The 2022 Audi S3 first engine: a classic German compact sports sedan

The 2022 Audi S3 sports a muscular new look, with fender flares reminiscent of the brand’s rally cars of the 1980s. Its driving personality also excites a variety of classic German compact sports sedans, which isn’t a bad thing. Audi

The 2022 Audi S3 looks eerily familiar to me. It reminds me of the VW Golf R, with which it shares many of its underpinnings – including its 300-plus-hp version of the 2.0-liter VW turbocharged all-wheel drive (AWD) four-cylinder system. It also evokes Audi’s great 2008 to 2016 Typ8K S4, with which it roughly shares the powertrain and acceleration stats, with the manufacturer clocking a 0-60 time in 4.5 seconds.

But more than that, and this may sound like sacred sacrilege from the previous 2002 BMW owner, it reminds me of the late ’80s E30 series of the BMW 325iX sedan, Munich’s first AWD sports sedan and a classic from the era when the truly Bavarian brand was. Get the title of Ultimate Driving Machine.

Although the S3 lacks the car’s five-speed manual transmission—instead it uses a 7-speed automatic that is controlled by a ridiculously short gearbox that looks and behaves, inexplicably, like a giant light switch—it shares a host of other traits with The AWD E30 is now high in value.

2022 Audi S3 speed
The S3 will run from zero to 60 in 4.5 seconds, but is as sporty through twists as it is in a straight line. Audi

It has four doors, making it a much more practical way of getting around passengers than BMW’s best-matched rival, the M240i xDrive Coupe (which I also drove recently), and the rear seats are all unreachable and uninhabitable by anyone with legs.

Like this BMW, the S3 has an upright stance, flared fenders, and larger wheels compared to its more mainstream brethren. And like the iX, it has all-wheel drive, a feature that’s an option on regular A3s but comes standard on even the S3’s most basic trim. (Speaking of a premium, the S3 starts at $9,000 more than the similarly equipped A3 all-wheel drive.)

But for the most part, it shares a driving pleasure quotient which makes it a willing partner in almost all circumstances.

Smooth, Sybaritic and Safe

I drove my Audi on snowy, slick Manhattan roads, on smooth park trails and highways that lead out of town, on two winding, recently plowed lanes in rural areas, and on the main streets of a small town scaly in sand and ice scattered by plow trucks. The adjustable Audi Drive Select modes – Comfort, Dynamic or Individual – allowed me to enjoy all these surfaces.

Even with the upgraded sport suspension (part of the $1100 S Sport package) and larger 19-inch wheels (part of the $1,950 Black Optic package), I never felt like I needed traction or braces after getting out of the car. Big wheels and low-rise tires usually mean negative feedback on broken pavement, but not here.

Some credit may be given to the premium standard sport seats, which are upgraded with quilted stitching from the $1,250 Nappa leather fine package, as well as a memory-storage function for countless strength adjustments, a lucky offshoot of the $2,800 Premium Plus package.

2022 Audi S3 seats
Firm, supportive seats, and plenty of space, characterize the front of the cabin. Audi
2022 Audi S3 back seat
The S3 is small, but it has a larger, more usable rear seat than competitors from BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Audi

This subsequent sale mainly offers advanced driver assistance systems like adaptive cruise control, active lane assist, active side impact and rear cross traffic avoidance, and wireless charging, all of which I had the opportunity to test, all of which worked great. They didn’t really interfere with my expert driving, but they did provide a sense of protection if an asshole made a tragic mistake on the road.

In the event of an accident, ten airbags are the norm, a kind of inflation that I could literally fall behind.

Sports sedan for all seasons

Braking performance wasn’t bolstered by the red-painted calipers that were also provided by the S Sport package, but the pedal feel was well regulated and consistent even after deer-like groupsets, and then the turkeys on that aforementioned rear-roader required a stop to a panic.

The S3’s steering is heavier than it should be at higher speeds and somewhat lighter than it might need for lower speed maneuvers. Audi might call this adaptability, but it seemed pretty tough either way.

But there are no complaints about acceleration, especially in Sport mode. This car feels more efficient than it rated for—it’s faster than its more powerful relative in the Golf R—and cracks happily when fired from zero to 60 times as often as it finds a stop sign. (Or a place to stop.)

Its exhaust note is pretty impressive for a turbocharged four-cylinder: not too loud, not obnoxious and plump like the massive five-cylinder turbo in its more volatile RS3 counterpart, but clear enough to alert revving drivers that the Subaru WRX will give them work.

Audi wraps all this in beautiful shape. The greenhouse is a bit small compared to the legendary E30 I mentioned earlier, but the large standard panoramic sunroof helps let in light. The flared fenders add a bit of drama, and its slight bodywork is a heritage recall of Audi’s stooges from the ’80s.

Inside, the horizontals are angular and retro futuristic, with some wrinkles and sharp cutouts, interestingly ornate metal and wood, and overall pleasant airiness. The 10.1-inch touchscreen and MIB 3 software could probably do all kinds of tricks, but the wireless Apple CarPlay connection meant I just gave up mirroring my familiar iPhone instead of having to learn another infotainment system.

As does the standard display, which eschews much of the practicality and aesthetics of Audi’s best-in-class LCD instrument panel, which can display detailed Google Maps right in front of the driver, which has already been frequently replicated in the central touchscreen navigation system. I’ve had enough of all these screens, personally, but they have continued to spread and it seems unlikely that the march of “progress” will be halted until every surface has been coated.

2022 Audi S3 three quarters
This look looks timeless, but it doesn’t leave much room for the luggage compartment. The S3 offers just 8.3 cubic feet, while the less sporty A3 offers 10.9 cubic feet. Audi

S3 vs. GTI and Golf R.

But as much as I enjoyed the S3, I could hardly justify the near $56,000 price tag for the best-in-line Prestige model I tried. It’s a cheerful and functional car, and it’s the right size for a city age group like myself. But the Volkswagen GTI and its available manual transmission are a siren call for performance enthusiasts; It’s about the same speed, and it’s a lot cheaper even if it lacks all-wheel drive.

The aforementioned BMW is similarly priced, significantly faster and sportier, and while less practical as a coupe, it looks better and has a larger boot to boot. And the A3 Quattro will do nearly everything this car does, except slide really fast, with a starting price of $8,000 to $9,000 at every level. Choosing the S3 Premium Plus with the $2,250 tech package can bring the price down to around $52,000 while still keeping most of Prestige’s great extras.

However, for those who seek a combination of speed, performance, luxury, all-weather capability and small range, the 2022 S3 is a compelling package. Be careful when checking the boxes, and it will definitely remind you of the great German cars of the past.

2022 Audi S3 inside
2022 Audi S3 headlights
2022 Audi S3 Handling

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