More power! – New torque-vectoring rear differential! – Drift Mode!
This is the new 2022 Audi RS 3 and if you’re looking for a car that will devour back roads, and put a silly grin on your face even when driving to the shops for a loaf of bread, then this car is for you.
In the pursuit of handling perfection, Audi has honed this car with uniquely flared fenders wearing 265/30 up front and 245/35 at the rear. It has an RS3-specific front subframe, and control arms, and compared to the S3, the front track is two inches wider.
The last time I tested one of these was back in 2018 when we had the Audi TTRS and both were masterful and a hell of a lot of fun. Fast forward to 2023 and the TTRS is dead so now the only 5-cylinder vehicle currently on sale in the US is this car.
Under the hood
Is the aforementioned turbocharged 2.5-liter five-cylinder with 401 horsepower and 369 pound-feet, which is seven more hp than in the previous model and 15 additional foot-pounds. It’s driven through a 7-speed DSG, which is stronger than the unit in the S3 and it has completely different ratios. Launch it and it will take 3.3 seconds to get from a standstill to sixty, a tad quicker than the old model.
If you are familiar with the Golf R then the RS3 shares the same clutch packs on each axle which can shuffle torque to whichever wheel needs traction. The system can send up to 50% to the rear.
The RS 3 has an aggressive body style made more so with the black optic package. My tester had the Dynamic Plus Package ($5,500) as well which gives it a 180-mph top speed, carbon trimmed engine cover, and ceramic brakes. The only problem we had with the brakes was the noise, whether hot or cold they screeched a lot and it was uncomfortably loud in the cabin.
The base price is $58,900 which is a total bargain considering this car’s performance but be careful you can go nuts checking the option boxes as is the case with this tester. As well as the Dynamic package it had the RS Tech Package ($2,750) which includes Audi Connect Plus, Audi navigation, Bang and Olufsen sound system, and Head-up Display with Traffic sign recognition.
The Carbon Package adds another $2,750 and the RS Design package ($1,500) which includes an Alcantara Steering Wheel, Green Air Vents, Green Seatbelt Edging, and Floor Mats with RS Logo. It also comes with an RS Sport Exhaust ($1,000), and finally, a Black Optic Package ($750) which adds 19-inch Y-Spoke design wheels and summer tires. I do think my tester’s Kyalami Green is a bit much and will no doubt catch the attention of the highway patrol in a second.
The five-cylinder engine warbles as you set off and the whole car immediately feels taut and well put together, it’s deeply impressive. The grip from the P-Zeros is very good, the RS 3 has great body control so you know exactly what’s going on.
We tried Dynamic mode but it sets the suspension too firm and that doesn’t work on California’s virtually unmaintained roads, RS Individual is the Goldilocks choice here, the car soaks up the worst of the bumps, since the damping has been programmed to perfection.
The steering is very accurate, even though it doesn’t get any heavier in any of the modes, which I actually prefer. The brakes being ceramic are somewhat noisy or at least they were on this test car, they developed a high-pitched squeal when you were pressing on and it did become bothersome. At least you can stick with the steel ones which are perfectly fine unless you make frequent visits to the track.
The Audi Drive Select system features several different settings (Auto, Comfort, Dynamic, RS Individual, RS Performance, and RS Torque Rear). The ‘RS Individual’ mode allows the driver to make adjustments to the drive system, and suspension, the “RS Performance’ mode differs slightly in that it makes the transmission very aggressive and it holds the gears just a tad too long for my liking.
RS Torque Rear comes with a warning that it should not be used on public roads but you can select it anyway since the system doesn’t know where you are. Finally, Comfort mode softens the suspension but you can still select S on the selector if you need zippier shifts.
I agree it is a tad complicated but once you have it set up you can simply push the RS button on the steering wheel to toggle between the RS modes and whatever you were using last.
The turbo five-cylinder pulls hard, and although you can trigger some jerkiness and hesitancy from the transmission it’s generally very good at keeping in the right torque band. Speaking of torque this new engine delivers peak torque at 3,500 instead of 1,700 rpm for the outgoing model. This might explain the occasional lag in torque.
Launches seem to remove any lag, turn off the traction control, left foot on the brake, right on the gas and off you go to sixty in around 3.3 seconds, albeit with a little bit of tail wiggle.
Fuel economy, despite my right foot being buried in the carpet for most of the time, was pretty good, I averaged 21.9 mpg compared to an EPA rating of COMB/CITY/HWY: 23/20/29.
The RS3 has a very nice interior, although there are some harder plastics in the center console by the cup holders, however, All models get the 12.3-inch Audi virtual cockpit ahead of the driver with new screens and readouts, and everything from torque split to a g-meter and lap timer.
The front seats are superb with plenty of bolstering, maybe a little firm but covered in fine Napp leather. The main infotainment screen is responsive and has well-laid-out menus, the only miss being the lack of volume control, instead, you get a touch wheel to adjust tracks and volume, it works but its not as good.
The back seats are ok for kids and small adults and there is a tad less trunk space now since it now has to make room for the twin-clutch torque splitter. I’ll take the space hit.
This is a remarkable car and we are very glad that Audi has made it. Sure, you could set up an S3 to be almost as fast but you’re still down a cylinder and a lot of soul. BMW’s redesigned M2 has yet to appear, and the Mercedes-AMG CLA45 is all flash and has less ability.
Watch the options and this one is a serious performance bargain, it’s deeply impressive. Just make sure you choose a more subtle color than my tester.
2022 Audi RS3 Numbers
BASE PRICE: $58,900
AS TESTED PRICE: $74,595
VEHICLE LAYOUT: Front-engine, all-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan
ENGINE: 2.5-liter turbocharged and inter-cooled DOHC 20-valve inline-5
POWER: 401 hp @ 6,500 rpm
TORQUE: 369 lb-ft @ 3,500 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic
0-60 MPH: 3.3 sec
TIRES: Pirelli P Zero PZ4
CURB WEIGHT: 3,600 lb
EPA COMB/CITY/HWY: 23/20/29
OUR OBSERVED: 21.9 mpg
PROS: Bonkers fast, an absolute gem of an engine, the best RS 3 yet
CONS: Can get pricey with options