The Smoking Tire: Audi S3 Test Drive

Matt Farah, of The Smoking Tire, did one of his usual reviews of the Audi S3 recently. The Audi S3 is the highest performance version of the A3 and uses a 2.0 liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, mated to either a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed dual-clutch automatic and powers all four wheels through Quattro all-wheel drive. Farah’s test car had the optional dual-clutch gearbox, which makes the S3 powertrain almost identical to that of the most recent generation Volkswagen Gold R. So Farah sets out to see if the S3 is worth the considerable premium over the Golf R.

Small performance cars like the Audi S3, BMW M235i and Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG can typically seem like poor value. They’re usually very expensive, with all three of those cars cresting $50,000 with options, and they’re quite small. So it may seem like a bad value to spend all of that money on such a small car, especially when there’s a similar car with the identical powertrain for far less, like the Golf R, in this case. But these cars are actually quite a lot of car for money, it just may not seem so on the outside.


The Audi S3 makes 292 hp, from its 2.0 liter engine, and can go from 0-60 mph in 4.4 seconds. If you don’t think that’s fast, the Ferrari 360 Modena F1 takes around 4.6 seconds to do the same speed. Granted, that car is over 15 years old, but it also had a 40 valve 3.6 liter V8 making 395 hp. So 4.4 to 60 mph from a 2.0 liter turbocharged sedan is fast. It also comes fully equipped with heated leather seats, a moonroof, satellite navigation, Audi’s MMI infotainment system and a myriad of other goodies. The S3 is properly equipped and gives you way more than you’d expect from a car of its size.

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But the elephant in the room for the S3 isn’t its price. It’s the Volkswagen Golf R, which has the same powertrain, is just a couple of milliseconds slower to 60 mph and costs far less. You can get a similarly equipped Golf R for almost $10,000 less than the S3. According to Farah, in the video, the S3 is worth the premium over the Golf R. It feels more expensive, handles better and is the better performer. The Golf R might be more practical, due to its hatchback body style, but the Audi S3 is the better car and one worth the money.


But if you don’t believe me, check the video. It shows Farah ripping up and down twisty mountain roads in California and you can watch as the S3 responds to his inputs with immediacy. The thing I like about Farah’s videos is that they’re done in one take with no editing or cuts, this shows how the car responds in real time, without using cinematic exaggeration. So in this style of review, you can truly see that the Audi S3 is a fast, fun and good looking little car and one that’s worth buying. If you don’t want to take my word for it, listen to Matt.

CategoriesS3 Video
Nico DeMattia

I've been in love with cars since I was a kid, specifically German cars. Now I get to drive them talk about them on the internet.