The brilliant turbocharged engine lives.
The Audi A3 lineup is now complete with the introduction of the 2022 Audi RS3, the most powerful variant of the small sedan. Like the outgoing model, only the sedan is sold in the US while Europe gets both it and the RS3 Sportback hatchback. Audi has clarified that there are no current plans to bring the latter stateside. We can live with that because the RS3 sedan is more than good enough.
With its standard Quattro all-wheel drive system, turbocharged five-cylinder engine, and a strong presence inside and out, the RS3 is a special car. It's also the German automaker's entry-level model in the RS high-performance lineup.
Although the engine is carried over from the 2020 model, albeit updated, the new RS3 features several new systems that improve overall performance and handling. The compact high-performance luxury sedan market is not what it once was and it's something of a miracle the RS3 even exists. But Audi knows it has a Quattro legend to keep alive.
Audi has done a great job in recent years creating a design identity featuring aggressive and angular lines and a wide stance. The new generation wears this perfectly. Up front you'll find a redesigned Singleframe honeycomb grille surrounded by massive air intakes. The wedge-shaped LED headlights and LED taillights are standard fare, though buyers can opt for Matrix LED headlights. Out back are dual oval exhaust pipes and a unique bumper with an integrated diffuser.
The car is also slightly wider than before and 0.4-inch lower than the S3. A set of 19-inch wheels are standard with a 10-spoke design. Five-spoke wheels are optional and both designs are wrapped in Pirelli P Zero "Trofeo R" performance semi-slicks.
Just two exterior colors are available: Kyalami green and Kemora gray. For the first time in the model's history, buyers can opt for a contrasting roof in Brilliant black. Another notable styling touch is the Alu-Optic trim pack that enhances the front bumper, diffuser insert, and window trim. The rocker panels inlays and tailgate spoiler can also be had in a carbon fiber polymer.
The moment you step inside it's clear this car is special. You'll find the standard 12.3-inch Audi virtual cockpit. Performance-focused drivers will appreciate that it displays data like rpms in bar graph form, and power and torque percentages. The RPM display is available in the new RS Runway design where the values are shown in a way that replicates an airplane runway. Track day events will be further highlighted with displays for g-forces, lap times, and acceleration times.
A 10.1-inch touchscreen runs the latest MIB3 infotainment system. Additional upgrades include an optional head-up display, standard carbon fiber trim, and RS brand signature honeycomb seat quilting in black, red, or green contrast stitching. Nappa leather is also available, as is the new Design package that tacks on seat corners in red or green and air vents with colored accents.
The insanely cool multifunctional three-spoke, flat-bottom steering wheel is wrapped in leather with built-in shift paddles on each side. Design pack buyers further get a 12 o'clock stripe. A round steering wheel is also available; both feature an RS Mode button.
The turbocharged 2.5-liter inline-five engine returns and it's better than before. The global RS3 sedan produces 394 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque, which kicks in at 2,250 rpm and goes up to 5,600 rpm. The only gearbox offered is a seven-speed dual-clutch that routes power to all four wheels. Audi even added a new variable exhaust control flap for an even better exhaust symphony.
Performance is impressive. Zero to 62 mph takes 3.8 seconds and top speed is either 155 mph or 174 mph if optioned, but 180 mph is even possible with the RS Dynamic package and ceramic brakes. Stopping power is provided by a set of six-piston steel brakes as standard, although the aforementioned front ceramics and larger rear steel discs are available for those willing to pay.
Handling-wise, the RS3 gets a standard sport suspension with traditional shocks; an adaptive suspension with active dampers is an option. There's also the upgraded Quattro AWD system with torque vectoring for the rear axle. Depending on selected drive mode, it manages power to the rear wheels. The new RS Torque Rear, aka drift mode, will be loads of fun.
US pricing has not been announced just yet but we suspect it'll cost more than the outgoing model, given the many improvements. The 2020 RS3 began at a little over $57,000. We estimate a low $60k range base price for the 2022 model. European sales will begin this month and the US market isn't far behind. The first customer deliveries here should begin this spring.
The 2022 Audi RS3 doesn't have many rivals, but those that do exist are fierce. Its main targets are definitely the Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 and BMW M2 CS. Yes, the latter is a RWD coupe only but it appeals to similar buyers. Buyers who still desire a high-performance small Audi sedan but aren't willing to pay the RS3's asking price, look no further than the formidable S3, which starts at about $45,000.