Audi S3 (2024) review: new looks and hand-me-down engineering | CAR Magazine

Audi S3 (2024) review: new looks and hand-me-down engineering

Published: 22 April 2024 Updated: 24 April 2024
Audi S3 (2024) front driving
  • At a glance
  • 4 out of 5
  • 5 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5

By Seth Walton

Staff writer at CAR and our sister website Parkers, specialising in ownership and car advice

By Seth Walton

Staff writer at CAR and our sister website Parkers, specialising in ownership and car advice

► New 2024 Audi S3 review
► Refreshed looks and new torque splitter
► A little bit more power

Delivering mighty performance from an unassuming package has always been Audi’s thing. One’s mind immediately casts back to the restrained, subdued, elegant, achingly cool C5 RS6 Avant of Layer Cake fame. But there’s no denying that more muscle has crept into the design language of RS Audis over the last few years, and so the onus of upholding the family trait has fallen to the S cars – the middle children. How does this new 2024 Audi S3 stack up? Pretty well, actually.

To keep up in a crowded fast compact market place that includes well-rounded competition in the BMW M135i and the A35 Mercedes-AMG, Audi has revitalised the S3 with a raft of new internal engineering features. They include a hand-me-down torque splitter from the RS3 as well as a new dynamic plus driving mode to wind up its performance side. The car’s exterior and interior have also been revisited with light updates for 2024.

Read on to find out what we think of the new Audi S3, including our thoughts on how it drives, its interior and a verdict.

At a glance

Pros: Harder, meaner and more thrilling than the last model
Cons: Updated interior is still a bit bland,

What’s new?

As far as facelifts go, this was quite a big one for the S3, but let’s start with the styling. The new model has received a refreshed front end with a new bumper, grille design and headlights. The daytime running light signatures within the headlights are also now customisable, with four designs for owners to choose from.

Audi S3 (2024) front driving

An updated back bumper with quad exhausts and vertical deflectors gives the rear end a more performance-focused look, while new paint colours offer grown-up style options to temper some of the new S3’s roused aggression. Overall, the exterior tweaks work well to develop the car’s appearance in a sportier vein without compromising its elegance – only subtle nods to some of the more hardcore members of the RS family were necessary here.

Inside the cabin, the S3 has a new interior to match that of the updated A3, albeit with a few extra quirks and trim styles to remind you that you’re in the faster and pricier car. Fresh materials are present in the fit and finish, and the centre console and gear selector panel have been redesigned.

Now for the technical changes.

The headline news is the introduction of the RS3’s torque splitter to the car’s rear axle. The system uses a handful of sensors to detect when the car is turning into a bend, then with a clutch plate connected to each of the two rear wheel drive shafts, additional power can be directed to the outside rear wheel when required to improve agility and responsiveness.

Audi S3 (2024) front on driving

What’s more, if the sensors detect that the oversteer angle is too great for the driver to recover from alone, power will be deployed to the inside rear wheel to straighten things out. Clever stuff.

In conjunction with the sportier rear axle, the updated S3 has also received a touch of extra power (21bhp), uprated suspension and a new Dynamic Plus driving mode for thrill seekers to sink their teeth into. In this mode, the idle rev speed increases by 200rpm to 1300 rpm for quicker getaways, aided by a sharper throttle response and snappier gear changes.

And breath…

What are the specs?

With all the updates, there are, of course, some new figures to go with them. The new S3 keeps the same 2.0-litre TFSI petrol engine as before, only it now produces 328bhp and 310lb ft of torque for a 0-62mph time of 4.7 seconds.

As a Quattro model, power is delivered to all four wheels, while Audi claims an economy of 33.2 mpg – consistent between the Sportback and the Saloon versions. In the more expensive Vorsprung trim, that figure rises to 34.0 mpg for both cars. However, back in base-spec Black Edition trim and in Sportback configuration, the S3 produces slightly more CO2 at 193g/km compared to 186 as a Saloon.

How does it drive?

Audi evangelists will be pleased to hear that the S3’s updates have transformed the car into what it probably should’ve been all along. The pre-update model was far from incompetent – we rated it very highly, but we felt it lacked a little sparkle when the ‘S’ was put to the test.

As for the new S3, it’s a different animal entirely. Owing to the new torque splitter and keyed-up nature of dynamic plus mode, the car feels more agile and alive when you want it to be.

Audi S3 (2024) front 3/4 static

Setting Dynamic Plus mode sharpens up the throttle and gear changes, and adds weight to the steering. Suddenly, the car becomes discernibly more direct, evoking a slightly watered-down but still distinctive semblance of the RS bloodline.

The new S3 retains the same 2.0-litre TFSI petrol engine, only now with 328bhh – enough to thrill you but still highly accessible to just about anyone who fancies a go. The power delivery is smooth and progressive, free of any spikey surges at any point throughout the rev range, while grip remains invariably abundant. Planted yet energetic, it’ll willingly follow wherever you guide it, offering up confidence to spare as you tip it into corners.   

But dial everything back and the S3 will return to a docile motorway cruiser with ease. In comfort mode and with the S-Tronic gearbox set to automatic, it’ll happily steam along without any vibration, harshness or fuss. In fact, the car remains so comfortable and composed at very high speeds that wind noise becomes the most perceptible indicator of just how fast you’re really going.

Strong performance then?

Oh, absolutely. The S3, like its Golf R compadre, is one of those cars that is almost completely effortless to drive quickly. Given the familiar powertrain, the S3 will be like putting on an old pair of trainers for VW Group hot hatch owners – despite being turbocharged, this engine suffers no boosty lumps of power anywhere in the rev range – just a continuous surge of acceleration from 2000rpm to the limiter.

Audi S3 (2024) gear switch

The dual-clutch auto still shifts gears with impeccable finesse but gone is the sliding shifter of the old model – replaced by what looks like a metal cigarette packet sticking out of the centre console. There’s no manual switch or selection, but the gearbox locks the car in manual when you start using the paddles.

The most noticeable change over the old model is how raspy and aggressive the engine sounds in this latest tune, especially with the new Akrapovič exhausts. The noise is artificially enhanced when you’re in Dynamic, but it’s well judged – not overly video game-esque in sound, with the odd tactical pop and bang from the exhausts. Nice.

What about the interior?

Audi’s revisit to the A3 line’s interior has come following criticism over the uninspired effort of the pre-updated version. Elements of the dashboard and centre console have been updated, including the housing around the gear selector switch and the air vents. There’s now considerably more ambient lighting around the front of the cabin, with accents around the doors, the gear shifter and in the footwells.

Audi S3 (2024) interior

In truth, there isn’t a lot to separate the S3 from the A3, save for a few S line graphics including the puddle light and in various places around the cabin. There are more dark colours present in the S3, but overall they’re strikingly similar. As the more expensive option and the far faster car, it probably would’ve suited a cabin upgrade to make it feel a bit more special, but it’s still a relaxing place to be. The semi-quilted seats and comfortable and supportive, while the whole affair feels solid and well-built.

New Audi S3: verdict

We were intrigued by what the team felt was missing from the last S3 to prompt such a significant upgrade. ‘We looked at the current model and then we spoke with our project team to identify what could be improved’, A3 product marketing head Tobias Döbel told us, waving our attention toward the S3’s heroic new rear diffuser and quad exhaust system with his right hand. “There are now a few hints of bigger brother.”

Indeed, the presence of the RS3 seems to loom over the S3 like the long enveloping shadow of a more accomplished older sibling.

Now with that much more to offer, the S3 has been turned into, unequivocally, a junior performance mode, only without tampering the elegance and dignity of its design. At least not to the extent that it could indicate what new capabilities now reside within.

Audi S3 (2024) diffuser

In the right mode, the new S3 is meaner and more energetic than the old car. Its whetted throttle response, quicker gear changes and throaty soundtrack give the impression you’re driving something far more powerful – and more expensive – than you really are. For under £50k, as an entryway into the world of serious performance machinery, it makes a pretty good case as the best place to start.


Price when new: £46,925
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 1984cc four-cylinder petrol, 328bhp, 308lb ft
Transmission: 7-speed twin-clutch S-Tronic automatic, all-wheel drive
Performance: 4.7sec 0-62mph, 155mph (limited), 33mpg, 186g/km CO2
Weight / material: 1500kg/steel and aluminium
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4351/1984/1415mm


Other Models

Photo Gallery

  • Audi S3 (2024) front driving
  • Audi S3 (2024) front driving
  • Audi S3 (2024) front on driving
  • Audi S3 (2024) rear 3/4 static
  • Audi S3 (2024) front 3/4 static
  • Audi S3 (2024) interior
  • Audi S3 (2024) gear switch
  • Audi S3 (2024) diffuser
  • Audi S3 (2024) rear seats

By Seth Walton

Staff writer at CAR and our sister website Parkers, specialising in ownership and car advice