In the three years the latest Audi S3 has been on the market, it has impressed car writers around the world — and inspired very little in the way of passion in the marketplace. Now, Audi is putting a new face on the 2017 Audi S3, adding a few new high-tech features, and upgrading driving dynamics, hoping to light fires in the hearts of enthusiasts. There are other compact luxury sedans, but most of them can't match the performance of the 2017 S3. This is a car without equal. The BMW 2 Series has two doors, plus it's rear-drive. The bonkers Mercedes-AMG CLA45 is on another power and price planet altogether. The mechanically related VW Golf R isn't a luxury car and has a hatch instead of a trunk.
For 2017, the car receives a number of noteworthy changes to keep it fresh and technologically relevant. Most also apply to the 2017 Audi A3, the car on which it's based, which itself gets a new 2.0-liter turbo four base engine in place of the old 1.8-liter. Paired with front-wheel drive and essentially a variation of the Quattro model's carry-over 2.0-liter, it produces 186 horsepower (up from 170) and returns 29 mpg combined (up from 27). Audi says it'll hit 60 mph in just 4.7 seconds, which is a full second quicker than the 220-hp A3 Quattro as well as about a half-second quicker than the Audi A4 Quattro. That bonkers CLA45 is around the four-second mark.
As usual, though, Audi steering doesn't impart enough feedback. Much like the new A4, the S3's corner-taking abilities and the speed at which you can hustle it along are impressive, but regardless of the Drive Select setting, there's a layer of isolation present that makes it difficult to become fully engaged in the driving experience. Deciding whether or not the 2017 S3 itself is it worth the extra cash is a tough one. The sportiest version of the 220-hp A3 2.0T Quattro is about $44,000 – the similarly loaded S3 is $51,325. Meanwhile, the 2017 Volkswagen Golf R, which shares its 292-hp engine with the S3, comes within a few hundred dollars of the hot Audi's $42,900 base price. The VW actually boasts more standard features, but their optional Audi counterparts are ultimately better executed.