Audi S3 (2024 prototype) review
An early drive in the revamped Audi S3 reveals it's closer to the RS 3 than ever before.
Shane O' Donoghue
Shane O' Donoghue

Published on February 12, 2024

Later this year we're expecting to see a revised Audi A3 Sportback and Saloon line-up. As part of that, the S3 variants that reside between the regular models and the fire-breathing RS 3 are getting a significant technical upgrade in a bid to make them even more appealing to keen drivers. To show how serious it is about this, Audi allowed us access to one of its pre-production protypes for a day of driving months before the car comes to Ireland.

In the metal

Despite the dayglo camouflage wrap on our prototype test car it's quite clear that the new Audi S3 won't look drastically different to the old one. And though the four-door saloon is pictured, the S3 will also be available as a five-door Sportback hatch. The grille looks new, and perhaps the front lights are as well. There are new 19-inch alloy wheels wrapped in upgraded tyres as standard (Bridgestone Potenzas on our vehicle, but buyers can choose a more focused Falken set if they wish) and the quad-exhaust setup has been carried over.

Actually, our test car featured the optional performance exhaust system, made by Akrapovič and featuring a titanium rear silencer and branded exhaust tips. It also has a built-in two-way flap to open up the exhaust flow (and noise) in the car's sportier settings.

We're not allowed talk about the interior of the news S3 today as the changes will be revealed as part of a midlife update to the whole of the Audi A3 line-up. Suffice to say that the size and shape of the car - inside and out - are relatively unchanged.

Driving it

The Audi S3's underpinnings and layout are more or less as they were before, too, but a comprehensive suite of upgrades has been applied across the board in a bid to make the car more involving to drive than before, without sacrificing the everyday usability of the model. The obvious place to start here is with the engine, though its upgrade is perhaps to make better use of the chassis improvements rather than the other way around. As before, there's a turbocharged 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine up front, bolted to a seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic gearbox. This sends power to both the front and rear wheels, though there's a maximum 50 per cent split to the back axle at any time, while up to 100 per cent of the drive can be sent to the front wheels.

Audi has squeezed a little more out of the engine in terms of raw figures, meaning a 23hp increase to 333hp for peak power and 20Nm extra torque for a maximum of 420Nm. Just as importantly, but easy to overlook, that peak torque figure is on tap for a wider range of engine speeds. This is effective, but it's a shame the engine doesn't sound more musical. Even with the exhaust flap open it's just loud and hard-sounding. Complementing these tangible increases in the two sportiest driving modes is a new "pre-loaded" turbocharger calibration in which the turbo is kept spinning at a constant speed when you're just ambling along so that when you do push the accelerator pedal, response is quicker.

The S tronic transmission has been redeveloped to suit, too, with up-shift times claimed to be halved under full throttle and a sportier calibration as standard when you're leaving the gearbox to its own devices. There are small plastic paddles behind the steering wheel if you want to override gear-changing, though we wish these were more substantial and more tactile. You can select a sport mode for the gearbox regardless of which of the other driving settings have been selected. Finally, and keen drivers will really approve of this, if you select the Dynamic Plus driving mode and take over gear changing manually, the transmission will never change up for you.

That Dynamic Plus setting is new to the S3. Choose it and the throttle response is also more direct, the idle speed is increased, the characteristics of the rear differential (more on that in a moment) make the car more agile feeling and the electronic stability control (ESC) system switches into its sport level of assistance. In this mode and the regular Dynamic mode, the exhaust flap opens up as well. It remains closed in the other driving modes - namely Efficient and Comfort.

Thanks to all these measures, there's no doubt the new S3 feels faster than the old on a challenging road, though the official 0-100km/h time improvement is only a tenth of a second over the old car's (it's now 4.7 seconds). Perhaps the time would have been lower if the extra hardware didn't add weight, as the new S3 is about 35kg heavier than the old one.

Most of that weight is due to the 'torque splitter' on the rear axle. This hardware has been taken directly from the Audi RS 3 and though its control strategy is quite different in the S3 (there's no specific drift mode or track settings, for example), it transforms the driving experience. The torque splitter has an electronically controlled clutch pack on each of the drive shafts to the rear wheels. By opening or closing these clutches to varying degrees, the available torque can be split over any ratio between the two wheels. This feature can be used for stability and safety on one hand or driving enjoyment on the other.

In the Dynamic Plus driving mode, for example - with ESC sport engaged, remember - the S3 does a good impression of a well-sorted, rear-drive sports saloon up to a point. It's even possible to slide the back end to a certain degree in the right conditions, and it's all highly controllable. It's also huge fun.

Enabling this fun are upgraded front brakes and suspension, tweaks to the variable-ratio power steering ('progressive steering' in Audi-speak) and recalibrated adaptive damping. The latter ensures that the S3 remains usable on an everyday basis while still having great control over the body's movements when the car is driven quickly. Audi really did do a thorough job on this car's driving dynamics.


It's quite a statement of intent by Audi to put so much effort into a midlife update of the S3. It clearly sees untapped potential for the RS 3 understudy with more appeal to those that really love their driving. Or perhaps it's a sign that the updated RS 3 will be going more hardcore again... Either way, the S3 upgrades are comprehensive and effective, turning this subtle-looking performance car into one that's more engaging than ever without forgetting its remit as a car to be used every day.


Tech Specs

Model testedAudi S3 Saloon pre-production prototype
Irish pricingTBC
Powertrainpetrol - turbocharged 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine
Transmissionautomatic gearbox - seven-speed, dual-clutch S tronic, all-wheel drive
Body stylefour-door, five-seat saloon
Top speed250km/h
0-100km/h4.7 seconds
Max power333hp
Max torque420Nm
Rivals to the Audi A3