Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning when you click the links and make a purchase, we receive a commission.
The first iteration of the Audi S3 was introduced in 1999 and is still in production today. Since its introduction, it has had four generations: 8L S3 (1999-2003), 8P S3 (2004-2013), 8V S3 (2013-2020), and, lastly, the 8Y S3 (2022-Present). The first-generation S3 was built on the Volkswagen Group’s PQ34 platform, the second was built on the PQ35 platform, the third was built on the MQB platform, and the current generation is built on the MQB Evo platform. What could be unknown to a lot of people is the sheer performance under such a small car. It sure did blow us by when we started researching the S3 more. It can come in two different body styles: a sedan and a sportback.
The S3 has only had two engines: 1.8T and 2.0T. However, there have many variations, especially since it has been around for two decades. If you’re curious to see all of the engines and power outputs associated with each engine, check out the table below.
Audi S3 Engines & Engine Specs
Audi S3 Specs
In this section, we will be going over the interior and exterior specs for both the four-door sedan and five-door sportback for the 2022 model year.
Audi S3 Dimensions
Audi S3 Pricing
In this portion, we’ll be covering new and used prices for the Audi S3. For new prices, a 2023 S3 Premium sedan starts at $45,900, a Premium Plus S3 sedan starts at $48,800, and, lastly, a Prestige S3 sedan starts at $52,800. If you are looking for more performance, you can go the RS 3 route, which is much more expensive but more powerful and aggressive looking. The RS3 only offers one trim and it starts at $58,900. Now on the used side, depending on what year and mileage, an Audi S3 can range anywhere from $15,995 – $48,988 and an Audi RS 3 can range anywhere from $40,995 – $74,995. If you are confused about Audi trims, here is a little write-up on the different Audi trims.
The 6 Most Common Audi S3 Engine Problems
- Ignition coil or spark plug failure
- Premature thermostat failure
- MAF sensor failure
- Start/stop system failure
- Carbon buildup
- Power window regulator failure
1. Ignition Coil or Spark Plug Failure
Premature ignition coil or spark plug failures are common on many modern engines nowadays. These are very important ignition components in an engine. When a single coil or plug is failing, the engine will experience engine misfires. When multiple plugs or coils are not working, the engine may not even start. For reference, there is one ignition coil and one spark plug per cylinder. So for the 2.0 TFSI, four cylinders, means there are four ignition coils and four spark plugs.
Ignition coils transform the battery’s voltage into the high voltage spark plugs need to create a spark. Once a spark is created by the spark plugs, engine combustion begins. Normal wear and tear and pushing the engine past stock boost levels are the main reason these ignition components fail. We highly advise going to 1-step colder spark plugs once engine modifications are made. Bolt-on mods will likely not increase boost, so factory coils and plugs should suffice. Best practice would be to change both sets of components at around 40,000 miles.
Symptoms of Ignition Coil or Spark Plug Failure:
- Check Engine Light (CEL) or Malfunction Indicator Light (MIL) illuminating
- Cylinder misfires with P0300 – P0304 fault codes present
- Poor engine idle
- Rough engine performance
- The engine not turning over
Ignition Coil/Spark Plug Replacement Options:
When it comes to a failing ignition coil or spark plug, we highly advise replacing both sets of them with brand new products. This will avoid engine misfire headaches in the near future. On the S3 engine, this isn’t a very difficult DIY. The main cost will come from the parts. A shop will likely charge around ~$400 to replace both sets.
DIY Difficulty: Easy
2. Premature Water Pump/Thermostat Failure
This was more prominent in earlier S3s, but the main reason water pumps would prematurely fail is because of a plastic impeller inside of the pump. This would then cause the thermostat, and soon the engine, to overheat. Both of these components are crucial in the engine’s cooling system. A water pump maintains coolant flow from the radiator to the engine block. A thermostat works in conjunction with the water pump and it regulates the amount of coolant that is cooled by the radiator before being recycled or sent back into the engine block. Without either of these components functioning, the engine will overheat in a short period of time.
Symptoms of Thermostat Failure:
- Engine overheating
- Unusually high engine temps
- Poor overall engine performance
- Coolant leaks
- Steam emitting from the engine
Thermostat Replacement Options:
When either component goes out, it is best practice to replace both because they typically go out at the same time. For preventative measures, it is also very important to maintain optimal coolant levels. Unfortunately, this isn’t a cheap service if taken to a shop. They will likely charge close to $1,000 to replace both, 50/50 parts and labor more than likely.
DIY Difficulty: Intermediate
3. MAF Sensor Failure
MAF, Mass Air Flow, sensor failure is not too common on many VW or Audi engines, except the early Audi S3s, excluding 8V and 8Y. A MAF sensor measures air flow into the engine and sends this data into the ECU. A failing or clogged MAF sensor can cause issues in the engine’s fuel injection system. This component is typically found on the air filter and manifold. Clogging, engine heat, or a collapsed air filter are the main reasons the MAF sensor fails. A MAF sensor will likely have to be replaced at least once throughout an engine’s lifecycle.
Symptoms of MAF Sensor Failure:
- Check Engine Light (CEL) or Malfunction Indicator Light (MIL) illuminating with P0100 – P0104 fault codes
- Rich or lean AFR conditions
- Engine stalls
- Difficulty starting the engine
- Sluggish acceleration
MAF Sensor Replacement Options:
Preventative maintenance, or cleaning, on a MAF sensor, will make the sensor last longer and provide more accurate air flow readings back to the ECU. If a MAF sensor happens to fail completely, then you will have to replace it. Cleaning or replacing the sensor is not terribly difficult, so we advise DIYing this service if possible. The part is not overly expensive, and it shouldn’t take much longer than a couple of hours. This will save $150 or so on labor costs.
DIY Difficulty: Easy
4. Start/Stop System Failure
Since the Start/Stop system was first put into Audi models in 2013. Therefore, this is a common problem in the 8V S3s, since it was likely fixed in the 8Y S3s. The start/stop system is a system that automatically shuts off the engine at a stop to eliminate emissions while preserving fuel. Theoretically, this is a step in the right direction for the environment. However, many consumers do not love this technology and in fact, turn it off completely. If you have found yourself trying to turn off this system because it is a nuisance, here is an article on the S3 Start/Stop System.
Start/Stop System Problems:
- Slow reactivation
- Delayed acceleration response
- Engine starting 10 times or more a day
- Many requirements need to be met for it to function
- Premature power steering/brakes shut off
- Rollaway threat
The reason this is put under the common problems is that there are many complaints about if it works properly. However, Audi makes it seem that customers may be uninformed on how the start/stop system actually works. Common complaints include the system doesn’t shut down when the customer thinks it should, the engine is not switched on or off automatically, or the engine restarts for unknown reasons.
5. Carbon Buildup
Carbon buildup is also a very common problem on most modern direct injection engines nowadays. The 2.0TFSI is no exception. Direct injection is an engine term that means fuel is pumped directly into the engine’s cylinders via fuel injectors. Over time, direct injection can cause the intake valves to be “caked” with carbon or soot. When buildup of soot occurs in the intake valves, engine performance is dampened substantially. Imagine breathing with a stuffy nose vs a clear nose. That’s essentially what is happening with carbon buildup.
For starters, this is normal, we just want to reiterate this fact. As a good rule of thumb, you will want to check out your intake valves every 30,000 miles. It is possible to manually clean the intake valves yourself if you catch it soon enough. However, if your S3 has 60,000 miles and the intake valves have yet to be cleaned, it may be time for a professional cleaning. Many people claim they have not noticed any difference between clogged or clear intake valves. However, every time we have had this cleaning service, on multiple vehicles, it has made a huge difference with the engine’s performance.
Symptoms of Carbon Buildup:
- Engine misfires
- Rough idle
- Black smoke coming out of the exhaust
- Poor engine performance
- Sluggish acceleration
- Rough cold and warm starts
- Decreased fuel economy
Ways to Prevent Carbon Buildup:
- Replace ignition coils, spark plugs, and injectors regularly
- Change your oil and filter regularly, if not more than normal
- Use high-quality fuel, preferably at or over 93 octane
- Drive on the highway at high rpm’s for 20-30 minutes every once in a while
- Manually inspect the valves or ports every 30,000 miles and clean if needed
- Get the valves or ports professionally walnut blasted every 60,000 miles
6. Power Window Regulator Failure
Although not an engine problem, power window regulators commonly go out in the early S3s, and many other VW/Audi vehicles. A power window regulator houses the window glass inside of a channel in the door panel. When the power switch is pressed down or up, this channel moves up or down moving the window to open or close. Power window regulators should last the whole lifecycle of a vehicle, but isn’t likely on 8Ls or 8Ps.
Symptoms of Power Window Regulator Failure:
- Window goes up or down slow
- Clicking sound from inside the door panel after pressing the power window switch
- Window speed is faster or slower than normal
- No response from the window when the power switch is pressed
- Window gets stuck up or down
Power Window Regulator Replacement Options:
When a window is not operating properly, or at all, it’s important to not jump to conclusions and say the regulator has failed. It could be the power window switch or, simply, a blown fuse. So before ordering a replacement window regulator, make sure to check these. If it isn’t a blown fuse or faulty power window switch, then more than likely the regulator has failed. The only option when one fails is to replace the whole component. Replacing it can be rather tedious because the door panel will have to be removed. However, once removed, it’s a pretty straightforward DIY. A shop would likely charge ~$450.
DIY Difficulty: Intermediate
Audi S3 Mods
Now that we’ve covered the common problems, let’s jump into the fun part. For these mods specifically, we will be focusing on the 8V S3 since the 8Y isn’t too popular yet since it just came out. This EA888 2.0TFSI engine has loads of tuning potential and can really make the S3 a fun go-cart. With all of the supporting mods and proper tunes listed below, an S3 could push a whopping 400hp. A vehicle that only weighs ~3,500 lbs, 400hp can really make it a fun car. There are some enthusiasts that have some money to spend and upgrade the turbo to a Garrett GT2260S and push up to 500hp and 500 lb-ft of torque.
- ECU Tune
- High Flow Downpipe
- Upgraded Turbo Inlet Pipe
- Upgraded Cold Air Intake
- Upgraded Intercooler
If you want more information on these mods and which ones we recommend, we wrote an in-depth article on The 5 Best Audi S3 Mods.
Audi S3 Reliability
Is the Audi S3 reliable? This is a big question whenever it comes to purchasing a vehicle whether it is new or used. Unfortunately, based on forum feedback and other credible sources, the S3s overall reliability is below average. The average annual maintenance costs of an S3, are $974, which is above the average annual ownership cost for other luxury midsize cars of $739. If maintained properly, an S3 can easily last up to 150,000 miles. However, once the important 100,000-mile mark is passed, preventative maintenance is a must for longevity.