If you want the easy-to-drive qualities of Audi's entry-level sedan, the A3, but also desire greater acceleration and handling, shop the 2018 Audi S3. The S3's more powerful engine, performance-oriented tires, sport-tuned suspension and bigger brakes combine to deliver an exhilarating performance without degrading the car's all-around usability.
True, the S3 isn't as roomy as its more expensive sibling, the S4 sedan. But there's enough space for most uses, and the S3's cabin is still handsome and upscale. You can even get it with Audi's trick Virtual Cockpit instrument cluster. Fuel economy remains respectable, too. Factor in the S3's standard all-wheel drive and dual-clutch automatic transmission and you've got a very user-friendly — and reasonably affordable — luxury sport sedan.
The 2018 Audi S3 is offered in two trim levels: Premium Plus and Prestige. They are pretty similarly equipped, but the Prestige offers more standard technology features. All S3s have a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that generates 292 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. That power is put to the ground through a six-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission and standard all-wheel drive.
Standard features for the Premium Plus include 18-inch wheels, summer performance tires, keyless ignition and entry, front and rear parking sensors, selectable driving settings (known as Audi Drive Select), LED headlights, automatic wipers, a panoramic sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, power front sport seats, driver-seat memory settings, leather upholstery and 60/40-split folding rear seatbacks.
For the Premium Plus, you also get a rearview camera, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, Audi's MMI electronics interface (with a console-mounted controller and a power-retractable display), Bluetooth, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration, a USB port, and a 10-speaker sound system with a CD player and satellite radio.
Optional for this trim is the Technology package, which includes an expanded digital instrument cluster (Virtual Cockpit), an upgraded MMI system (with an improved display and a touch-sensitive controller), Audi Connect online services (with 4G LTE mobile Wi-Fi), native voice controls, a navigation system and a 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system.
The Prestige adds the contents of the Technology package as standard plus heated and power-folding exterior mirrors (with driver-side auto-dimming), LED interior lighting, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and intervention, and two additional USB ports for the rear seating area.
Optional on both the Premium Plus and Prestige are a Black Optic Dynamic package (19-inch wheels with special exterior trim), an S Sport package (red brake calipers with adaptive suspension dampers) and an S Sport Seat package (manually adjustable front sport seats with premium leather upholstery). Stand-alone options include rear-seat side airbags and 18-inch wheels with all-season tires.