2022 Audi RS3, All you want to know & watch about a Great Car
2022 Audi RS3 First Drive: Get It While You Can
Audi’s updated RS3 delivers strong dynamics to enthusiasts looking for something a little different.
We drove the new 2022 Audi RS3 near the end of last year in Euro-spec guise and came away impressed. We’ve now driven the U.S.-market 2022 Audi RS3, and our latest experience of the small sedan reinforces our original impressions: This is a compact performance car worthy of attention from drivers who appreciate fun dynamics. And if you desire to drive something a little different, the RS3 is an even more compelling option.
What’s New To The Eye
Audi calls the 2022 RS3 “all new,” but it still rides on the MQB platform that underpinned the previous model. There are notable improvements on offer, however, and even a quick glance at this second-generation version causes you to take note of its more aggressive exterior styling. For the starting price of $59,995, you get a black roof that contrasts with bright body colors like Kyalami Green, Python Yellow, and Turbo Blue (“traditional” colors like red, white, gray, black, and more are available).
Exaggerated wheel-arch flares, a larger grille and front air intakes, and a more aggressive rear bumper and slightly bigger wicker-style spoiler are other obvious visual differences. The same goes for the LED taillights and headlights, which feature amusing entry/exit animations including an “R-S-3” graphic that illuminated in-step on the driver’s-side front lamp, and a checkered flag pattern on the other. If that’s not enough, the new version’s sharper side-scalloping gives the RS3 greater presence and curb appeal compared to its predecessor.
We generally praise Audi for creating some of the best interiors in the business, and this is the case with the RS3’s cockpit. It’s new across the board, from the steering wheel to the dash to the shifter to the honeycomb-stitched sport seats, and its overall look is one of clean, aggressive precision.
Add the $1,500 Design package, and you get carbon-fiber trim pieces, an Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel, and Kyalami Green stitching, dash pieces, and seat trim. Note: You won’t be able to choose anything but that bright green for cabin accents, at least for now.
“If you want the design package, you’re getting green [inside], and we do it with green, white, black, and gray exteriors,” says Anthony Garbis, Audi senior manager of product planning in the U.S. The reason? “I love green. I’m pushing green on everyone,” he continues with a laugh. “We have the new Kyalami green … That’s [the global] ‘communication color’ for the new RS3.
We have to plan the life cycles of the cars, too. Other colors we have coming later, other packages, things we request to keep the car fresh—you don’t want to just dump everything at first. Then what do you do for year three, four?”
If you’re a customer who doesn’t dig green, your only choice is to wait, unfortunately.
Looks are one thing, but the 2022 Audi RS3’s real story is a three-part tale: engine, suspension, and RS Torque Splitter.
Audi’s well-known 2.5-liter direct-injected turbo five-cylinder engine carries over from the previous RS3, with software updates and slightly more boost pressure yielding 401 hp at 6,500 rpm and 369 lb-ft of torque at 3,500 rpm. Those figures eclipse the old model by 1 hp and 15 lb-ft, and they represent a 7-hp and 15-lb-ft advantage over the new RS3 models sold in other countries.
Yes, the U.S. gets the most raucous RS3 you can buy new from a dealer. Audi says the car will accelerate to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds. That’s the same time we recorded with the old version; we’ll have to wait to test this new one to find out if the company is conservative with its estimate.
Suspension-wise, the old magnetic-shock system is gone, replaced by Audi’s RS Sport Suspension Plus featuring Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC). Whereas the previous suspension—which could be brutal in terms of ride quality on various RS models—essentially offered only two damping rates, the new one provides a wider range of performance based on conditions and/or driver-selectable modes.
Each damper features an electronically controlled valve that can change the amount of oil flowing into its reservoir, changing the resistance but not the fluid viscosity as happens in a magnetic setup.
The RS Torque Splitter, though, is the real change enthusiast drivers will appreciate. It’s the same equipment used in Volkswagen’s Golf R, with Audi-specific software and tuning. We’ve explained previously how it works, but in a nutshell it’s a clutch-pack torque-vectoring rear end that replaces the previous RS3’s Haldex differential and less ideal brake-based torque vectoring.
It’s capable of transferring 100 percent of rear-wheel torque to either side, helping to rotate the chassis through corners. If you switch to Torque Rear mode, it allows for big, easy, sweeping drifts as an insignificant amount of drive torque turns the front wheels in this situation, though there’s no means by which to actually disconnect the front axle from the drivetrain.
How Does It Drive?
Splendidly, for the most part. The new suspension has enough compliance in its standard Comfort mode to make long drives a breeze on your rear end, a welcome upgrade from the past. If you’re looking for more action and don’t mind being jostled some, activate Dynamic mode, then access the submenu for RS Performance settings. You’ll find more suspension choices, one also labeled Comfort, but the name is misleading:
It’s the softer of two track settings and is intended for running on the undulating Nürburgring Nordschleife, not for Shopping Mall Lane. Still, we found it ideal for spirited driving on fun roads through the desert near Pahrump, Nevada. The Dynamic mode choice found in the same submenu is even stiffer, intended for Germany’s relatively smooth Hockenheim Grand Prix road course.
Meanwhile, the steering—also adjustable—doesn’t provide otherworldly feedback, but it’s quick enough to cause the RS3 to react positively to inputs, and its weight makes it enjoyable to flow from curve to curve.
In addition to driving on the road, we put the Audi through its paces on the racetrack at Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch in Pahrump, where the 2022 Audi RS3 proved to be a blast of a great time. Running in RS Performance mode with stability control deactivated, we learned quickly to trust the Quattro all-wheel-drive system and the rear-end torque splitter, both of which did an excellent job of managing throttle inputs.
With the RS3’s engine located forward of its front axle and contributing to a 59/41 percent front/rear weight distribution, understeer is almost always going to be the chassis’ fallback trait. However, it’s easy to avoid plowing the front end unless you overcook yourself into a slow corner, and we were impressed by how soon and how hard we could go to power coming out of corners with the car uttering barely a hint of protest. The trick differential has a ton to do with this: Just nail the throttle on corner exit and trust the system to sort out the grip.
The fact the RS3’s front track is 2.7 inches wider than the rear helps in this regard, and its reasonably neutral behavior on the track was enhanced further by the tires Audi equipped it with: For the first time, the RS3 is available from the factory with Bubblicious-sticky Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R rubber ($450).
Throwing ourselves into corners, nailing the throttle off the apex as the variable sport exhaust ($1,000) rumbled satisfyingly but not obnoxiously behind us, and hurtling toward the next braking zone was a treat. The brakes never tired of hitting their marks, despite ambient temperatures hovering near 100 degrees.
A note about the brakes: The cars we drove on the track were equipped with optional carbon-ceramic front rotors ($5,500 as part of a package that includes a carbon engine cover and which raises top speed from 155 to 180 mph). Audi says the RS3’s front-heavy weight bias makes rear carbon-ceramics unnecessary and a waste of money, and the performance we experienced backed that up.
If you stick with the standard steel brake discs, you’ll be happy to know they are larger than before and boast 20 percent better cooling while featuring the RS5’s calipers with bigger pads. The only thing we didn’t particularly like in terms of feel during our on-track hammering was the fact the brake pedal has a long, somewhat spongy travel. We had no complaints about the stopping power itself, but we found it difficult at times to make consistent inputs, especially in a couple of spots on the track that demanded reasonably hard braking.
Take It Or Leave It?
If you’re looking for a fast, quick, great-handling, non-electrified, compact luxury sport sedan with sharp looks and excellent driving dynamics, the 2022 Audi RS3 deserves serious consideration. With its powerful engine and quick acceleration, Quattro-provided cornering traction, solid handling balance, and the new RS Torque Splitter allowing for plenty of smoky sideways antics if you get bored of following a conventional line, there’s a lot to like.
It’s not as brutal in its delivery as, say, a BMW M car, and it’s smaller than most of today’s performance four-doors. Both of those characteristics hold strong appeal to a certain type of buyer. Audi won’t talk sales volume, but don’t expect to see a fleet’s worth of RS3s flooding American roads, which should make owners feel once again like they’re part of a relatively small in-the-know club.
Those people are correct: Looking ahead, it’s reasonable to speculate this car will, in just a few years, be seen as something special from a bygone time—and one you wish you would have grabbed when you had a chance.
|2022 Audi RS3 Specifications|
|LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 4-pass, 4-door sedan|
|ENGINE||2.5L/401-hp/369-lb-ft turbo direct-injected DOHC 20-valve I-5|
|TRANSMISSION||7-speed twin-clutch auto|
|CURBWEIGHT||3,649 lb (mfr)|
|L x W x H||178.8 x 72.9.6 x 55.6 in|
|0-60 MPH||3.6 sec (mfr est)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||20/29/23 mpg|
|EPA RANGE, COMB||334 miles|