2022 Audi S3 First Drive: Powerful Panache at an Expensive Price

 

Audi’s new S3 continues to meld luxury and style with the substance of a sports vehicle

Pros:

More power than ever before

Exterior style is sharp and athletic.

Interior design that emphasises technology

Cons:

Standard driver aids are missing.

At high speeds, it’s almost too silent.

Options are a little costly.

We’re cruising down the road late one weekend evening when we notice it out in the distance: another another L.A. snarl of taillight ribbons lurking ahead. It’s time to downshift in the 2022 Audi S3. The digital gauges surge and a buzz crescendos from its blackened exhaust tips as its turbo-boosted 2.0-liter inline-four pegs approach 5,000 rpm.

We seek for a space while trailing on the S3’s powerful brakes, which can propel Audi’s entry-level sport sedan from 60 mph to 0 in an astonishing 108 feet. There you have it. Back on the throttle, the 2022 S3’s seven-speed twin-clutch automatic gearbox shifts near redline, and we’re back on the road, luxuriating in its premium-feeling, leather-lined interior.

 

The border between sport and luxury is becoming increasingly blurred as premium manufacturers such as Audi continue to enhance and reinvent automobiles such as the newly revised 2022 S3. Buyers increasingly demand it all, and with entry-level vehicles like the S3, initial impressions may be crucial.

0-60 and quarter-mile times for the Audi S3

In that regard, our test team’s early impressions of the upgraded S3 were favourable. The S3’s aforementioned 2.0-liter turbo, with 306 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, is a “peppy” engine with decent middle power from 3,000 rpm, according to the squad. It’s a heavily boosted four-cylinder capable of propelling the 3,555-pound S3 to 60 mph with authority. The 4.6-second sprint to 60 mph is a tenth of a second slower than Audi’s official number for the 2022 S3, with the quarter-mile taking 13.2 seconds at 105.2 mph.

Alan Lau, a Road Test Analyst, had this to say about getting the S3 into its best straight-line assault mode: “It has a boost gauge and launch control. It seems to operate best when launched as soon as the boost hits maximum. If you wait too long, you will lose some boost and have a slower launch.”

The Mercedes-AMG A35 4Matic is one of the S3’s closest competitors with Quattro all-wheel drive. The slightly lighter (3,480 pounds) 2021 A35 we tested with AMG’s 2.0-liter turbo-four with 302 horsepower narrowly edged out the new S3 in straight-line figures, clocking in at 4.4 seconds to 60 mph and 13.1 seconds at 105.1 mph. However, in our tests, the S3 outbraked the A35 by 108 feet to 112 feet.

Figure-Eight And S3 Around The Skidpad

The S3’s 0.92 g skidpad and 25.5 seconds at 0.71 g (avg) on our MotorTrend figure-eight were outperformed by the A35’s 0.96 g skidpad and 24.7 seconds at 0.77 (avg) figure-eight. While the A35 is the obvious dynamic victor, the rest of the stats are close enough to make it a wash between the two German sedans in the kind of day-to-day driving most owners would encounter. Oh, and the Audi is more fuel-efficient, with a city/highway rating of 23/32 against 22/29.

The S3 reminded Road Test Editor Chris Walton of another new German vehicle, the new eighth-generation Volkswagen GTI, which isn’t unexpected since they’re both built on the Volkswagen Group’s MEB Evo platform. However, he stated that he believed the S3 had “a bit more edge, with better sounds and traction, dependable brakes on every lap, and a decent amount of grip on the skidpad with a very balanced attitude It throws down a lot of power on the departure, with just a hint of understeer that goes away as you open the steering.”

 

Although Walton said that the S3’s gearbox was “unbelievably smooth” on upshifts, he had problems with downshifting and had to revert to manual mode because the car wasn’t getting the downshift timing right when he drove it through our dynamic course.

A Quiet Cabin With Many Options

Out on the highway, the 2022 Audi S3 demonstrates some impact roughness over uneven pavement, but nothing out of the ordinary for a car of its class. The S3 features a drive choose mode system, like previous Audis, that tightens up shift points and other elements like steering feel, which Walton found was heavy for the sake of being heavy in Dynamic mode, but you can tweak settings in Individual mode, which he did to tune the feedback to his satisfaction.

 

At high speeds, you’ll realise how secluded the S3’s stylish and tech-heavy interior is. It’s nearly too much for a tiny sport sedan, but that’s questionable because it highlights the luxury half of this car’s equation.

In that regard, the 2022 Audi S3 ticks most of the boxes you’d expect from a vehicle starting at $45,945. It also has aggressive front and back fascia treatments, as well as a significantly lower stance than its A3 sister. However, if you want the real deal, you’ll have to pay for everything, including the $2,800 Premium Plus package (adaptive cruise control, enhanced safety and convenience features), and the $2,250 Technology package (Audi virtual cockpit with its 12.3-inch screen, Bang & Olufsen sound).

This vehicle also had three available interior and exterior aesthetic packages, the most notable of which was the $1,950 Black Optic package, which blacked out various trim pieces and included a 19-inch wheel/performance tyre configuration. All of the black stands out against the Tango Red metallic paint job.

This particular test car is on the pricier side at $55,890 all-in, but it’s not out of line with its German competitors loaded with comparable equipment. Even in its most basic configuration, the 2022 S3 has more than enough presence and performance to please consumers searching for something distinctive at the lower end of the Audi portfolio.

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