by Jay Traugott
From the moment the all-new Audi A3 Sedan was revealed earlier this year, we couldn't wait to see the debut of its more powerful and sportier sibling. That day has now arrived. Introducing the 2021 Audi S3 Sedan, the German automaker's so-called entry-level performance sedan. Its predecessor was highly praised for its excellent handling and build quality, but it lacked one key ingredient: bold styling. The second-generation model aims to fix that.
Although the S3 nameplate is nearly 20 years old, the sedan only arrived on the scene in 2013 as part of an effort to expand the model's appeal to North American and Chinese customers. Previously, the A3 and S3 had only been hatchbacks (and the A3 convertible). It appears Audi has learned a lot from the first-generation S3 Sedan because its successor retains what worked, ditched what did not, as well as gaining plenty of new technologies necessary for the current era.
Perhaps one of the biggest complaints about the outgoing S3 Sedan was its rather uninspiring exterior design. This can't be said about its successor. Like the base A3, the S3 features that bold and dominant Singleframe grille that's become synonymous with the brand. The latest incarnation features a rhombus-patterned design with cool-looking air inlets in matte black.
Thanks to Audi's current design chief, Mark Lichte, the new S3 has far more dynamic and edgier styling than before. Take note of the strong shoulder that extends the length of the body from the headlights to the taillights. Below it, there's surfacing on the doors that are curved inward.
Another highlight is the optional matrix LED headlights and digital daytime running lights with 15 LEDs. At the rear, there's a large diffuser and four exhaust pipes. Overall, the 2021 S3's appearance not old projects a bolder attitude, but thanks to clever styling, the sedan looks wider than it actually is. The sedan is 1.6 inches longer and 1.2 inches wider than its predecessor. It's also 0.6 inches closer to the ground compared to the A3. A set of 18-inch wheels are standard and 19-inchers are optional.
Audi is known for producing some of the best interiors in the business. The new S3 is no exception. A 10.25-inch digital display comes standard while Audi's 12.3-inch virtual cockpit is an option, as is a head-up display. There's also a 10.1-inch touch display that's part of Audi's MIB3 software. A Bang & Olufsen premium sound system is standard as well.
The new sport seats' upholstery is made from recycled PET bottles and they also feature contrasting stitching. A new compact shifter for the seven-speed transmission is located in the center console and is surrounded by aluminum and carbon fiber trim. Owners will also benefit from standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity and an integrated WiFi hotspot. Android users can even get the Audi connect key, a system that enables them to lock and unlock the car and start the engine with their smartphone.
With seating for up to five passengers, the S3 has a total of 13.1 cubic feet of cargo capacity.
The S3 comes with only one engine: a 2.0-liter TFSI with 305 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, an increase of 17 hp and 15 lb-ft over its predecessor. Power is routed to the Quattro all-wheel-drive system through a quick-shifting seven-speed S Tronic gearbox. Audi claims a 0-62 mph time of 4.8 seconds and a 155 mph electronically limited top speed. Those who desire an even sportier driving experience can opt for the series S sport suspension with damper control.
Like any new vehicle, advanced safety systems are a must and the S3 delivers. Standard safety includes Audi's pre sense front, swerve assist with turn assist, as well as lane departure warning. Lane change assist, exit warning assist, cross-traffic assist, and park assist systems are optional.
Audi has not released pricing or a launch date for the US market, but European deliveries will get underway in October and pricing will start at €47,179. The outgoing 2020 S3 begins at around $45,600 and the new model will probably cost slightly more. It's important to know the new Audi A3 isn't expected to go on sale in the US until late next year, meaning it'll be at least that long, if not more so until the next S3 arrives.
For the European launch, an "Edition one" will be available featuring a Tango Red exterior, black body accents, 19-inch wheels, and slick Nappa leather sports seats. An S3 Sportback, aka a hatchback, will be sold only in overseas markets. Audi has no plans to bring it to North America.