2018 Audi S3 Expert Review

4.6 Overall Score
Performance 4.6Comfort 4.6Styling 4.5Value 4.6

Editor's Overview

For 2018, Audi’s A3 compact-luxury sports car is offered as a sedan, convertible and, in the A3 Sportback e-tron, a plug-in hybrid hatchback. Although small, the A3 contains all the requisite Audi parts, including a powerful engine lineup, a quality interior, loads of high-tech goodies and the option of quattro all-wheel drive.

You'll Like The 2018 Audi S3 If...

With a base price starting around $33,000, it’s easy to load up a 2018 Audi A3 Sedan or Cabriolet convertible with familiar Audi luxury features and still walk away for less than $40K. The sport-oriented S3 and RS 3 offer sizzling performance, but at a hefty price.

You May Not Like The 2018 Audi S3 If...

The 2018 Audi A3 doesn’t have the same visual pop as a Mercedes-Benz CLA or an Infiniti QX30, and you’ll find a better price and more legroom in an Acura ILX. Although its base price is attractive, once you start piling on options, the A3/S3 can easily approach the $50,000 mark.

What's New

Audi’s 2018 A3 Sedan and Cabriolet gain standard heated front seats and two USB charging ports. The Premium Plus trim gains Audi Side Assist, while the Technology package now includes the Bang & Olufsen audio upgrade. The S3 gains a new S sport package and the e-tron, optional 18-inch wheels.

Interior Features

Audi has set a high bar with its interiors, with high-style design and immaculate fit and finish. Yet while the 2018 A3 scores well on materials and assembly, it's a little on the bland side compared with other Audi vehicles. That said, it is cleanly designed and suitably sporty, with simple audio and climate controls. We wish the MMI infotainment interface wasn't placed quite so low on the console though, as it makes it hard to see which button does what until you've learned it by touch. Not surprisingly, rear-seat accommodations are pretty tight, especially for three passengers.

Exterior Features

If you like the Audi styling aesthetic, you'll love the 2018 A3’s defining look. Looking a lot like a smaller Audi A6, its standard bi-xenon headlights, big sunroof and standard 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels make even the least expensive A3 look great. Bigger 18- and 19-inch wheel-and-tire upgrades jazz up the exterior, and S3 models offer unique styling touches to emphasize the sportiness. Under the short rear deck is a 12.3-cubic-foot trunk, which reduces to 10 cubic feet in all-wheel-drive models. Convertibles of course offer two doors, and look especially sharp with the power soft-top lowered.

Driving Impressions

The 2018 Audi A3 compact sedan is offered in four flavors. At the base end, the A3 Sedan offers the perfect balance of performance, luxury and price, while the performance-oriented S3 gives more power and better handling. The 2018 A3 Cabriolet delivers similar performance as the sedan, but with the added benefit of a much larger sunroof. Priced less than many loaded family sedans, the Audi A3 delivers impressive performance, quality and technology, but is woefully lacking in rear-seat legroom. With nearly 300 horsepower on tap, the 2018 Audi S3 Sedan has no problem with acceleration, and its standard quattro all-wheel drive (AWD) makes it a dynamic performer both at the track and when driving through inclement weather. The A3 Sedan and Cabriolet come standard with Audi’s 7-speed dual-clutch S-Tronic automatic, while the S3 and e-tron use a 6-speed version of the same transmission.

Pricing Notes

The base 2018 Audi A3 carries a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) just under $33,000. Opt for quattro AWD and the price jumps to just under $36,000. The 2018 A3 Cabriolet starts around $39,325 for FWD, or $42,000 if you want AWD. Greenies can get into a Sportback e-tron for just shy of $40,500, and the power-hungry will gravitate to the Audi S3 at just under $45,000. Options and trim levels can add considerably to the price tag, making your "cheap" Audi cost more than $50,000. The Mercedes-Benz CLA starts slightly lower, but with less standard equipment. The Acura ILX and Buick Verano are both thousands less, but without the pedigree brand or AWD option. Check KBB.com's Fair Purchase Price to see what others paid in your area. As for resale value, the A3 isn't expected to hold up over the long haul as well as the CLA, or even the ILX.

Notable Equipment

Standard on every 2018 Audi A3 are a rearview camera and rear-parking sensors, along with heated mirrors, front seats and windshield-washer nozzles. Other standard equipment for the sedan includes leather seats, a panoramic sunroof, bi-xenon headlights, dual-zone automatic climate control, 12-way-power driver’s seat with power lumbar, LED taillights, Bluetooth with audio streaming, 10-speaker audio with single CD player, sensors for automatic windshield wipers and headlights and a 7-inch audio/information screen controlled by Audi's MMI interface. Opt for the sporty S3 and you'll get more power, along with quattro AWD, 18-inch alloys, a flat-bottom steering wheel, and a sport-tuned suspension.

Notable Options

If you'd like to make Audi's inexpensive A3 as pricey as possible, Audi is perfectly happy to help. There are LED headlights, an excellent Bang & Olufsen audio system, and a navigation system with Google Earth map technology viewed through Audi’s brilliant Virtual Cockpit. The last of those includes a clever touch pad atop the MMI knob that recognizes handwritten text entry. Dynamic safety features include active lane-keep assist, blind-zone warning and dynamic cruise control. Lastly, S3 models can be had with a $1,500 Magnetic Ride Control suspension system featuring three driving modes: Dynamic, Comfort and Individual.

Favorite Features

Exceptional sound reproduction is the hallmark of this 705-watt, 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system, which is optional on the 2018 Audi A3 and standard on the S3. Now part of the Technology package, for an audiophile it’s a $3,200 upgrade that’s an easy investment.

The 2018 Audi A3’s available adaptive cruise control is more than just a convenience option, it’s a valuable safety asset that could one day save your life. Audi’s radar and camera-based system can bring the car to a complete stop and then resume speed, the perfect companion during stop-and-go traffic.

Under the Hood

Multiple engine configurations confront prospective Audi A3 owners, although all displace the same 2.0 liters. Front-wheel-drive (FWD) models employ a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder boasting 186 horsepower, which gets delivered through a dual-clutch 7-speed automatic transmission. If you want quattro AWD, you'll get an engine upgrade as well: a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder with 220 horsepower, as well as a 6-speed dual-clutch automatic (which is also used in the econo-oriented A3 Sportback e-tron plug-in hybrid). Audi S3 models get a version of the 2.0-liter engine that sends its 292 horsepower to all four wheels. Note that both the A3 and S3 require premium fuel. The A3 Sportback e-tron plug-in hybrid diverges from its siblings, using a 1.4-liter turbocharged inline 4-cylinder paired with an electric motor/generator.

2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 (FWD)
186 horsepower @ 4,400-6,000 rpm
221 lb-ft of torque @ 1,600-4,300 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 26/35 mpg (Sedan), 25/33 mpg (Cabriolet)

2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 (AWD)
220 horsepower @ 4,500 rpm
258 lb-ft of torque @ 1,600 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 24/31 mpg (Sedan), 22/30 mpg (Cabriolet)

2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 (S3)
292 horsepower @ 5,400-6,200 rpm
280 lb-ft of torque @ 1,900-5,300 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 21/28 mpg

1.4-liter turbocharged inline-4 + electric motor (A3 Sportback e-tron)
150 horsepower @ 5,000-6,000 rpm
184 lb-ft of torque @ 1,600-3,500 rpm
Electric motor:
102 horsepower/243 lb-ft of torque
Net output: 204 horsepower/258 lb-ft of torque
EPA city/highway fuel economy, est.: 83 MPGe/34 mpg combined

Editors' Notes

For 2018, Audi’s A3 compact-luxury sports car is offered as a sedan, convertible and, in the A3 Sportback e-tron, a plug-in hybrid hatchback. Although small, the A3 contains all the requisite Audi parts, including a powerful engine lineup, a quality interior, loads of high-tech goodies, and the option of quattro all-wheel drive. This combination of features and performance gives the A3, and its high-performance S3 and RS 3 (reviewed separately) cousins, a leg up on rivals like the Infiniti QX30, Mercedes-Benz CLA and Acura ILX, all while keeping its pricing well below that of the BMW 2 Series. Audi’s 2018 A3 Sportback e-tron plug-in hybrid is the line’s fuel-economy leader, but sadly it doesn’t offer the option of quattro all-wheel drive.

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