A Great Sport Sedan Middle Ground
If you like the idea of a Volkswagen Golf R, but lead a little more luxury lifestyle, and want it in a true 4-door sedan package, look no further than the Audi S3. It may be Audi’s smallest sedan, but there’s nothing small about it when it comes to performance, style, technology, and comfort.
Many of us wish that 2021 never happened, and for the Audi S3 it didn’t. Well, now it’s back in the lineup, and the 2022 Audi S3 is better than ever. The S3 is, of course, the bridge between the entry-level A3 and high-performance RS3; and while it anchors Audi’s 4-door lineup, and lives in the subcompact world, it doesn’t feel all that small when you’re driving it.
Indeed, it’s longer, wider, and taller than last gen; more akin to what we considered a compact to be not so long ago. And, with its chiseled new body, patterned “Singleframe” grille, and quad exhaust tips, it clearly favors the aggressive RS3 more than the sedate A3. Comfort is not far from a midsize luxury car; yet it’s not so big that working around traffic or navigating city streets are a chore.
Audi’s familiar 2.0-liter I4 turbo resides under the hood, now putting out an impressive 306-horsepower and whipping up 295 lb-ft. of torque. A 7–speed dual-clutch automatic transmission is standard, as is quattro all-wheel-drive.
The suspension is firm and has the S3 riding about half an inch lower than the A3, but it’s far from being rough or abusive. Active dampers are more fully integrated into the drive select system along with stability control and quattro all-wheel-drive. Dynamic mode not only delivers the sportiest ride, but seems to take some of the “lagginess” out of the powertrain, and always has the transmission in the right gear.
We couldn’t wait to put it to the test at Mason Dixon Dragway.
The 2.0-liter pulls strong right off the line. The simple and consistent launch control provided the perfect amount of grunt and grip to blast to 60 in just 4.3-seconds time after time. Fast, firm shifts from the transmission, and a nice throaty exhaust note made the 12.9-second ¼-mile trip a pleasure for all the senses; hitting 109 miles-per-hour at the end of the track.
Even with winter tires on our test car, which can sometimes give an unsettled feel in our handling course, there was plenty of grip to be found. The suspension didn’t feel overly firm here either, yet kept body roll well in check; and while we could have used a little more steering feel through the wheel, we appreciated its quick response, enabling us to keep on top of the S3’s slightly tail-happy nature.
Brakes are upgraded over the A3, but our results were a longish 129-feet to stop from 60; something we’d definitely attribute to those winter tires, which are designed to perform their best on wet, slippery surfaces, not dry race track pavement.
There’s enough of an athletic flair inside to give you the sporty feel; but not so much you lose any of the Audi luxury vibe we’ve come to appreciate. Great sport seats are standard with the S3, diamond stitched Nappa leather optional. The driver-oriented space means the standard 10-inch MMI touchscreen is angled more towards the driver, and is now integrated into the dash instead of sitting on top of it. The latest MIB 3 infotainment system is fairly intuitive, with commonly used things simple to access, but there can still be a bit too much menu diving required for secondary functions. The larger size translates into more room for back seat passengers, but just 8.3 cubic-ft. of trunk space, reminds us why so many people are fleeing to SUVs.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings are 23-City, 32-Highway, and 27-Combined; our average, a good 28.1 miles-per-gallon of Premium.
There’s a trio of fitments for the S3, starting at Premium for $46,895, and topping out at $53,495 for Prestige, with Premium Plus in between.
We applaud Audi, not only for continuing to offer a small sedan, but for making a great one; and for giving buyers a wide range of options to choose from, whether it’s entry-level luxury or high-performance. This 2022 S3 is a great middle ground for those people who want a more entertaining and capable ride, but not at the cost of sacrificing comfort. It may be the smallest Audi, but it’s one of our most favorites!
Engine: 2.0L I4 Turbo
Torque: 295 lb-ft
0-60 mph: 4.3 seconds
1/4 Mile: 12.9 seconds at 109 mph
60-0 Stopping: 129 feet