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2018 Audi A3 Performance Review

Scorecard

Performance: 8.6

For 2018, the Audi A3 and its variants offer the choice of numerous powertrains, including a plug-in hybrid and a 400-horsepower edition. Thanks to its precise steering, strong brakes, composed handling, and sprightly acceleration, the A3 feels balanced and fun to drive.

  • "The 2018 Audi A3 compact sedan is offered in four flavors. At the base end, the A3 Sedan offers the perfect balance of performance, luxury and price, while the performance-oriented S3 gives more power and better handling." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "While the CLA45 AMG has a healthy 63 horses on the S3, it doesn't offer the refinement of the S3's driving experience. Noise – whether from wind or road – is subjectively much lower in the S3 than in competitive cars, and the engine noise that does make it into the cabin has the carefully manicured feel of auditory bonsai, with boy-racer overtones totally absent. Its dual-clutch gearbox is much more refined, whether it's being shifted by the wheel-mounted paddles or left to its own automated devices, and its optional dynamic suspension makes for a broader range of ride comfort." -- Automobile Magazine (2017)
  • "The 2017 Audi A3 brings a genuine luxury vibe to the entry-level class. In contrast, others in the segment feel more like a dressed-up compact. The A3's turbocharged engine delivers good thrust and commendable fuel efficiency, and its ride quality with the standard 17-inch all-season tires is very well composed. Another sign of its refinement is that cabin noise levels remain pleasantly civilized on the highway. Opting for 18-inch or 19-inch tires … results in more noise and a busier ride." -- Edmunds (2017)

Acceleration and Power

The base powertrain in the Audi A3 is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. This 186-horsepower setup does an exceptional job of balancing lively acceleration with above-average fuel economy, and its rating of 26 mpg city/35 mpg highway is one of the highest in the class. If you opt for the Quattro all-wheel-drive system, the A3 gets a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and a 220-horsepower rating.

Two high-performance models are available. The S3 also comes with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission but puts out 292 horsepower. It can accelerate to 60 mph in 4.7 seconds. The RS 3 is Audi's most powerful iteration of the A3 sedan, cranking out 400 horsepower with its 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine and sprinting to 60 mph in only 3.9 seconds. Like the S3, its only transmission option is the six-speed dual-clutch automatic. Fuel economy on these sport sedans slips considerably, to 22 mpg city/28 mpg highway for the S3 and 19/28 mpg with the RS 3.

You can increase your gas mileage with the A3 Sportback e-tron, which is a plug-in hybrid. It comes with a 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine, a single electric motor, and a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. It makes 204 horsepower combined. You can drive about 16 miles on all-electric power, and with electric and gas power, you get 83 mpg-equivalent.

  • "With 220 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, the A3 provides plenty of power to accelerate with purpose yet still returns good fuel economy figures." -- Edmunds
  • "Indeed, having so much power in such a small sedan is a novel and grin-inducing experience. The throttle response is sharp enough in standard mode, but tap the dash-mounted Audi Drive Select toggle to choose Dynamic, and it comes even more alive, eagerly shooting the S3 forward with the merest hint of a toe wiggle. The DSG is also quite happy to downshift when called upon, either by said toe or by itself when under braking." -- Autoblog (2017)
  • "With 220 horses and 258 lb-ft of torque, the 2.0T Quattro could be Audi's most composed sedan that doesn't have an 'S' in front of it, and after driving the pure stink out of the 2.0T Quattro, we can say that the $3K difference is well worth it. … In Sport mode, the higher shift points and predictive, throttle-blip downshifting make hot-shoeing more enjoyable. Oh, and it sounds good, too." -- Car and Driver (2015)

Handling and Braking

The A3 comes standard with front-wheel drive. You can upgrade to all-wheel drive in every trim (except the A3 e-tron), and the S3 and RS 3 come only as all-wheel-drive models. This system provides excellent grip, supplementing the A3's responsive handling and composed ride quality.

Four settings come with the drive mode select: Comfort, Dynamic, Auto, and Individual. These adjust the throttle, transmission, and steering to favor a sportier or more laid-back ride or a blend of both. A few different sport suspension systems are also available, including a rapidly adjusting magnetic ride suspension.

  • "The A3 feels light and athletic in curves. The AWD system makes the most of available grip, and the well-tuned suspension gives it a balanced, reassuring feel." -- Edmunds
  • "Audi's engineers have updated the Quattro all-wheel-drive system … to allow for more power – and thus, more oversteer – to be sent to the rear wheels, letting you have a little bit more fun when the car is set to Dynamic mode. The result is a whole lot less understeer than before and a whole lot more fun, even on the less-than-ideal driving roads our route through suburban North Carolina took us on." -- New York Daily News (2017)
  • "Taking a cue from the TT and TTS, the S3 receives an updated Quattro all-wheel-drive system that allows for increased rearward torque bias and won't reduce power in an oversteer situation, making the S3 much more pliable than before. Put the car in Dynamic mode, and you'll see the effect of this update. Driving in Comfort mode results in a much tamer experience." -- Motor Trend (2017)
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