2015 Audi S3

What's new for 2015? The 2015 Audi S3 is an all-new model.

If you're looking for performance and luxury at a relatively affordable price, Audi might just have the car for you with its all-new 2015 S3. As the S4 is to the A4, the S3 is the higher-performance version of Audi's equally new A3. Basically, Audi has taken its A3 compact luxury sedan and, in the words of Nigel Tufnel, turned everything up to 11.

"Louder" starts under the hood, where you'll find a heavily modified version of the A3's turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. Here, it generates a stout 292 horsepower, an increase of 72 hp over the A3. That power is applied to all four wheels through a standard six-speed automated manual transmission, which, according to Audi, is good enough to fire you off to 60 mph in less than 5 seconds.

You also get the requisite suspension tuning tweaks to increase handling precision, bigger brakes and various exterior styling mods that give the S3 a more aggressive look than the A3. Pleasingly intact is the S3's interior, which is stately and high class without being overdone. The S3 comes well stocked with features, too, as even the "base" Premium Plus trim level comes with items like xenon headlights, leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control and a 10-speaker sound system.

Exterior Highlights
Higher-performance version of the A3, available in Premium Plus and Prestige trim levels

The 2015 Audi S3 is a higher-performance version of the A3 compact luxury sedan. It's offered in two trim levels: Premium Plus and Prestige

Standard features for the Premium Plus include 18-inch wheels, summer performance tires, keyless ignition and entry, selectable driving settings (known as Audi drive select), automatic xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights and taillights, automatic wipers, a sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, eight-way power front sport seats (with four-way lumbar adjustment), driver memory settings, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, leather and simulated suede upholstery, a 60/40-split-folding rear seat, auto-dimming mirrors, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and a 10-speaker sound system with a CD player, iPod interface, HD radio and satellite radio.

The Prestige adds full LED headlights, a rearview camera, front and rear parking sensors, power-folding exterior mirrors, a 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system, blind spot monitoring, an MMI controller mounted on the center console, Audi Connect smartphone integration and a navigation system. All these items are available as stand-alone options for the Premium Plus as well.

Available only with the Prestige is an Advanced Technology package, which adds adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, frontal collision warning and crash mitigation. Other options (for both the Premium Plus and Prestige) include 19-inch wheels, adaptive suspension dampers, rear seat side airbags and all-season 18-inch tires (no charge).

Supportive sport seats, simplistic beauty in cabin, finely crafted switchgear, MMI display rises and lowers into dash, optional rearview camera

Up front, the S3's sport seats are supportive for aggressive driving, yet pretty comfortable on longer drives. There's nothing to fault with the S3's overall design. Though some may prefer flashier cabins adorned in swaths of wood or metal, the ultramodern S3 is beautiful in its simplicity. Yet when you look deeper, beyond its broader, minimalist look, you begin to appreciate its top-notch materials and intricate details, like its ornate, jet-engine-inspired air vents, finely crafted switchgear and the fluid action of the MMI display as it rises from and lowers back into the dash.

Every S3 includes that screen, but its display size depends on whether you opt for navigation. So, too, does the rotary controller. Without nav, it's just a knob. With it, there is a pad on top that allows you to write letters with your finger when entering a destination. It's cool and it works. Regardless of MMI version, however, controls for the stereo and other audio systems may take some time to get used to (especially if you're used to a car with traditional dash-mounted stereo buttons), but they eventually become second nature.

The 2015 Audi S3 comes standard with antilock brakes, traction and stability control, front side airbags and side curtain airbags. Optional safety equipment includes rear seat side airbags, a rearview camera, front and rear parking sensors, adaptive cruise control, active lane keeping assist and frontal collision warning/mitigation.

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