2022 Audi RS 3: The New Queen of Compact Sports Sedans

Strong points
  • Outstanding dynamics
  • Strong engine with unique sound
  • Capable AWD system
  • Premium-looking cabin
  • Excellent fit and finish
Weak points
  • High price
  • Expensive options
  • Limited rear-seat room
Full report

The all-new 2022 Audi RS 3, which will arrive in Canadian dealerships next spring, is the new record holder among compact sports sedans at the famous Nürburgring Nordschleife. With test driver Frank Strippler behind the wheel, the car recently posted a lap time of 7:40:748 minutes.

The Car Guide flew to Athens, Greece for a can’t-miss opportunity to put the RS 3 through its paces not only on public roads, but also on the track and even a drift pad.

At first glance, the redesigned Audi RS 3 looks much sharper and more assertive than its predecessor, with styling inspired by the latest RS 6 Avant and RS 7 Sportback. The body sits 25 millimetres closer to the ground than that of the A3, while the front track is 33 millimetres wider.

A huge Singleframe grille featuring a chain-like mesh design and black contour that flows into the redesigned headlights, black rocker extensions and a set of 19-inch, five-spoke RS alloy wheels help define its sporty character.

By the way, in Europe and other markets the RS 3 is available in five-door Sportback configuration in addition to the four-door sedan. Unfortunately, we will only get the latter here. What a shame. The decision comes from the U.S., and you can’t really blame Audi Canada because the cost for homologating the long-roof variant would be too high.

Photo: Tobias Sagmeister

Much More Refined  Cabin

Inside, the new RS 3 looks and feels way more refined and upscale. We particularly like the carbon fibre dashboard, the Nappa leather seats with a honeycomb-pattern middle section and either gloss black, red or green stitching, as well as the three-spoke, flat-bottom steering wheel that gets a top centre marker with the optional Design Package.

Audi’s Virtual Cockpit is included, though with RS-specific graphics and colours. For instance, the tachometer goes from green to yellow to red to indicate when it’s time to switch gears using the paddle shifters.

Photo: Tobias Sagmeister

Let the Fun Begin!

The turbocharged 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine still produces 394 horsepower, but peak torque is increased to 369 pound-feet which you can access across a wider rev range (2,250-5,600 rpm). It’s always a treat to listen to the unique sound of this engine evoking the legendary Audi Ur-quattro that Hannu Mikkola won the WRC with back in 1983, or the Audi S1 driven by Walter Rörhl during his winning climb at Pikes Peak in 1987.

What a lovely powerplant this is. Even more impressive, though, is the car’s ability to radically alter its personality based on the drive mode you select.

Photo: Tobias Sagmeister

Drifting Bliss

A highlight of the 2022 Audi RS 3 is most definitely the new rear Torque Splitter, which consists of two multi-plate clutches that handle torque vectoring from one side to the other. 

In Torque Rear mode, the system makes drifting super-easy by sending up to 1,290 pound-feet of torque to the rear outside wheel only. It can make any driver feel like they are Ken Block behind the wheel (incidentally, Block recently signed on with Audi to help develop the brand's electric vehicles).

Photo: Tobias Sagmeister

Driving in circles on a specially arranged drift pad, we pushed the car in second gear, using quick jabs at the throttle and delicate steering control to start going sideways and maintain the pace, all the while hearing the engine scream happily and seeing a cloud a smoke coming from the tires. We had no more than six minutes to spend there, and just before our time was up one of the rear tires exploded, cutting the experience short.

The lesson for all of you potential RS 3 buyers is don’t get too carried away—or plan for some replacement tires in your budget.

Photo: Tobias Sagmeister

On the Track

We continued our test drive of the new Audi RS 3 with a lapping session at the Athens Circuit in Megara just outside of the nation’s capital. This time, we set the Torque Splitter in Performance mode, which distributes torque in a way that makes the car feel balanced in corners, with zero understeer or oversteer.

In this mode, you can hammer the go-pedal as soon as you hit the apex. The quattro AWD system and Torque Splitter will take care of adjusting torque and grip in milliseconds so you can shoot your way out of the corner.

We also spent some time on the track in Dynamic mode, enough to realize that there’s a subtle difference between the two. The former makes the suspension stiffer and the ride a bit jittery, while the latter results in smoother action. It’s easy to know which one is best suited for Canadian roads.  

Photo: Tobias Sagmeister

Final Word

Audi Canada has not yet announced pricing for the 2022 RS 3, but it will likely be around $65,000 like the outgoing model. The evolution from old to new is remarkable, especially with the innovative Torque Splitter and classier interior. Prepare for big-time thrills.

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