Vital Stats

Engine:
2.0L Turbo I4
Power:
296 HP / 280 LB-FT
Transmission:
6-Speed DCT
0-60 Time:
4.6 Seconds (est.)
Top Speed:
155 MPH
Drivetrain:
All-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight:
3,100 LBS
Seating:
2+3
Cargo:
11.5 / 37.4 CU-FT
MPG:
NA
Base Price:
€38,900
Coming Soon To Our Shores With Two More Doors And A Trunk



The Audi S3 is not exactly a sales juggernaut, despite it being a bit of a legend for passionate fans of the small German premium genre. In most markets outside of Europe, people may consider such setups as the S3 three-door tested here, look at the price, and then think maybe they should just get a nice A4 sedan with greater practicality for similar cash. That certainly has been one reason Audi has never officially brought the S3 hatchback to the United States. And the 335-horsepower RS3 Sportback? Forget about it nearly everywhere but in Germanic regions, Switzerland and the UK.

All of which automatically turns the new S3 hatchback into an unattainable object of desire for many fans of the four-ringed brand. The good news, of course, for many markets not on the three-door S3's dance card is that most of us will get a shot at buying the new S3 sedan that will be powered by the same drivetrain tested here. We reported heavily on the sedan version from the recent New York Auto Show and are convinced that there is much for North American shoppers to like.
As you can already imagine, Audi slid us into a top trim S3 quattro hatchback with the optional six-speed DSG dual-clutch transmission and the most connectivity available via the also optional touch-screen MMI system. The sound system was the very swell 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen, and the two seats in front were Nappa leather and Alcantara-covered multi-adjustable high-sided sport seats with diamond quilted stitching. We were comfy and very supported in the pilot position, safe to say. By the end of adding all this extra trimming, this S3 three-door hatchback would most likely run up to $45,000 or so were it available Stateside. (That's assuming a hypothetical base price of around $37,000.) We would probably be tempted, were we Euro shoppers and had the luxury of doing so, to opt for the S3 Sportback five-door model coming out in September of this year in Europe along with this three-door.



Every off-throttle moment results in a terrifically tuned percolation of popping and roiling.

Through the sport exhaust also clapped onto our test car, the 296-horsepower, 2.0-liter TFSI inline four-cylinder engine – a variant of the same EA888 motor as recently tested in the 2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI – chuffs out an excellent song when the Audi Drive Select is switch to its Dynamic calibration. There is an exaggerated sound like a raspy gasp for precious air with every single downshift. Set up this way, every off-throttle moment results in a terrifically tuned percolation of popping and roiling. So far as the aural orchestra to be had on a fully tricked S3, we have here another S model that delivers in spades.

The one-inch lower chassis with adaptive dampers and more rigid springs also feels much less reluctant to be tossed around as previous editions of the S3. Right away one senses the difference that having 130 pounds less weight, 35 more horsepower and a more responsive and efficient drivetrain can have on a tight little package like the S3. The car retains a slight over-tendency to push through tighter curves when you take a wrong line, but this feeling has gotten to be much less rampant versus the last S3 hatchback.



With the optional S-tronic, acceleration to 60 mph is down to 4.6 seconds.

Though the dual-clutch six-speed version of the S-tronic transmission continues not to be our favorite way to switch ratios in an Audi, the gearbox does alright for itself in Sport mode while shifting with the paddles, and with ADS set to Dynamic. With the optional S-tronic, acceleration to 60 miles per hour is down to 4.6 seconds versus 5.0 seconds with the standard six-speed VW Group-engineered manual transmission.

Speaking of manual shifting, we're getting the hunch that VW Group has decided not to offer any longer a good manual shifting interface for its sportier cars that still make this available. There was just one S3 present in the test fleet with this basic gearbox we were so looking forward to using, and, after playing with it, it had us reluctantly admitting that – at least in this scenario – the S-tronic would edge it out in our voting. Don't hate us for it; there are better manual gearboxes and clutch pedal orientations out there, such as the Getrag manuals preferred by BMW and Mini. We were really expecting a notchier shift action with short S-like throws and great pedal placement for heel-and-toe downshifts. We had none of that. What slick shifting we could manage was only possible after much practice on empty roads using the ball of the right foot and pinky toe for the accelerator. But the throttle pedal's throw is also just too long for anything worth pursuing. We even tried toe-and-heeling with the right foot, but that was a fool's pipedream.



The really attractive S3 sedan will be screaming for a sensational manual-six experience.

Long story short, at least with this manual gearbox and pedal orientation, we would prefer Audi stick with its now effectively confirmed decision not to bring the standard manual transmission for the S3 to North America. Do it right and with conviction, or don't do it at all on such a car. We made a point to re-ask Audi team experts at this event: will the manual come over when we get our S3 with four doors and a trunk in early summer 2014? The answer was indeed 'no,' over-speculation by leading North American publications be damned.

Spiritually, this is a bummer to have reconfirmed; the really attractive S3 sedan will be screaming for a sensational manual-six experience as an image-building option. We won't go all the way and cry 'fail' because the S-tronic action is more than acceptable; it helped us conduct good music through the standard sport exhaust of the 296-hp 2.0-liter. But we will groan our personal disappointment.



The rest of what's going on cannot be sniffed at here. There are slight age-old limitations to this Haldex brand of quattro all-wheel drive paired with a transverse engine on a front-wheel-drive chassis, and we would love some form of optional locking sport differential. But the lighter weight of 3,100 pounds (with S-tronic), greater rigidity of the lowered body and chassis that uses more aluminum in construction, and added power and torque all combine to make this third-generation S3 hatchback much better than its predecessors. The standard 18-inch Continental ContiSportContact 5 run-flats used here are not, as you would imagine, what we would leave on the car were we buying, but on perfectly maintained Bavarian roads free of expansion strips, these Contis do a better than average job.

We get picky when it comes to these smaller gems like the S3. The packaging and drivetrain have come a good long way and they'll be appreciated by many here when the sexy S3 sedans start rolling off the boat. Here's hoping Audi can somehow reverse its unwillingness to bring over a manual S3 quattro sedan, but one with a better shifting interface than they have now for this European S3. We deserve more than only the six-speed DSG/S-tronic.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 152 Comments
      canuckcharlie
      • 2 Years Ago
      A great car to mature into for current GTI owners.
      moorewr
      • 2 Years Ago
      No hatch, no manual, no sale. Next.
        TrippulG3
        • 2 Years Ago
        @moorewr
        Not to mention no option for a locking diff? On an S-model? WTF, Audi?
          Lachmund
          • 1 Year Ago
          @TrippulG3
          why would anyone need a LSD when he has AWD?!
          • 1 Year Ago
          @TrippulG3
          [blocked]
      bonehead
      • 2 Years Ago
      When that navigation display is hidden, then that is kind of interior i want. Simple, minimal, and driving focused. I dont care that the cup holders are in worthless locations. I do care to have most things not needed for driving, out of my line of sight so i can just enjoy the car (this only applies to cars worth enjoying).
        Teleny411
        • 2 Years Ago
        @bonehead
        These days most consumers would rather play with electronics while driving. Everytime I see a huge computer monitor on a center stack or read posts by supposed gear heads obsessing over which operating system is better, I want to puke. Most of these folks will have an orgasm when they can buy a car that drives itself while they can play video games.
          bonehead
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Teleny411
          agreed. I fell in love all over again with the S2000 after sitting in its interior and realizing how far the car industry has strayed from pure drivers car interiors. It saddens me. I dont want gadgets. They become outdated, distracting, and cheapen the car.
      Joe Liebig
      • 1 Year Ago
      It is the cheaper alternative to the (CL)A45 AMG ... Little less power, significantly lower price. Sweet spot.
      H.E. Pennypacker
      • 2 Years Ago
      the current a3 and the a6 are the most perfectly designed audi models in a decade.
      Conza
      • 1 Year Ago
      A4 with a 'trunk' has more practicallity than a hatchback? What alternative universe does that sentence make sense, because it completely isn't the one I live in. If you put both cars side by side, opened up their boots, you'd find that all of that space that the hatch adds in the S3/A3 can be used, unlike that gap in the A4. Not going to read the rest of the articlle, Matt Davis - check yourself.
        Matthew Davis
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Conza
        Jeez, King Conza, chill a touch. If you want to carry four people in the car...hello sedan practicality for its larger storage place in back. In a few ways you are right, in a couple key ones for certain markets, you are wrong.
          mookieblaylock
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Matthew Davis
          still sucks we don't get that exact car. Seriously sedans are dime a dozen and that's what made the a3 8p cool, even though they didn't sell a ton of them. I think they are making a serious mistake ignoring the small wagon market
      RocketRed
      • 2 Years Ago
      I doubt that this is the EA888 from the GTI, unless it's different from the 2.0T in the A4/A6/A5. I believe that the Audi motors have variable valve-lift and a couple other goodies the VW engines don't have. The VW engine just has variable intake runners. Thus the better power and better mileage, generally, between the 2.0Ts of the two brands. You don't get that kind of power out of the VW engine without a warranty-killing trip to APR and the replacement of various accessories to withstand the higher boost.
        • 1 Year Ago
        @RocketRed
        [blocked]
        Joe Liebig
        • 1 Year Ago
        @RocketRed
        The question is ... which one will the Golf R get?
      a.romeo2
      • 1 Year Ago
      Here in europe the 2 Doors versions of an A3 doesent sell particularly well. Instead people tend to buy the more practical hatch. The price gap to the A4 still remains a decent one, so I don't think it will cannibalize sales of the A4. I'm not aware of us prices, but I guess audi worries A3 might take away a4 shares on the states. On a different note: used to driving automatic all the time, an had the chance to drive golf v 1.6 Manual for a week. Didn't know I would miss manual that much. Engine was too weak but shifting myself made it up for that.
      knightrider_6
      • 2 Years Ago
      That's a very low quality screen. I can see the individual pixels. Not that I am surprised. It's VW after all!
        Matt
        • 2 Years Ago
        @knightrider_6
        knightrider, you crap on every single car on autoblog. What do you drive that is so superior to every car on the market? A 1982 Pontiac Trans Am?
          trevor-k
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Matt
          @ wasp ..... Than you're a f"n m)ron
          The Wasp
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Matt
          I would rather have a 1982 T/A (in good condition) than this. Sorry.
          ERICS
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Matt
          Trevor-k, it's "Then you're a f'n moron." If you're going to call someone a moron, use the right word. He's still a f'n moron though despite your bad english.
        Matthew Davis
        • 2 Years Ago
        @knightrider_6
        You are my favorite complete bonehead, k_6.
      MrMonkaroo
      • 2 Years Ago
      I think I feel asleep looking at the styling of this car.
        digitalrefuse
        • 2 Years Ago
        @MrMonkaroo
        You must have fallen asleep on the 'e' key...
        leo
        • 2 Years Ago
        @MrMonkaroo
        have no idea y u got marked down..... this design is boring as hell, and to trevor-k even Lexus has more daring designs right now. this looks like an 80s car with a new front end grafted onto it and some tighter gaped taillights... keep it over there, including the wagon. bringithere once it's redesigned..... FAiL
        trevor-k
        • 2 Years Ago
        @MrMonkaroo
        Kind of like every single lexus.
      MMM
      • 2 Years Ago
      "but with a better manual interface than they have now for this European S3. We deserve more than only the six-speed DSG/S-tronic" It is amazing how these Autoblog writes are so out of touch with reality. If manual will be available they will sell so them of them that it will be a total loss for Audi. American buyers WILL NOT go for a an Audi hatch with manual. PERIOD!! Use you head before complaining and bad mouthing. Germany is a different market. Autoban, less traffic than American highways, car fans, price advantage drive manual sales over there... Very few cars will sell in US... There is a clear reason why Mustangs or BMWs or other brands do not sell manuals in US. People do not want them. And few car freaks certainly don't justify them either. There are few niche cars that available with manual and that covers the market pretty well. From Japanse to Porsches. Autoblog's complaning about every other vehicle not available with manual is just plain stupid!
        Matthew Davis
        • 2 Years Ago
        @MMM
        I am in touch with reality, MuMMy. Manuals are wonderful, so accept it and allow it. What's wrong with saying this particular type of car screams for a great manual lever/pedal interface for those who desire it?
        • 2 Years Ago
        @MMM
        [blocked]
          • 2 Years Ago
          [blocked]
          NissanGTR
          • 2 Years Ago
          Its more like 20 to 30% manual.
        jason32379
        • 2 Years Ago
        @MMM
        You sir, win the fail of the day award. There's nothing quite like broad generalizations to make you sound like a fool. From an enthusiast stand-point this car should at least offer a pure manual six-speed as an option. I think the point of the article was to point out how this car (among many recent ones) doesn't even offer it as an option due to faster and more-efficient automatics. This also reduces the cost from a manufacturer's perspective (less parts/options, less cost). I can't speak for Mustang's, but I'm sure they have manuals still (if the Fiesta and the Focus ST do, than I'm certain the Mustang does). The BMW dealer two miles from me keeps several manual-shift cars on the lot, including two 328i's, a Z4 and some others. BMW is ONE OF THE FEW manufacturers who even offers row-your-own transmissions as an option; they used to charge extra for automatics but now its simply included. Sure, you usually have to order it if you want a manual, but then again, you pretty much have to do that if you want a color other than black, white, gray or bronze (from my experience). Last time I was at a Kia dealer, a few years ago, they had some very basic cars with manual windows, locks and (OMG) manual transmissions.
        Matt
        • 2 Years Ago
        @MMM
        Enthusiasts buy manuals because they make the morning commute more fun. I can't think of any car with an automatic/dual-clutch that is fun to drive legal at speeds, and I've driven automatic 911 Turbos, GT-R, AMG Mercs, etc. These manual-driving enthusiasts may not exist in large numbers, but they are also the most brand-loyal customers (they will join the car club, attend events, etc), and the ones that tell their friends/relatives what car to buy. So while these manual customers may not make a blip in terms in direct sales, they have a huge impact on the strength of an automotive brand as a whole.
          Matt
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Matt
          Bob is on his 20th BMW, and started out with a manual transmission 2002, and has spent the rest of his life trying to recapture that driving experience. Steve is leasing an automatic 328i. He will lease an Audi next go 'round, because the guy whose hair he envies at the club leases an A6. Or maybe he'll get a Merc, because he liked the Mercedes commercial he saw while watching golf on TV. He's not attached to BMW or any other brand, doesn't know the difference between RWD and FWD, and has never driven a manual in his life. There are 20 Steves for every Bob, but Bob is worth 20 Steves for BMW's brand strength.
          rsxvue
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Matt
          @Matt, well said. Enthusiasts may not have as much brand buying power but they are definitely champions for the manufacturers/ cars they love and enjoy.
      Gorgenapper
      • 2 Years Ago
      Step 1: Make a half-assed manual transmission Step 2: Show that AT sales eclipse MT sales Step 3: Justify AT only because 'MT' doesn't sell Brilliant.
        bonehead
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Gorgenapper
        This is the same strategy for wagon sales in the US. Make it ass ugly, put the base engine and worst transmission in it, charge an unrealistic premium then conclude that wagons just dont sell.
          Matt
          • 2 Years Ago
          @bonehead
          So true. The previous gen A3 would have sold so much better in the US if you could get manual+quattro or diesel+quattro or diesel+manual. Instead, they only offered powertrain options that nobody wanted, then concluded no one wants wagons.
          • 2 Years Ago
          @bonehead
          [blocked]
          bonehead
          • 1 Year Ago
          @bonehead
          @Matt, the jetta wagon is a perfect example of a half assed wagon. The tail end looks horrible, they kept the body style at the previous generation while the sedan moved on to the second generation. And the made no GLI wagon. But despite its glaring flaws, i still considered it.
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Gorgenapper
        [blocked]
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