Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning when you click the links and make a purchase, we receive a commission.
The Audi S3 was first introduced in 1999 and is still in production today. Over the years, it has had two main engines and many different variations of those two engines: 1.8T and 2.0T. The 1.8T engine was only found in the first generation, often referred to as the 8L, and put out anywhere from 207-222hp and 199-207lb-ft of torque. Audi has continued to innovate, like many other brands, and develop engines to put more power out of the box. The most recent 2.0 TFSI found in the 8Y, fourth generation, S3 puts out 306hp (228 kW) and 295 lb-ft (400 N⋅m). However, in this guide, we will be focusing on the 8V, third-generation, S3. The 8V S3 has offered three variations of the 2.0 TFSI putting out anywhere from 296-306hp and 280-295 lb-ft of torque.
Ignition Coils & Spark Plugs
Before jumping into the best Audi S3 mods, let’s talk about the importance of fresh ignition components before modifying an engine for more power. Many people don’t realize the effect old ignition coils and spark plugs have on an engine’s performance. OEM ignition coils and OEM spark plugs are created mainly for stock engine performance, or 296-306hp in this case, not 400hp+. For any supporting, or bolt-on mods, OEM spark plugs and ignition coils should be reliable. As a general rule of thumb, if ignition components have over 15,000 miles on them, we would advise replacing them before adding any mods. The last thing you want to do is put mods on and not feel an immediate increase in power or experience cylinder misfires.
For any engine running above stock boost levels, we recommend running 1-step colder spark plugs. 1-step spark plugs burn cooler, which prevents engine knocking, pre-detonation, or misfires and also keeps engine temps down.
Purchase Here: 1-Step Colder 8V S3 Spark Plugs
How to Make Your Audi S3 Faster
- ECU Tune
- High Flow Downpipe
- Turbo Inlet Pipe
- Cold Air Intake
- BONUS: Diverter Valve
Again, the parts listed below are listed for an 8V S3. Since the 8Y S3 is relatively new, there aren’t too many aftermarket companies to choose from. However, the mods listed above are still the best foundation and supporting mods for the 8Y S3.
1. Audi S3 ECU Tune
ECU tunes are the biggest bang for your buck when it comes to performance modifications. The OEM ECU is mapped for efficiency and reliability, not for more performance. So, an aftermarket tune, especially one like JB4, optimizes the engine’s performance to safely get the most out of the engine. Tunes can add anywhere from 30-60hp on a stock engine. Therefore, we view tunes as a great foundation to build bolt-on modifications on top of. They may seem expensive for a first mod, but they are well worth it, you have our word. Benefits that can be seen with adding an aftermarket ECU tune:
- Increased engine performance and efficiency
- Engine or driver customization
- Provides a cleaner engine burn
- Easy to install, for the most part
When it comes to favorite tunes in the space, we love Burger Motorsports’ JB4 for the S3. It offers 8 different maps depending on what the driver is trying to accomplish. The JB4 isn’t VIN locked, which means if the driver wants or needs to go back to stock, all they need to do is unplug it. It won’t void any dealership warranties. On a bone stock Audi S3, the JB4 adds 45hp and 45lb-ft of torque. This number starts to climb dramatically when the mods below are added.
2. Audi S3 High Flow Downpipe
A downpipe, or simply a DP, connects the turbo to the rest of the exhaust system. Factory downpipes tend to be very restrictive because catalytic converters hinder engine performance by producing more back pressure but they keep emissions down. Without a tune, a downpipe won’t produce crazy power gains. However, paired with a proper ECU tune and some other bolt-on mods, a catless, preferably, or high-flow catted downpipe can add up to 40hp+! When it comes to downpipes, however, there’s always a debate between catted and catless.
As a disclaimer, completely removing a catalytic converter will cause your vehicle to not pass emissions inspections. Put simply, if you are in a state or country that takes emissions very seriously, be safe and go with the high-flow catted option. If you are in a state where emissions are not a big deal, go catless. The goal of a downpipe is to send more air through the turbo system which results in higher boost pressure and better spool times. Another popular debate when it comes to downpipes is to just buy one off eBay since it’s just a metal tube. Save yourself the time and do not do this. Pay the extra money and go with a tried and true aftermarket company because these are made to optimize performance and air flow.
Although ECS may be known as an aftermarket brand reseller, they started to dabble in their own aftermarket parts a little while ago. Since they have been around for over 6 decades, they have seen all kinds of aftermarket products pass through their warehouse. We have high confidence that their experience and R&D warrant exceptional products at great prices. When paired with just an intake, the above downpipe provided max gains of 20whp and 6lb-ft of torque. However, when paired with a tune, power gains could double. In fact, with a stage 2 tune, it can see gains of up to 90+ hp. Performance gains aside, it also adds a nice growl to the exhaust.
3. Audi S3 Turbo Inlet Pipe
An often overlooked OEM pipe is the turbo inlet pipe. This pipe connects the compressor housing to the air intake. The factory inlet pipe is made out of a molded plastic material that is very restrictive and prone to leak air over time. It also serves as a bottleneck between the compressor and air intake. However, with a larger aftermarket inlet pipe, there will be better boost response and more airflow sent to the turbo.
An upgraded turbo inlet alone will not provide much power, but will slightly increase the turbo working sound. When paired with many bolt-ons and a tune, this pipe can end up increasing power by 10hp and 15 lb-ft of torque. It is worth mentioning, most aftermarket cold air intake systems have an upgraded turbo inlet pipe. So before ordering this part, if you plan on getting a cold air intake system, hold off and see if the cold air intake you want has an upgraded turbo inlet pipe.
Another ECS part that we have high confidence in. This 3″ pipe is a direct fitment to the factory 5QM129635. Torque is brought on sooner and is maintained into the upper RPMs. It will also last a lot longer than the OEM Turbo Inlet.
4. Audi S3 Cold Air Intake
This is a hot topic, is a cold air intake worth the money? Many believe an air intake isn’t worth it because of the lack of benefits they offer. However, we think they are well worth it, when paired with a tune. We agree that it may not be worth it as a stand-alone bolt-on mod. If you don’t have a tune, then maybe a high-performance drop-in filter is the way to go. BUT, with a tune, more boost is typically produced. More boost means more air is required and a factory intake is far more restrictive than an upgraded cold air intake system. In short, the more power the engine produces, the more air the engine will need.
For beginners, a cold air intake brings outside air into the engine’s intake manifold. Although the Audi S3’s factory air intake is not bad, it is certainly more restrictive than an Integrated Engineering system. Aftermarket intakes may only add 5hp or 5lb-ft of torque without a tune, but with a tune, there could be up to 10hp gained. Yes, not a lot for the money spent. But, the main benefit is the major increase in airflow.
If you are into aftermarket parts and have been for a while, you’ve likely heard of Integrated Engineering. They are a major aftermarket player that has been around since 2007 and specializes in Audi/VW vehicles only. Their upgraded cold air intake system comes with a 3.5″ turbo inlet pipe and a huge 5″ air filter. Not only will this have a great aesthetic in the engine bay, but it will also add some much-needed airflow to the turbo.
5. Audi S3 Intercooler
Another often overlooked mod is an upgraded intercooler. An intercooler doesn’t necessarily provide much power, but if you are going for real power, 400+ hp, it is a necessity. It is more of a reliability and efficiency mod. An aftermarket intercooler is much larger than the OEM intercooler, specifically 39% larger for the ECS tuning intercooler linked below, which means there is more surface area to disperse the heat from the engine. When more power is added to an engine, more heat is produced. This is when the horsepower killer, heat soak, becomes more of an issue. If you are serious about power gains and engine longevity, an aftermarket intercooler is worth every penny.
Another product from ECS that we have high confidence in. As stated above, it is 39% larger in volume than the OEM unit for maximum heat dissipation. There is an increase of 22% in cooling efficiency when the vehicle is redlined and -90°F lower intercooler outlet temperatures. Aftermarket intercoolers can get very expensive, which is why we like the ECS intercooler.
BONUS: Audi S3 Diverter Valve
A diverter valve, or DV, is located on the side of a turbo and it diverts unused turbo pressure back into the engine to prevent compressor surge. There’s nothing worse than turbo flutter, or doing a pull and having the diverter valve prematurely open and losing boost pressure. OEM dv’s can typically only sustain factory boost or slightly more. But if you are pushing 4+ psi more than stock boost, that’s where upgraded diverter valves come into play. With an ECU tune, most times boost pressure is increased, which means you will want to get an upgraded DV that can hold the increased boost.
OEM dev’s have diaphragms that are prone to prematurely fail around 20,000 miles. So not only would an aftermarket DV, like the one linked below, be able to sustain the increased boost, but it will last much longer because of the metal components it is made out of.
Anyone looking for an aftermarket diverter valve should know about Go Fast Bits. They are known for building the best dv’s on the market. On top of holding in more boost, it also adds the turbo whish noise after switching gears. Let’s be honest, who doesn’t love the sound of that?
Conclusion – Audi S3 Mods
The Audi 8V S3 has a lot of aftermarket support, so we encourage everyone to do more research to ensure the parts fulfill your vehicle wants. The list of manufacturers above is our favorite in the space and they all have a great reputation amongst S3 owners. With the mods listed above, an 8V S3 could be pushing anywhere from 359hp – 432hp depending on the ECU tune map and octane level. That’s a huge jump from 296hp. Now if you really want to get crazy and push 500+ hp, a Garrett GT2260S turbo upgrade is very popular for those that want to spend money.
If you want to read up on more Audi S3 content, here is the “Audi S3 Ultimate Guide“.