June 26, 2022

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Car Review: 2022 Audi S3 Technik

The 2022 Audi S3 Technik expertly blends performance, comfort, and upscale appointments

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The automotive landscape may be overrun with SUVs and crossovers, but for some buyers, the compact sport sedan’s zippy performance, efficiency and tidy size are just the ticket. After a year away from the market, the Audi A3 returns for 2022 with new angular bodywork, upgraded mechanicals, and a redesigned interior.

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Tested here is the 2022 Audi S3 that, with a starting price of $47,900, is the sportier of the two versions available. Canadian enthusiasts will be sad to learn the mad 401-hp turbocharged five-cylinder RS didn’t make it here for 2022. But that’s not to say the more demure S3 is not up for a bit of fun. It’s a slick little rig that expertly blends performance, comfort, and upscale appointments.

The 2022 S3 is slightly larger than the previous model — 30 mm longer, 20 mm wider, and a smidge taller. The 2.0L turbocharged four now makes 306 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, up from 292 horses and 280 lb-ft. It drives all four wheels through a brainy seven-speed dual-clutch auto that snaps off quick shifts and delivers lurch-free low-speed operation.

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The S3 sits 15 mm lower than the regular A3 and rides on standard 18-inch alloys. As with most Audi vehicles, drive modes include Comfort, Auto, Dynamic, and Individual, the latter allowing the tailoring of a personal dynamic cocktail.

This top-trim $53,900 S3 Technik ups the game with advanced LED headlamps, power folding mirrors, navigation, Bang and Olufsen audio, and Audi’s slick 12.3-inch virtual cockpit. Dipped in don’t-look-at-me Daytona Grey ($890), this specimen is optioned up to about 60 grand, with the biggest ticket item being the $1,600 Advanced Handling Package. You’ll want this to make the most of the sporty S3. It adds 19-inch wheels shod with 235/35 performance rubber along with adaptive damping.

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The 202 S3’s cabin incorporates a fresh, angular design, and the 10.1-inch touch display is nicely integrated into the dash. Build quality is up to the usual Audi standards, although the hard plastic door pulls are bit of a letdown. We see wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and the B&O audio gets a thumbs up from this musician. The $1,300 Driver Assist Package adds adaptive cruise and some semi-autonomous function.

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The faux-leather sports seats, heated but not ventilated, deliver a fine blend of comfort and lateral support. As is the current trend with Audi, many analogue controls have been sent off to pasture. The usual volume knob on the console is replaced with a small circular touch pad that controls volume, station selection, etc. Certainly not as intuitive as Audi’s previous MMI rotary controller that made whipping through the infotainment menus relatively easy.

That said, we have hard buttons for HVAC control and seat heat, and a row below that for drive modes, stability control, auto start/stop, and parking functions. The S3’s driving position is spot on and outward visibility good. Rear seat room is a bit tight, and the trunk not as capacious as you might hope for, but hey, this is a compact sedan.

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The new S3 proves to be an excellent all-rounder. Settle into a highway cruise and it lasers down the road with the confidence and serenity expected of premium Euro iron. What I wasn’t expecting was the S3’s engaging ebullience when unravelling a back road. It seems Audi has injected an extra helping of fun into this latest version of its smallest sport sedan. The S3 might be the cheapest and least powerful of the Audi S cars, but it provides the most grins per mile… er, kilometre. Dialing up Dynamic mode and nudging the shift lever back to “S” firms up the suspension, calls up a more aggressive shift schedule, sharpens throttle response, and adds a tad more heft to the helm. It also pipes some exhaust sound into the cabin to go along with the pops and woofs coming out of the quad tailpipes.

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But unlike the previous S3 that got the job done with a point-and-shoot sterility, this 2022 variant invites you to join in the fun. It’s fast, it grips, it pulls out of corners, and even serves up a sweet helping of lift-off oversteer for some grin-inducing rotation when… oh, attacking that deserted roundabout. Turn-in is aided by torque vectoring on the front wheels. The dual-clutch transmission responds to paddle inputs with decent immediacy, and unlike its direct competitors from BMW and Mercedes, the S3’s ride will not beat you up even with all systems on “Go!”

This newfound lust for life comes with marginally improved fuel economy over the outgoing model — 8.8 L/100 km combined vs 9.5 L/100 km combined. Premium fuel is required.

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Keen observers will note that the S3 shares its MQB platform and most mechanicals with the new Volkswagen Golf R. So can we call the S3 a Golf R with a trunk? Not quite. The VW has a bit more power, is tuned considerably more aggressively, and sports that slick rear clutch-pack that can apportion power side-to-side for more oversteery fun. Plus the R is available with a six-speed stick.

But what the Audi S3 does deliver is similar pace, a smoother ride, and a less frustrating interface. It’s a charming piece that does everything exceptionally well, from cruising in luxury to eating up a back road with surprising pace. But dang, please go for a brighter colour.

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