of the Audi line, the A3/S3 does have some bleed-through from parent company Volkswagen (perhaps to trim costs). The outline of the dash and sparse controls remind me of the Golf. (Spoiler alert: The S3 is based on the Golf platform.)
One can’t miss Audi’s large Multi-Media Interface controller with its touch pad, plethora of info and good graphics. For 2017, Audi has updated the infotainment system (once again) and offers an optional LCD screen to replace standard analog gauges. I loved the rich sounds from the 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system. Up front, the sport seats give a performance vibe, but scoot the seats back and there is zero rear leg room. Head room is also compact.
Under the hood is a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four, with a spunky 280 pound-feet of torque at a usable 1,900 rpm. It’s backed with a six-speed dual-clutch automatic — the only transmission choice. The standard sport exhaust emits a pleasurable note when you stomp the pedal.
On the road, the ride is enhanced with refinement to the quattro all-wheel-drive system. For 2017, the electronic controls have been synched up better with the stability-control system, meaning the S3 can maintain its composure at speed better over slick, irregular road surfaces.
Like most electrically assisted steering systems, the S3’s is somewhat numbed. I did feel that the car was very stable at brisk highway speeds. The summer tires give a performance look and help with bite and handling. A Drive Select System offers aggressive Dynamic, Comfort, Auto and Individual modes to allow you to dial in the drive goodies like powertrain, suspension, steering and exhaust-system note.
The S3 quattro all-wheel drive sedan is aging well. However, it can get pricey with options.