2022 Audi S3 Review:Driving Impressions

Jack R. Nerad, Independent Expert | Feb 18, 2022

Introduction - Find the best Audi deals!

The all-new 2022 Audi S3 is a compact luxury sport sedan that draws liberally from the equally all-new 2022 Audi A3. The addition of more than 100 horsepower is the key differentiator between the S3 and the A3, but the differences don't stop there. The S3 also brings a sport-tuned suspension, revised steering, enhanced brakes, and summer tires to the party. Though the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine is pushed much closer to its limits than in the A3, the S3 can be as docile as its sibling when you want it to be. Though why you'd want it to be is another question.

Audi launched the 2022 S3 in concert with the A3 as a potent one-two punch into the small luxury sedan category. The S3's role is to provide a performance standard-bearer, although Audi also markets the even more specialized RS 3 that uses the same basic body shell but puts a 401-hp 5-cylinder engine under the hood. To differentiate the S3 from the A3—and get 301 hp to the road effectively—the S3 is only available in Quattro all-wheel-drive (AWD) form. The base A3 is a front-driver.

The 5-passenger S3 also shares the A3's grown-up good looks. The 2022 model is 0.8 inches wider and 1.5 inches longer than the previous generation. It also signals its performance intent with genuine quad exhaust tips. And for an added bit of pizzazz, the standard LED taillights can flash a little animation when locking or unlocking the doors.

As you would expect in a performance model, the S3's interior shows off sport seats that are heated and 8-way power-adjustable. Those opting for the Fine Nappa Leather package will not only get leather-covered seats but will also find them stitched in a diamond pattern. Audi's MIB 3 infotainment system, the most recent iteration, is on display and, speaking of displays, it features a standard 10.1-inch touchscreen. In all, the 2022 Audi S3 is a tidy 4-door sedan that happens to be able to jet from zero-to-60 mph in a claimed 4.3 seconds.

2022 Audi S3 Price and Release Date - Find the best Audi deals!

Many specialty models like the S3 are offered only as a single-spec or with minimal choices. The S3, on the other hand, has a trim-level structure that mirrors that of its sister ship, the A3. The S3 sedan is available in three trims: Premium, Premium Plus, and Prestige. The S3 Premium has a base price of $45,945 (including $1,045 freight), about $11,000 more than the A3 Premium. Among its standard niceties are Quattro AWD, a 301-hp turbocharged engine, 18-inch alloy wheels, 3-zone automatic climate control, and a panoramic sunroof.

The Audi S3 Prestige has a base price of $52,545 (with destination fee.) Its upgrades include Audi Digital Cockpit Plus with its 12.3-inch instrument screen (versus the base 10.25-inch screen), Audi MMI Navigation Plus system with real-time traffic, head-up display, and a Bang & Olufsen sound system.

The test car was a heavily optioned S3 Premium Plus version wearing Tango Red metallic paint ($595.) It had a base price of $44,900 plus a $1,045 destination charge for a total starting price of $45,945. The Premium Plus fitment added $2,800.

The car also had the Technology package ($2,250) featuring the larger-screen digital cockpit, MMI with navigation, and Bang & Olufsen audio. Also present was the Black Optic package ($1,950), featuring 19-inch alloy wheels, summer tires, and black-themed trim. The Fine Nappa Leather package ($1,250) consisted of Nappa leather seating surfaces that were (you guessed it) fine. And the S Sport package ($1,100) brought red brake calipers and a sport suspension. In all, the Audi S3 had an as-tested price of $55,890, including the destination fee.

Independent Expert Opinion: Design, Comfort, and Utility - Find the best Audi deals!

2022 Audi S3 Tango Red Front Quarter View

As one gets into the Audi S3, two things immediately grab your attention: the diamond-stitched driver and passenger seats and the colorful driver information display. While as-tested the Audi S3 was certainly not inexpensive, both features seem to take the sedan to a "class-above" level. Observers have praised Audi models for their interior designs for years, and the S3's execution is almost flawless. The description is "almost flawless" because it is impossible to avoid taking a swipe at the shift lever, a stub that makes one think the real shift lever has been amputated. Okay, it works just fine, but…

The instrument panel and dash design are handsome and effectively minimize the 10.1-inch MMI infotainment display. That's a nice touch because, in many luxury-car interiors, the infotainment screen does not absolutely dominate (akin to a 70-inch TV over a vintage fireplace). The sport seats don't simply look great; they are also comfortable, supportive, and well-bolstered without making you feel like you dropped your rear end into a well.

The 3-zone climate control has discrete controls that are separate from the infotainment system. While the climate control systems in virtually every luxury car on the planet are "automatic," we all know how often we continue to adjust them. Well-marked, logically placed discrete controls help that immensely.

The driving position in the S3 is top-notch. The S3's 4-spoke steering wheel has a modified "flat-bottom" look, and the view through it to the large instrument array is unimpeded.

While German-designed sedans took a long time to embrace cupholders or sufficient size for American drinks, the console-mounted cupholders in the S3 do that job nicely. The center console area also houses a 12-volt outlet in a place that, a couple of decades ago, would've been the place for a "cigarette lighter."

The rear-seat area is decently roomy, although it is unlikely to be occupied very often or for very long in most S3s. If S3 owners decide to take a vacation with four friends, all must pack light. The trunk of the S3 is a confining 8 cubic feet, inexplicably smaller than the 10.9-cubic-foot trunk of the A3.

Independent Expert Opinion: Infotainment, Technology, and Safety - Find the best Audi deals!

2022 Audi S3 Interior Dashboard

The 2022 Audi S3 uses Audi's new MIB 3 infotainment architecture, complete with a 10.1-inch touchscreen. Said to be up to 10 times faster than previous Audi systems, MIB 3 incorporates SiriusXM satellite radio with 360L and hybrid digital radio. The latter allows FM and HD FM listeners to continue listening to the same broadcast after driving outside of the station's range. Connectivity is available for up to eight separate devices.

The S3's smartphone interface provides wireless Apple CarPlay and wireless Android Auto access. Wireless charging is available with the Audi phone box. An optional 680-watt Bang & Olufsen sound system with 15 speakers and a 16-channel amplifier might nearly blow the doors off at full volume.

The S3's standard 10.25-inch digital instrument array is better than the driver information center in many vehicles. The larger Audi Digital Cockpit Plus in the test vehicle offers a 12.3-inch screen and four viewing modes: Dynamic, Sport, Classic, and S Performance. Audi includes a color head-up display and MMI Navigation Plus with real-time traffic in the S3 Prestige trim.

The S3 Audi divides many of its advanced driving assistance systems by trim level. Audi Pre Sense Basic is standard across the lineup. It rolls up windows and tightens the safety belts if it detects a potential collision. Another standard piece of tech, Audi Pre Sense Front gives the driver a series of warnings when it senses a possible accident. It also will brake the S3 automatically if the driver doesn't respond or doesn't respond forcefully enough. Automatic parking assist and lane-departure warning are also standard in all S3s.

Premium Plus and Prestige S3 models have adaptive cruise control, rear cross-traffic warning, and active lane-centering assistance. The last of these aids the driver in keeping the vehicle in the center of the lane of travel. All three worked as expected with no glitches.

Independent Expert Opinion: Driving the 2022 Audi S3 - Find the best Audi deals!

2022 Audi S3 Tango Red Rear Quarter View

If one likes driving the 2022 Audi A3—and most testers do—one will love driving the 2022 Audi S3. The S3 offers more precise handling and substantially quicker acceleration than the A3, yet it does so without making the car harsh or unpredictable. For around-town driving, rush-hour stop-and-go, and highway cruising, the S3 is very similar to the A3. Quiet, comfortable, and predictable are the keywords.

At the same time, those who get on the accelerator pedal will find the additional 105 hp gives the experience much more life. Quattro AWD, revised suspension, and sticky summer tires endow the S3 with plenty of "stick."

The S sport suspension on the test vehicle offers damper control adjustability via the driving modes. It automatically adjusts to road conditions in fractions of a second. Beyond that, the modular dynamic handling control unit enables the AWD system to act in lockstep with the electronic stability control. And the "progressive steering" allows the driver to stay ahead of the car when pushing it. In total, as a driver, you have a lot of tech on your side.

The 2022 S3 doesn't offer the mind-numbing performance of the 401-hp Audi RS 3, but most enthusiast drivers will find themselves very enthusiastic about its performance. The only potential fly in the oatmeal is a slight amount of turbo lag, but most will put up with a bit of lag to tap into the S3's serious power potential.

Independent Expert Opinion of the 2022 Audi S3 - Find the best Audi deals!

Spending $45K or more on a sedan that is 20 inches shorter than a $28,000 Honda Accord seems like an indulgence. But if you're in a position to indulge yourself, the Audi S3 is a good choice. The S3 has excellent performance credentials. Its tech level includes impressive items like available active suspension damping and automatic emergency braking.

At the same time, the Audi S3 is an excellent everyday "driver." The ride quality is excellent, interior noise subdued, and the controls ergonomically correct. The combined fuel economy of 27 mpg is well outside "gas hog" territory.

While the Audi A3 sister ship is arguably the better value, and the Audi RS 3 inarguably offers even higher performance, the S3 sits in a nice sweet spot. Buyers can get sophisticated styling, a convenience-laden interior, and very satisfying performance for right around $50K.

The 2022 Audi S3 proves that a performance car doesn't have to be purpose-built to provide plenty of driving fun. It is a beautiful compromise between a full-on race car and a small luxury sedan.

Jack R. Nerad has been reviewing cars, trucks, vans, and sport utilities for more than three decades. He managed the editorial efforts of Motor Trend magazine and Kelley Blue Book and currently is the host of the SportsMap Radio Network program America on the Road, which is available on Apple Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, Stitcher, and other outlets.

The opinions expressed in this review are the author’s own, not J.D. Power’s.

No portion of these reviews may be reproduced, distributed, publicly displayed, or used for a derivative work without J.D. Power’s written permission. © 2022 J.D. Power

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