TESTED: The 2022 Audi S3 Is a Small and Sprightly Sleeper | Edmunds

  • The second-generation Audi S3 was introduced for 2022 and features all-new styling and more in-car tech.
  • Audi’s turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and dual-clutch automatic transmission carry over from the last model, though horsepower and torque increase slightly.
  • The S3’s understated looks make its sporty performance a fun surprise, but acceleration remains on par with the previous S3.

The new 2022 Audi S3 piggybacks on the entry-level A3, which underwent a full redesign for 2022. Like the A3, the S3 features fresh exterior styling and an all-new interior, but it does its mainstream sibling one better with a performance pedigree that includes a more powerful engine, an adjustable lowered sport suspension, bigger brakes and supportive sport seats — a boon for your butt in fast corners. The S3 might not look all that much different from the standard A3 (tip: look for the quad exhaust tips), but that’s part of the charm. Here’s what happened when we pushed a 2022 S3 to its limits at our test track.

Talk, talk, talk. Tell me the numbers.

To be fair to the new S3, it does squeeze 18 more horsepower and 15 more lb-ft of torque out of the turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder than its predecessor did. For 2022, the S3 is rated at 306 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque, whereas the last S3 checked in at 288 hp and 280 lb-ft when it bowed out. However, the new S3 is also a bit portlier, weighing in at 3,565 pounds on our scales — 116 pounds more than a previous-generation 2015 S3 we tested (3,449 pounds).

As it turns out, the extra juice and extra weight cancel each other out. At our test track, the new S3 sprinted from 0 to 60 mph in 4.6 seconds, identical to the last-generation S3. In fact, there’s a lot in common with the last S3. Check out all the figures below.

For fun, let’s also look at the standard A3 as well as the Mercedes-AMG A 35 — one of the S3’s closest rivals — and the new eighth-generation Volkswagen Golf GTI, a car that shares more than a little mechanically with the S3. All of these cars have turbocharged 2.0-liter engines, dual-clutch transmissions and — with the exception of the GTI — feature all-wheel drive.

Despite having a bit more power than the previous-generation S3, the car we tested was no quicker to 60 mph and a tenth off the old car’s quarter-mile time. The new car is slightly heavier than the old one, and testing conditions were a bit more favorable for the old car. It’s safe to call this a wash. Braking distances haven’t changed, but the new S3 produced much better skidpad figures, meaning it can carry more speed through corners than the last S3.

As for the other cars in the table, the regular A3 unsurprisingly lags the S3 across the board, but the Mercedes-AMG A 35 offers much the same feel, simply wrapped in Mercedes rather than Audi packaging. Output and weight are basically a wash, so it’s no surprise that braking and acceleration are so similar.

The GTI is also an interesting comparison. The two models share much underneath as both are based on the same platform from parent company Volkswagen. The GTI is slower because it lacks the S3’s horsepower and all-wheel-drive system, though the Volkswagen’s weight advantage shows in braking figures.

Numbers are great for bench racing, but how does it drive?

Frankly, the S3 is a hoot. It’s not the fastest or the most entertaining car on the road, but it’s fun and sporty in nearly all situations. The turbocharged engine has lots of midrange torque, so passing on the street or highway is never an issue. Dip your toe and the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission drops a gear or two. The engine sounds good, too, though it’s quiet and won’t attract attention unless you’re at full throttle.

The S3 feels light and nimble through corners, especially compared to most other sedans on the road. The steering doesn’t offer much in the way of feedback, but it’s direct and gives you a good sense of the car’s proportions. Chassis control and suspension tuning are excellent. The latter can be adjusted with various drive modes, though it’s never harsh. The all-wheel-drive system generally works seamlessly at getting power to the road and allows you to get on the power relatively early out of corners, though you can occasionally feel the system shifting torque from wheel to wheel.

But wait, there’s more!

Maybe you want more performance than what the S3 offers. Maybe you like the styling but want a little more flash. Maybe — like me — you just really like the sound of a turbocharged inline-five engine. Well, I have good news for you. The good people at the Audi Sport performance division have worked their magic on the A3/S3 and given us a new RS 3. The last RS 3 was a bonkers little rocket with aggressive looks, sharp handling, and exhaust tips the size of personal pan pizzas.

The RS 3 uses a 2.5-liter turbocharged inline-five engine (401 hp, 369 lb-ft) that makes just 7 more horsepower and 15 more lb-ft of torque than the last RS 3. Like the S3, it’s paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch and all-wheel drive featuring a trick twin-clutch called Torque Splitter that mimics a limited-slip rear differential. It helps shunt power to the left- or right-hand side of the car as needed.

The RS 3 also sports wider fenders and sits lower to the ground thanks to an even more performance-oriented suspension. Audi offers features such as carbon-ceramic brakes and adaptive dampers to improve performance further. We haven’t had an opportunity to test the new RS 3, but the last one we tested ran from zero to 60 mph in just 4 seconds. Audi is touting 3.8 seconds for the new car.

Edmunds says

The Audi S3 is an excellent little sport sedan, offering sporty handling, a strong turbocharged engine and standard all-wheel drive. It may not look all that different from the standard A3, but sometimes you just want a car that’s a ton of fun without attracting too much attention.

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