For a long time the Audi S3 was the most compact sports car Audi had on offer. That was, until a few years back the smaller Audi S1 made its debut. Despite the introduction of an even more compact offering in Audi’s sports range and the increasing competition in the compact sports segment over the years, the Audi S3 still remains one of the brand’s bestsellers.
In the light of maintaining the S3’s strong position in the market, Audi already presents us with a facelift of their current generation A3 and S3. I say already because the initial model made its first appearance on the streets only two years ago. With that being said the outgoing model still has the looks and competencies of which you may think, and expect, would last at least an extra year or two before a facelift becomes mandatory.
While such may be the case, Audi chooses to facelift their compact bestseller somewhat early and seems to have plenty of reasons to do so. With the release of the shiny new generations Audi A4 and Q7 last year came many technological innovations and nifty attributes, that in today’s fast moving world of technology, are almost regarded to as ‘must haves’ on new cars, regardless of the car segment. On that note, expect the 2017 Audi S3 to be a true facelift in its purest form, meaning that most changes can be found on the inside and the car’s all-around driving characteristics rather than its aesthetics.
I traveled out to Bavarian capital Munich for an afternoon with the ‘modified’ Audi S3, while also granted the opportunity to drive versions of both the new A3 and A3 convertible. For simplicity’s sake and considering that we at GTspirit prefer to focus on the more sporty vehicles, I will focus my review on the new Audi S3 only.
2017 Audi S3 Performance and Engine
Powering the 2017 Audi S3 is the same 2.0 TFSI four-cylinder engine that is found in the outgoing 2015 Audi S3 model. The Audi engine development team performed some small tweaks here and there and has managed to squeeze out an extra 10 hp (7 kW) and 20 Nm of torque out of the otherwise very competent 2.0-liter TFSI. The S3’s output chart now reads 310 hp (228 kW) and 400 Nm of torque between 2,000 and 5,400 rpm. The latter only has merit for those willing to spend a few extra bucks on the optional seven-speed S-tronic gearbox, which comes standard with the S3 Cabriolet.
The idea of having so many different standard setups for the S3 might get a little bit confusing at some point, because there are no less than four different body styles of the 2017 S3, all launched simultaneously. It is therefore a little unsurprising that all these different variants show different performance figures. Starting out with the ‘regular’ S3 hatchback, the 0-100 km/h sprint is done in a mere 4.5 seconds. Both the S3 sedan and S3 Sportback come in second place at 4.6 seconds, while the open-top version takes 5.1 seconds to reach 100 km/h from a standstill. If you were to opt for a manual transmission, an extra 0.7 seconds are added to the sprint time. Finally all S3 models have an electronically limited top speed of 250 km/h.
The chassis of the facelifted S3 is said to be stiffer and brings the car’s ride height down by an extra 25 millimeters. Seeing the fact it is an S-model, it is equipped with Audi’s drive select as standard. Drivers will have full control over the car’s driving behavior by choosing between a range of driving modes including dynamic and comfort. When dynamic mode is selected, the suspension becomes significantly stiffer and both the engine and gearbox portray a sportier attitude. Audi’s magnetic ride suspension expands the car’s dynamic abilities even further, but has to be selected separately from the option list.
2017 Audi S3 Design
Visual changes on the new S3 are minimal, but there are a few design developments that should be pointed out. Starting at the front, the car’s headlights are sculptured rather sharply and see the LED day-running lights continue further alongside the edge of the housing. Optionally one can opt for Audi’s matrix LED headlights, which are introduced for the first time in this segment.
Continuing down, the air intakes on both the lower sides of the car’s front apron are slightly larger and have a different look compared to those of the 2015 model. The modest changes continue along the lines of the front splitter, which are slightly more recognizable. Finally the car’s grille has grown in width and makes a more prominent appearance than that of the outgoing model, courtesy of the horizontal chrome-plated double struts.
Additionally the mirror housings are finished with an aluminum look and the rear the S3 can be distinguished from its conventional sibling by the specific roof spoiler for both the standard S3 and S3 Sportback, and a separation on the rear of the S3 sedan. Audi has also extended the standard color palette for the S3, now offering customers with 12 options up from 7 previously. Finally on the side of the car the standard 18-inch wheels are instantly noticeable, while providing buyers with the option of even larger 19-inch wheels.
2017 Audi S3 Interior
The car’s inside is complimented by a neutral all-black leather interior and fully equipped with the latest tech. If customers want to transform the interior into something particularly suiting, there is a range of leather and trim options on offer. Throw in an extra penny and Audi will set you up with top-of- the-line sport seats that boast red highlights.
As mentioned in the introduction, a range of Audi’s latest driver’s assistance systems are now available on the S3 as well. All the technological attributes are controllable via both the range of buttons found on the steering wheel and an updated control knob in the center console. Aside from the conventional clockwork, customers now have the choice of equipping their S3 with Audi’s digital virtual cockpit interface.
Just like the virtual cockpit, Audi’s latest offering in terms of connectivity found its way to the updated S3 as well. If the MMI plus module is selected from the options list, the S3 is fully connected to the web and traffic services alike. By selecting the city and parking packages off the options list, an additional range of safety and assistance features are added to the car’s manifest. From the sophisticated traffic jam assist, which takes over control of acceleration and keeping a safe distance from the car in front when in traffic, to adaptive cruise control and blind spot detection, it is now all available on the latest Audi S3.
Once arrived at Munich Airport, car pickup was made easy thanks to Audi’s very own conference center right in-between both terminals. All test cars were nicely lined up at the forum, with an abundance of models to choose from. I opted for the Daytona grey S3 sedan with standard Quattro all-wheel drive and took off shortly after touching down at the airport. First stop was a golf club just outside Munich, where we would get to learn more about the S3 by means of a press conference.
After lunch I took the S3 sedan out on the Autobahn followed by some curvy country roads that Bavaria has plenty of. Having done the first leg in comfort mode, I now engaged dynamic mode via Audi’s drive select menu and swiftly made my way to the close-by Autobahn. The A94 makes for a fine testing stretch thanks to the lack of a speed limit and it being relatively shy of traffic. Once on the Autobahn I stepped on the gas and reached dazzling speeds in just seconds time, which made me wonder whether it was actually a four-cylinder under the hood. The car definitely feels steady at higher speeds and the accompanying growl – despite being speaker backed – boosted confidence along the way.
After some intense kilometers on the Autobahn, I took a random exit and found some great country roads to further explore the car’s sporty nature. I put the gear lever in manual and took over control using the shift paddles behind the wheel. When shifting manually, it becomes instantly noticeable to what extent the updated 7-speed S-tronic has improved. The gearbox is definitely more direct and both up- and downshifts are certainly faster. The occasional pops coming from the exhaust when shifting up are a nice touch too.
Just like on the Autobahn the S3 made a sturdy impression whilst cornering and the optional sport seats provided me with sufficient support. As pleased as I was with the car’s steering performance in comfort mode, I did miss a tiny bit of finesse in bends at high speed. The sharp steering in dynamic mode felt somewhat overcompensated by the EPS and I would have loved for it to be a little more stiffer at times. Again the car otherwise feels perfectly nicely balanced and proofs to be a great preface for what’s coming in the new RS3.
At the end of the afternoon I ended up in some Bavarian town where I parked the car to take a closer look at the sedan, the body style that probably has my personal preference when it comes to the S3. In those two years very little has changed design-wise, I personally would only recognize it via its updated LED lights at the front and rear. The wheels look fantastic on this model and the shiny quad-pipes at the rear definitely show that the car means business.
In terms of space, especially the sedan provides a good deal of it in both the boot and rear seats. The interior of the S3 is just how I like it; neutral, tidy and it has German quality written all over it. The red contrasts in both the dashboard and seats come optional with the sport seats and don’t look too blatant either. Naturally there were a plethora of options on my test car, but even without all the bells and whistles the S3 shows to be a potent car by all means.
2017 Audi S3 Price and Competitors
The S3 finds itself in good company, possibly being the most premium offering in the compact sports segment as of this moment. It shares the market with the Volkswagen Golf R, Ford Focus RS and Subaru WRX STI. Potential buyers that are accepting of less luxury would also consider the likes of the Renault Megane RS, Peugeot 308 GTi and the Honda Civic Type R. Prices of the S3 start at €41.000,00 for the S3 hatchback in Germany. The Sportback comes in at €900,00 more while the price of the sedan is set at €42.800,00. For the convertible a clear premium has to be paid, the price for driving an open-top S3 is set at €50.700,00.
310 hp out of a four-cylinder is nothing to sneeze at, and the 2017 Audi S3 is a perfect example of that. With a modest power upgrade, a modest design enhancement and a range of Audi’s latest tech made available for the first time in this segment, the new S3 is ready to take on competitors such as the Ford Focus RS and Volkswagen Golf R. With a base price of €41.000,00 in Germany the S3 shows to be relatively accessible to those who are looking for a bit more power on their premium compact, and those who want to test the waters before they devote to something pretty extreme such as the Audi RS3.