Okay, so, I’m going to start with some sad news: the Audi RS 3 and TT RS are no longer sold in Canada.
I drove the new RS 3 last fall in Athens, and it is spectacular. If you’re curious, check out my first drive story here
. Unfortunately, it along with the TT RS cannot be sold here due to changes made to the law governing the registration of new vehicles which impacts the five-cylinder turbocharged engine that powers them. Of note, the track-oriented RS 3 LMS is still being sold in Canada and both production cars are available in the U.S.
On the good news front, the Audi S3 sedan remains, and I can confirm it’s quite a firecracker. But I’ll get to that.
The S3, which is available in North America as a sedan (a hatch is available in Europe and other global markets), is all-new for 2022. As was the case previously, it’s based on the A3 and built on Volkswagen Group’s MQB (modular transverse matrix) platform.
In terms of powertrain, both cars are powered by a 2.0-litre TFSI turbocharged gas four-cylinder engine which is mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch (S tronic) automatic transmission and quattro all-wheel drive.
For the A3, output is rated at 201 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque, but the S3 gets a significant boost to 306 / 295. Given its status as a performance-focused model, chassis upgrades are also part of the deal for the S3. Key differences include a 15 mm lower ride height, standard S sport suspension, bigger brakes (375 mm / 310 mm, front / rear, versus 306 / 272 for the A3) and larger standard 18-inch wheels (17-inchers are standard on the A3).
The S3 is available in three grades for Canada: Komfort, Progressiv and Technik. While all models have the same powertrain, the Technik comes with the most standard equipment. Among the extras are heated, auto-dimming power folding exterior mirrors, rear USB port, Audi connect navigation and infotainment plus, Traffic sign recognition, 12.3-inch Audi virtual cockpit plus and Bang & Olufsen Premium 3D sound system and more.
The press unit Audi Canada set me up with comes with even more optional kit. Big ticket items added include the Advanced Handling Package Wheel Design ($1,600), which adds the S sports suspension with damper control, along with 19-inch wheels wrapped in performance tires. I should note that my tester was on winter tires, as I drove it in late March.
Also ticked on the order form is the Technology Package ($1,300), which includes Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop & Go, Audi active cruise assist and High beam assist. Stand-alone options include Matrix LED headlights and taillights with animation ($600), black optics package ($750) and red brake calipers ($400).
Alrightey then – on to my impressions.
Like other Audis, the S3 possesses an understated, geometric aesthetic that exudes an advanced tech sort of cool. The black Singleframe grille, large air intakes and Matrix LEDs on my tester give the S3 a commanding presence when viewed from the front.
The car has a short, stubby profile, but larger 19-inch wheels, combined with quad-tip exhaust finishers, diffuser insert, and Matrix LED taillights give it a stance that exudes performance, and separates it from the A3. Not as much direct emotional appeal as the RS 3, for sure, but compelling in its own way.
On the inside, the S3 has an interior befitting a proper sports sedan. The leather seats are comfortable and well-bolstered, hard plastic is mostly kept out of sight and everything has been placed within easy reach of the driver. Climate controls are straightforward up/down switches located below the multimedia touchscreen and the centre console is blissfully free of extraneous buttons, track pads and other unnecessary distractions. Well done.
As for screens, Audi’s digital displays are among the best in the industry, in my view, and they are on point here. In particular, the 12.3-inch virtual cockpit plus instrument cluster offers pin-sharp resolution and a high degree of configurability, but it also has a user interface that is easy to learn. I wish other systems were as straightforward.
One could argue Audi interiors are generally more austere and less exciting to inhabit than those of BMW and Mercedes, but if you want to just get in and go, the Four Rings is the choice. Plus, the S3 offers a good amount of interior space for a small car and has a useable trunk. And it even looks cool at night with some fiddling of its ambient lighting settings.
But the best part of the S3 is unquestionably the drive.
This small sedan is a little rocket, with a zero-100 km/h time of 4.8 seconds with a top speed of 249 km/h. I didn’t do any closed course testing, but I have little doubt the S3 would excel in such an environment.
Acceleration from the 2.0-litre turbo four doesn’t feel especially neck-snapping in comfort or auto mode, but once dialled to dynamic, throttle response becomes much livelier and the S tronic dual-clutch snaps through the gears much faster. In short, it’s a fun time.
The S3 isn’t the screamer the RS 3 is, by design, but still benefits from being in development with the latter. Its steering is weighty and direct, the adaptive S sport suspension flattens corners nicely and dynamic mode even perks up some exhaust backfiring, although in a more muted fashion. Perhaps even better, is in comfort or auto mode, the suspension and transmission relax and the S3 works just fine as a comfortable and reasonably quiet daily driver.
Looking over my notes, I don’t see much about the S3 that I didn’t like. I did note, however, that rear seat legroom and headroom is a bit tight and there’s no heated steering wheel available. That last one could be an issue for some intenders, but I don’t view it as a deal breaker alone.
In sum, the S3 offers a good amount of performance for money, and while its big brother has departed our shores, the performance legacy carries forward.
2022 Audi S3 Technik
premium subcompact high-performance sedan
Front-engine, all-wheel-drive, seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission
2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder (306 hp / 295 lb-ft)
(Premium 91+) 10.0 / 7.2 / 8.8 L / 100 km city / highway / combined
325 litres (11.5 cu-ft)
$53,900 base / $62,860, as tested, including freight, excl. taxes
The vehicle was provided to the writer by the automaker. Content and vehicle evaluations were not subject to approval.