2015 Audi S3 – Test Drive

Interesting, Others | July 22nd, 2015 by 24
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We spent a week test driving the competitor to the BMW M235i, the 2015 Audi S3. Our first impression of the Audi A3 was that …

We spent a week test driving the competitor to the BMW M235i, the 2015 Audi S3.

Our first impression of the Audi A3 was that of a younger, sprightlier A4. Its smart styling and compact packaging are reminiscent of the A4’s formative years – a time when it wasn’t encumbered by the bloatware built into the modern luxury sedan. For 2015, Audi has given the A3 the S-car treatment with a new powerplant and matching drivetrain and suspension upgrades. How did a week with this hotted-up hot-hatch alternative go?

Audi swaps one 2.0L turbo for another. Instead of the pedestrian (in comparison) 220hp and 258lb-ft torque in our A3 tester, the S3 gets a playful 292hp and 280lb-ft torque from the TFSI unit. A completely redesigned top end, revised engine map, and larger turbocharger account for the engineering behind the power bump. Sadly, the S3’s only available gearbox is Audi’s 6-speed S-tronic DSG unit. It’s hard to complain about the transmission. It does its job damn near perfectly, but the driver-centric nature of the S3 is perfectly suited for an optional clutch pedal.

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Outside, the S3 wears typical S-car trappings; brushed aluminum window trim and side mirrors, quad exhaust pipes, and a unique front fascia with silver grille. LED headlights are standard on the Prestige model and larger 19” wheels arrive as part of the 19” Performance package. Despite sharing its underpinnings with the Golf and GTI, the S3 stands both more aggressive and more grown-up looking than its hatchback relatives. There’s nothing excessive or overtly bland about the S3. It wears a lean and purposeful design that comes across with just enough “I’m sporty” visuals to keep it distinct.

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Our opinion of the S3’s interior remains the same as the A3 – utilitarian, bordering on minimalist. The S5-sourced flat-bottom steering wheel, grey gauges with subtle boost indicator, and sportier seats with adjustable thigh cushions and S3 logo cue into this spicy sedan’s true intentions. The biggest disappointment of the week came from those new seats.  There just isn’t enough lateral support to enjoy the Audi’s tenacious levels of grip.  The $1,500 S Sport seats package should solve that issue, but you shouldn’t have to pay for sportier seats in a sportscar. The rest of the features work as intended. We still prefer the pop-up screen to the “stuck-on” style found in competitors and the automatic climate control is a welcome feature.


Driven normally, the S3 is flat and almost clinical in its execution. Pull the transmission into sport, however, and it takes on a more affable demeanor. The engine surges above 4000rpm now that the transmission isn’t shifting for economy. The S3 makes all the sounds of your favorite driving simulator. Between the turbo spinning, exhaust thrumming, and Audi’s in-dash soundaktor, it’s just the right soundtrack to accompany the ride. And a good ride it is. The optional Audi magnetic ride suspension, part of the aforementioned 19” Performance package, can adjust the ride from the firm side of comfortable to roll-free in an instant.  Paired with the unexpectedly quick steering ratio, the Audi drives into corners without the same level of understeer as the larger S5. The S3’s bigger brakes offer confident bite to round out the driving experience. It’s the most well-balanced Audi we’ve ever piloted.

There’s a pretty big elephant in the room every time the S3 gets discussed – price. Our S3’s as-tested price, just shy of $50,000 for this top-trim Prestige model, makes it more expensive than an S4. The S4 might be larger and heavier, but it’s every bit as fast, has even better low-range torque, and can be had with a manual transmission. The S3 also lacks several amenities that you’d expect out of a $50k car. Where are the heated seats and driver seat memory functions? Why do I have to pay more for better seats? Can the S3 justify its $10,000 premium over the Volkswagen Golf R, a car that shares the same platform and power unit? You’ve got to be die-hard sedan fan, or a quattro-head, to justify your decision. We’re thankful the S3 sedan exists, but it’s a tough argument.


Price notwithstanding, the S3 blends power, agility, and control into a mouth-watering four-door package. Pegging the throttle (and short-shifting to keep the 2.0T from running out of wind at the top of its rev-range) was an oft-repeated exercise. The S3 even comes with launch control. But after confirming it worked as directed, we tried to keep the Misano Red Audi from attracting too much undue attention. At least, that’s the official story. We racked up just over 500 miles, avoiding highways just for the fun of it, and still averaged 25.3mpg. A more, uh, mature driving style would have yielded better results. But can you blame us? The sheer competency of the chassis and grip from the quattro system can easily cope with the S3’s power. That means the hottest variant, the RS3, should be even wilder.

Test drive by LimitedSlipBlog

24 responses to “2015 Audi S3 – Test Drive”

  1. Kaisuke971 says:

    50k for a car that has is basically a Golf R sedan, without having something more in terms of luxury besides the badge, and i’m pretty sure is bit less fun ?
    Come on Audi…

    • Locke42 says:

      The base S3 is $41k, and the Prestige S3 (which gives you Bang & Olufsen audio, navigation system, LED headlights, etc.) is $47k.

      At $50k, you have driver’s assistance features (adaptive cruise control, active lane keeping, anti-collision braking) and magnetic suspension, which are all unavailable on the Golf R. (The Golf R has dynamic chassis control, but as I understand it, it’s different from the magnetic ride suspension.)

      I have an A3 the driver’s assistance features. It really does make a huge difference in day-to-day commuting. I’m never buying a car without stop & go adaptive cruise control again.

      • Kaisuke971 says:

        Navigation and LED not standard on a 41k car ? And i’m sorry but driver assistance things on a performance car… If you need them, just buy a regular diesel A3 then: better mileage, way less expensive, less showy, less noisy. Wow what a package: a regular car. Nice….
        Seriously dude come on this costs more than a base Camaro…

        • Locke42 says:

          “Seriously dude come on this costs more than a base Camaro…”This is a BMW blog, i.e. a blog about a luxury brand. NONE of the cars discussed here even come close to being as cheap as a base Camaro.

          “Navigation and LED not standard on a 41k car ?”
          They aren’t standard on any car, and luxury brands always start with a higher floor MSRP. Why are you bitching?

          And i’m sorry but driver assistance things on a performance car… If you need them, just buy a regular diesel A3 then

          I do have a diesel A3.

          That being said, what’s wrong with wanting a car that’s technologically advanced, luxurious, AND is a performance car? I’ve looked at the options; the $51k Audi S3 Prestige is pretty much the cheapest you can get if you want it all.

          You can get a Golf R, but you lose out on the tech. You can get a Subaru WRX, but you lose out on the luxury. You can get a V8 Mustang or Camaro, but you lose out on BOTH the tech AND luxury. And as for the luxury brands, the BMW M235 lacks the tech, the Mercedes CLA45 AMG gets REAL expensive, and the Lexus CT200h is a tarted up Prius.

          • Kaisuke971 says:

            Well with similar specs the Camaro would still cost less, and have a V6 with a bit more power. I think you could even get the V8 ! And it’s not that much less luxurious.
            Navigation and LED are standard on both the M135i and the M235i dude… Check it out.
            I know you’re a Diesel A3 type of guy :D Just kidding mate don’t worry ^^’
            Well for 50k dude a car that small… Btw the car you’re talking about is the S63 AMG, the S3 is not a luxurious car. It’s just a bit refined but come on mate…
            The M235i has more performance, and looks better. The CLA45 is not a direct competitor…

          • Locke42 says:

            “Well with similar specs the Camaro would still cost less, and have a V6 with a bit more power. I think you could even get the V8 ! And it’s not that much less luxurious.”

            Like I said, this is a BMW blog. If all you’re looking for is performance and you don’t care about luxury or tech, then you always have cheaper options. But if you want it all, then the S3 is the cheapest you’ll find.

            “Navigation and LED are standard on both the M135i and the M235i dude… Check it out.”
            Navigation is NOT standard on the M235. It’s part of a $2,000 package. And you can’t even get LED headlights on the M235. It’s not even an option. And the base M235 is $43k, even more expensive than the base S3. You get WAY MORE features and options in the S3 than you do in the M235. If you compare a $50k S3 with a $50k M235, you miss out on a LOT.

            “The CLA45 is not a direct competitor…”
            Yes, it is. The A3 and CLA250 are direct competitors, and the S3 and CLA45 AMG are the performance variants of those two cars. That makes them direct competitors, too. But the CLA45 AMG gets WAAAY more expensive.

          • Kaisuke971 says:

            Well it’s only because you don’t get the M135i… It’s quite a bit cheaper here in France: 43k base vs 47k. I don’t really know what they sell there so i can’t compare, but Audi and cheapest never mix, i’m pretty sure a better option is lying somewhere. ATS 2.0T maybe ?

            Yes it is. Well in France, i don’t know about yours, but business navigation is standard here. You’re right for the LED though. Btw M235i is a bit more upmarket: if it had a sedan it would be a bit less. Well the M235i can go with Manual transmission, 6 cylinders and RWD, isn’t that what we want from a little performance car ? I don’t know why you’re on a BMW forum when you don’t have a BMW spirit…

            No the CLA45 AMG is the competitor of the RS3 dude. If you don’t even get that, just leave. The CLA 45 AMG has something near 375hp when the S3 has 300hp, come on dude, come on…

          • Locke42 says:

            Ohh, you were talking about globally. Nvm. In the US it’s totally different. The 2-Series is the cheapest BMW here and even the M235 lacks lots of features. Also, there is no RS3 here yet, so the S3 (292hp) competes with the M235 (320hp) and the CLA45 AMG (355hp). Even when the RS3 comes out here, the S3 will still be a competitor to the CLA45 because the RS3 will be more powerful (367hp), faster, and more expensive than the CLA45, so the S3 will compete as the cheaper option.

          • Kaisuke971 says:

            Mainly because not every one lives in the US…
            RS3 has 367hp but the new CLA45 AMG has 381hp dude you’re not up to date… For the luxury part i’m pretty sure it’s better tech part don’t know though (it seems to matter to you).

          • Locke42 says:

            “Mainly because not every one lives in the US…”
            The article is talking about US-spec S3 with US pricing and compares it to US competitors.

            “RS3 has 367hp but the new CLA45 AMG has 381hp dude you’re not up to date”

            2016 CLA45 AMG has 375 hp, my bad, but the RS3 is still faster 0-60 than the CLA45 AMG (3.9 sec vs 4.1 sec). Heck, even the 292hp S3 was only slightly slower than the old 355hp CLA45 AMG. That’s why I said they are direct competitors.

          • Kaisuke971 says:

            Maybe they use the US price because they’re in the US ? And i still compare the same car so it’s still valuable actually.
            Wtf the RS3 is not that quick it’s actually 4.2 for the CLA and 4.2 for the RS3… If it did 3.9 it would be as quick as M3 and C63 S come on x)
            And S3 does it just under 5.2 seconds so its way slower… A full second dude. Come. On.

          • Locke42 says:

            I went off what’s on here:
            Audi RS3: 3.9 sec

            But other sites says 4.2-4.3 sec:

            Also, Car & Driver says the S3 does 0-60 in 4.4 sec:

            Car Connection says the S3 does 0-60 in 4.8 sec:

            And Edmunds says the S3 does 0-60 in under 4.6 sec:

            The old CLA45 AMG tested at 4.2-4.7 sec:

            So the S3 does it in 4.4-4.8 sec, the RS3 in 3.9-4.3 sec, and the old CLA45 AMG in 4.2-4.7 sec.

          • Kaisuke971 says:

            Well Audi claimed 4.3, i’m pretty sure the 3.9 is pretty far. I’ve seen somewhere, too lazy to find the link, that the M4 can do it in 3.7, so…. Audi claimed 4.3, and Mercedes 4.2 that’s what i know. You won’t find anything for the CLA because the spec have been released like 4 days ago, no one has tested the car yet.
            Also the S3 is claimed 5.2, so i’m pretty sure 4.8 is the most confident we can get about it.
            The pre-facelift CLA was claimed 4.6, so claimed vs claimed still 0.6 faster than the S3.

          • Locke42 says:

            BMW under-claims its horsepower rating, so maybe Audi under-claims its 0-60 times. I can only tell you what the different publications have tested the S3 and RS3 at, and the tested speeds are pretty consistent for the S3 at 4.4-4.8 among reviewers, while the RS3 is consistently between 3.9 and 4.3. A half-second margin of error is pretty well expected for variations in driver skill and whatnot.

            Anyway, my point is that the S3’s was only slightly slower than the pre-facelift CLA45 AMG while being correspondingly cheaper. In my book, that makes it a direct competitor with the CLA45 AMG.

            BTW, the Audi A3 2.0T quattro was tested at 5.4 seconds by Car & Driver (http://www.caranddriver.com/comparisons/2015-audi-a3-quattro-vs-2014-bmw-228i-2014-mercedes-benz-cla250-4matic-final-scoring-performance-data-and-complete-specs-page-5), so I highly doubt the S3, which is lighter and has 80 more horsepower, is only 0.2 sec faster.

  2. jcatl says:

    Where can I get an S4 for $50K???

  3. Jake says:

    Kaisuke971 – 11.79@114.41 with just an exhaust, intake and tune. That’s value for money right there.

    • Kaisuke971 says:

      Or you could get an M235i and have even better results with a simple tune, for about the same price ? And the car would be RWD, more appealing and sound better, with a manual. That’s value for the money right here.

      • Ryan Savannah says:

        Kaisuke, the M235i is only 2 doors, has minimal rear seat capacity and a limited trunk. If you live in a warm climate where AWD isn’t neccesary, or don’t need the extra room, sure I agree the M235i is a great choice. But you’re clearly biased towards a particular brand (which is understandable) and therefore all you’re doing is saying “Car A is better because I said so” which is a hilariously bad argument. The Audi gives you the most room and is the most likely choice for someone who needs AWD and a bit or rear seat room. As for sound, I would argue the CLA63 AMG is far and away better sounding and both the BMW or Audi. However if handling and performance are your only prerequisites then yes the 235i is the clear winner.

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