Driven: 2017 Audi S3

Driven: 2017 Audi S3

Maybe it was the Glacier White Metallic paint that made the 2017 Audi S3 I’ve been driving look like a big egg as it rolled down the road.

Audi S3 offers power, magnetic suspension in a compact and affordable vehicle | Larry Edsall photos

Audi S3 offers power, magnetic suspension in a compact and affordable vehicle | Larry Edsall photos

Maybe it was the Glacier White Metallic paint that made the 2017 Audi S3 I’ve been driving look like a big egg as it rolled down the road. However, there was nothing either Humpty or Dumpty about this powerful and sporty — and still affordable — entry-level Audi sedan.

Audi calls the A3 family its “affordable premium compact model,” and with prices starting at $31,200, with luxurious interior accoutrements, and with a trunk small enough that you have to fold down a back seat just to fit in a set of golf clubs, the A3 lives up to its description.

The grille dominates the car's front end

The grille dominates the car’s front end

But then there’s the S3.

Still affordable at the $42,900 base price, especially when you consider that its version of Audi’s 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is turbocharged to provide a whopping 292 horsepower, plus 280 pound-feet of torque that plateaus from 1,900 rpm all the way to 5,300. That power flows through a six-speed S tronic automatic gearbox to Audi’s heralded quattro all-wheel drivetrain, enabling you to sprint to 60 miles per hour in 4.7 seconds and, with summer tires on its wheels, to a top speed of 150 mph.

Oh, and if your S3 is equipped like the one I’ve been driving — with the optional $1,500 Dynamic package — you get 19-inch wheels wrapped with summer (sticky) tires and with Audi’s magnetic ride sport suspension, which constantly adjusts shock absorbers to driving situations.

Engine is small, but packs a serious wallop

Engine is small, but packs a serious wallop

The S3 also gets sport-tuned electromechanical power steering that responds eagerly to driver input when you’re hitting apexes like you mean it. To keep things from getting out of hand, the car has all the standard safety assists as well as 13.4-inch front and 12.2-inch rear ventilated disc brakes.

The as-tested price of the 2017 Audi S3 I’ve been driving was $51,725, and in this case I’d argue in favor rather than against the options.

Your call on whether the special paint was worth $575, but I’d definitely want the Dynamic package, and $1,450 S seating with manually adjusted front sport seats covered in Nappa leather. The $400 you pay for red brake calipers might be considered an ego stroke, but they do indicate that this is a serious sports sedan.

My grandson — he rode shotgun for much of the weekend portion of my drive — really liked the $950 705-watt, 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system, and then there’s the $3,000 Technology package with blind-spot mirrors, rear cross-traffic alert, Audi connect and navigation… but wait, there’s more… also included is the Audi virtual cockpit.

Foot-wide IP screen can be reconfigured to show earth view mapping

Foot-wide IP screen can be reconfigured to show earth view mapping

This was my first experience with such a cockpit but I certainly hope it is not my last. One thing it does is turn the 12.3-inch dashboard in front of the driver into an adjustable display screen. You can see the standard gauge cluster, a track-day setup with a big center tach and lap timer, or, as I did as much as possible, a gigantic Google Earth-style GPS map with smaller tach to the left and digital speedo to the right.

In what most people might consider to be normal driving, we averaged better than the 28 mpg highway that the EPA says to expect. Part of that, no doubt, comes from the fact that the engine automatically shuts off at stop lights, refiring as you lift off the brake pedal.

Ah, but it’s that “abnormal” driving that really brings out the best in the S3. Plant your right foot, the turbo boosts up immediately, pushes you back in the seat and you’re left to wonder how many other $50K cars with this sort of room could be nearly as much fun.

Cockpit is where the fun happens

Cockpit is where the fun happens

2013 Audi S3
Vehicle type: 5-passenger sedan, quattro all-wheel drive
Base price: $42,900 Price as tested: $51.725
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, 292 horsepower @ 5,400 rpm, 280 pound-feet of torque @ 1,600 rpm Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 103.8 inches Overall length/width: 175.8 inches / 77.2 inches
Curb weight: 3,462 pounds
EPA mileage estimates: 21 city / 28 highway / 24 combined
Assembled in: Gyor, Hungary

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