Audi S3 Saloon (2017-2020) review
The Audi S3 Saloon has the same engine as the S3 hatchback but has more rear legroom and boot space. It’s quite a niche car but buyers might also consider the Mercedes CLA45 AMG, BMW M240i and to some extent the more rough-around-the-edges Subaru WRX STi.
What's not so good
Audi S3 Saloon (2017-2020): what would you like to read next?
The Audi A3 Saloon’s interior is regarded as one of the best in class and the S3 is the same but with added flair. The sloping roofline eats away at rear headroom, meaning the saloon falls behind the hatchback in this respect.
It’s no Porsche in the corners, but the S3 Saloon is described as competent and confidence inspiring. It’s extremely fast point to point in any weather thanks to the grippy all-wheel-drive system. The Saloon’s longer wheelbase also results in a more comfortable ride than in the hatchback.
The engine powering the S3 Saloon is used throughout the Audi range in different power levels, it’s a responsive, powerful and fuel efficient unit. In the S3 Saloon it produces 306hp and makes an addictive ‘barp’ on full-throttle gear changes if you opt for the DSG automatic gearbox.
Sitting near the top of the A3 Saloon range, the S3 gets all the juicy kit that is optional on lesser models – such as sports suspension, 19-inch alloy wheels, a 7.0-inch screen for the infotainment system and heated leather sports seats.
The S3 is quite possibly the best all-round S model for the money
In their mission to fill every existing niche with a car model, Audi has created one of their best S models. It’s understated, decently comfortable, blisteringly fast, not very expensive to run and nice to look at. It’s even faster from 0-62mph than it’s bigger brother the S4. The Mercedes A45 AMG is faster and a bit more premium, but also more expensive, while the more fun to drive Subaru WRX STi can’t match the premium atmosphere of the Audi. So if you are looking for a fast and stylish four-door that you can simply get into and drive, then the S3 Saloon is the car for you.
The Audi S3 saloon gives its driver and front-seat passenger plenty of room, but the lower roofline means there’s less headroom in the back than in the S3 Sportback
The S3 saloon is a master of many trades: fast, sure-footed, a head-turner in the company car park and you could - just about - use it as a family car
The Nappa leather upholstered sport seats are another S upgrade – they’re supportive in bends and also comfortable over long journeys. They are electrically adjustable, too, and – along with the perfectly positioned steering wheel and pedals – make for a comfortable driving position.
However, rear visibility is poorer than in the hatchback, so the optional rear parking sensors are recommended. Furthermore, rear passengers will find their heads constantly touching that stylish low roof.
There are many storage spaces in the S3, including the dual cup holders in front of the gear stick, phone holder, centre console storage, large glovebox and the large door bins which, in the front, can carry a 1.5-litre bottle each.
Another boon of the increased wheelbase is more luggage room. Admittedly the quattro four-wheel-drive system eats a bit of the maximum capacity, but at 380 litres it’s still more than what you get in the hatchback. However, both the BMW and Mercedes have bigger boots – in the case of the CLA45 AMG, a whopping 100 litres more.
With configurable driving modes as standard, it is very easy to make a vehicle that fits you perfectly.
The performance of the car is always available, but can leave you feeling a little cold
Powering the S3 Saloon is a version of the 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine that can also be found in the VW Golf R, but the S3 has a faster 0-62mph time of 4.8 seconds compared to the ‘leisurely’ 4.9 seconds it takes the VW.Almost all of the Audi’s torque is available at a lowly 1,800rpm providing huge in-gear, out-of-corner acceleration.
Fuel economy is another area where the S3’s hard to fault – 40mpg is possible with very light throttle inputs. Use it as intended and you can expect around 25-30mpg and CO2 emissions of 164g/km.
The S3 Saloon uses lightweight materials in its construction so it’s lighter than the old model. That translates into better body control and it’s more composed in fast corners. However, the Audi is effective rather than eye-wideningly brilliant on a twisty country road. If that’s your poison, the BMW M240i should be the first port of call.
The S3 Saloon gets adaptive dampers as standard. They are controlled by Audi’s Drive Select System – it changes the steering wheel weight, throttle response and ride firmness depending on which of the five modes you go for.
Sport mode makes the car more responsive, but the added steering wheel weight and firmness is not ideal for long journeys. Comfort is much better for that – it makes the S3 cosseting enough not to be tiring even after a four-hour drive. Efficiency brings a very spongy throttle response but that helps bring fuel consumption down and the light steering eases manoeuvring in the city. Auto – the best option to go for – constantly adapts to the driving conditions, while Individual lets you choose whatever combination you want.
The S3 Saloon’s interior is an example of style and ergonomics.