Audi S3: Noice . . . but the proice?

Riley Riley

2022 Audi S3 Sportback 3

What is it?

With 228kW of power on tap, S3 is Audi’s answer to the hot hatch.

Dating back to 1999, it’s available in sedan and hatchback form and shares underpinnings with the VW Golf R.

The current version, with styling influenced by Lamborghini, was released in early 2020, and puts away the dash in a rapid 4.8 seconds.

What about the RS3? I hear you ask. Yes, it pumps out even more power and torque and offers performance that’s not far off a Ferrari.

But it’s priced from a ludicrous $91,000 plus here in Oz, probably more than $100K by the time you put it on the road. That puts it head to head with many more competitors.

2022 Audi S3 Sportback 2

What’s it cost?

S3 is not cheap and the price has risen steeply over the past few years.

In 2018 you could get into an auto for $63,900. In 2019 it was $64,200; 2020, $64,200; 2021, $69,900 and 2022, $70,700.

That’s an increase of $6443 in five years, most of it since July last year.

Here’s another interesting bit of information too.

The Volkswagen Golf R, basically the same car and some might say more sophisticated, is priced from $68,990 — a difference of just $1710.

That makes the Volkswagen expensive, or the Audi a bargain, depending on your perspective.

For mine, either way it’s a lot of money to pay for what is essentially a small hatchback, even if it is a quick one — and will have the go fast brigade exploring alternatives.

For example you can get into the highly regarded Subaru WRX for as little as $44,990 plus on roads (Premium version from $56,990) which leaves plenty of change from $70K.

A John Cooper Works Mini Cooper is $54,450, Hyundai i30N Premium $49,200 or Renault Megane RS, $62,300 — all worthy contenders.

Closer to home the BMW M135i is priced from $67,900, while you won’t get any change out of $80,000 for a Mercedes-AMG A 35 4MATIC.

Suddenly, price seems to be an even more important consideration than performance.

Our test vehicle was fitted with the optional $300 19-inch Sport alloys that are finished anthracite black with a five-double-spoke edge design, bringing the total price of the car to a neat $71,000.

The front of S3 is characterised by a honeycomb grille, with aluminium inlays and large air inlets that boost airflow to the engine.

The shoulder follows a strong line from the headlights to the rear, with heavily-inclined C-pillars that give the Sportback an aggressive stance.

At the rear a sizable diffuser reduces rear axle lift, flanked by four oval exhaust tailpipes.

S3 comes standard with Matrix LED headlights with dynamic front and rear indicators and digital daytime running lights.

Consisting of 5 x 3 LED segments, these incorporate intelligently-controlled high beam lights and lock/unlock animations as standard.

Standard kit includes 19-inch alloys, dual zone climate air with rear air outlets and heated, power-adjust sport front seats with integrated headrests in Nappa leather with S embossing and diamond contrast stitching and black cloth headlining.

There’s also anthracite tones, dark aluminium spectrum inlays, stainless-steel pedals and a choice of 30 different ambient light colours.

Infotainment is delivered via a 10.1-inch touchscreen with voice control and natural speech recognition, 3D map display including places of interest and city models, and MMI search: free-text search with intelligent destination suggestions.

It also includes the latest Audi connect plus services, affording in-car convenience through online traffic information with hazard alerts, destination entry via myAudi or Google Maps, parking and weather information, fuel prices, and Google services.

Additional features include 680 watt Bang & Olufsen premium audio with 15 speakers, DAB+ Digital radio, Android Auto and wireless Apple Carplay and two USB outlets.

The previous model got five stars for safety. This one hasn’t received a rating from ANCAP yet.

Safety features include seven airbags, a rear-view camera, and Audi pre-sense front with Autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and pedestrian and cyclist detection.

Other features include collision avoidance assistance, lane departure warning and parking system plus.

Adaptive cruise assist with stop and go and hands-on detection, traffic jam assist and emergency assist, efficiency assist, a rear view camera, and a tyre pressure indicator are also standard.

Access to Audi connect plus security and assistance services also provides car finder with remote signal, remote lock and unlock, emergency calls, and online roadside assistance features.

A 360 degree camera system is not offered and some features remain unavailable due to the global component shortage.

They include cross traffic assist rear and lane change warning with exit warning.

2022 Audi S3 Sportback 7

What’s it go like?

My third Audi in as many weeks and this one finally looks, feels and goes like an Audi should.

The 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine in the S3 produces 228kW of power and 400Nm of torque.

It’s paired with a seven-speed dual clutch auto, with Quattro all-wheel drive and auto engine stop-start to save fuel.

The all-wheel drive setup consists of a Haldex hydraulic, multi-plate clutch and brake-based torque vectoring, splitting torque between front and rear wheels and side to side as required.

It’s a different system to the one in the Golf R which has a torque-vectoring rear differential.

Translated this means most of the time the car operates in front-wheel drive.

Audi reckons the system is faster, making torque available to the rear wheels more quickly.

The S tronic transmission offers D and S modes, along with steering wheel mounted shift paddles.

Audi drive select offers five modes: efficiency, comfort, auto, dynamic and individual.

It adjusts dampers, all-wheel drive and engine note, along with steering and throttle response, and transmission change points.

Sports suspension, lowered 15mm, with adaptive damper control replaces the previous magnetic ride setup.

Brakes are 340mm ventilated discs front and 312mm discs rear, working in combination with a new electric brake booster.

The 19-inch alloys wear 235/35 R19 rubber, with a puncture repair kit replacing a spare.

The sum total is a car that dispatches the dash to 100km/h in a scant 4.8 seconds, with a top speed that is electronically limited to 250km/h.

Fuel consumption from the 55-litre tank is a claimed 7.4L/ 100km, using premium 95 unleaded at a minimum.

CO2 emissions are 170 g/km.

S3 is an impressive, sophisticated bit of kit and indisputably a rapid form of transport . . . but alas not perfect.

The transmission, the thing that connects the engine with the wheels, is apt to doze off and become unresponsive to the throttle.

Pressing the accelerator lightly has little effect. You need to really punch the thing to make something happen.

Even in sports mode with drive select set to dynamic, it keeps sneaking into a higher gear than necessary (obviously to reduce fuel consumption).

Twin clutch boxes don’t like transition per se and the one in the S3 is no different.

They’re good when you’re up them and help to save fuel when cruising, but they don’t like the transition from one mode to the other.

And they really, really hate switching backwards and forwards between them — and are apt to become confused.

For example, braking for a pothole then accelerating quickly again is likely to confuse the transmission.

On another occasion, approaching a roundabout, we braked in preparation for stopping, but then accelerated again when it became clear we had right of way.

By this time however the transmission had decided to put the engine to sleep, going into shutdown mode and took a full second or two to return to life — by which time the moment had passed.

Talk about annoying. More than that, it could have had serious repercussions.

Then there’s the silly handbrake.

Three Audis later I still can’t work out why the handbrake engages automatically sometimes, but not at others?

This thing has a mind of its own.

On a more positive note, S3 is a true delight to drive.

Put the transmission in S, set Drive select to Dynamic and it is time to start changing gears with the paddles.

The drive experience is engaging, with strong braking and plenty of mid-corner grip available, even in the wet.

The ride is surprisingly good too, given the 19-inch wheels and licorice strip rubber.

The more absorbent comfort setting is a boon for long distance country driving.

In this mode the transmission blips the throttle and it make a nice sound on over-run.

Two things would enhance the experience: the option of manual transmission and deeper, more resonant note from those four exhaust outlets.

The cabin is a real upgrade, with stylish air vents and metal-look inlays, along with quilted and stitched leather upholstery.

But look too closely and you’ll find cheap, generic plastic bordering the centre console.

It looks like the same stuff that VW has used for decades.

The seats, though highly bolstered sports seats, are actually very comfortable, but someone forgot to make seat memory standard.

It’s cramped in the back with no USB charge ports and the boot is quite small, smaller even than the previous model, with a repair kit instead of a spare.

Virtual cockpit plus, specific to this model, is pretty cool.

It allows information to be displayed in a number of ways on a fully digital 12.3-inch instrument cluster, with Sport, Dynamic and S Performance  display modes.

It can be tailored to show all sorts of things, including speed, revs, maps, radio and media information, with detailed views available via Google Maps.

Bear in mind however that the latter relies on a built-in SIM, is subscription based, and expires after three years.

Like other models, the current speed limit cannot be displayed in the centre cluster and the lack of a hardwired fuel gauge is disconcerting.

You get distance to empty but to find how much fuel you actually have left, you need to scroll through the menu system.

The touch sensitive volume/audio track wheel is an acquired taste too.

We were getting 7.9L/100km after close to 700km of mixed driving.

S3 is covered by a 5-year unlimited kilometre warranty, with service due every 12 months/15,000km.

You can pay up front for a $2580 five-year/75,000km service plan.

2022 Audi S3 Sportback 5

What we like?

  • Looks flash
  • A quick car
  • Comfy sports seats
  • Large bright physical blindspot alerts

2022 Audi S3 Sportback 4

What we don’t like?

  • The price
  • Automatic only
  • Laggy throttle response
  • Exhaust note not loud enough
  • Head-up display optional
  • Temperamental hand brake
  • Cramped back seat
  • Small boot
  • Weird spare setup

2022 Audi S3 Sportback 6

The bottom line?

S3 Sportback is a good looking, desirable hatch that offers plenty of performance.

It just costs too damn much.

2022 Audi S3 Sportback 8


CHECKOUT: Audi A3 Sportback: Check the fine print

CHECKOUT: Audi SQ2: The devil made me do it



Audi S3 Sportback, priced from $70,700
  • Looks - 8/10
  • Performance - 8/10
  • Safety - 7.5/10
  • Thirst - 7/10
  • Practicality - 7/10
  • Comfort - 7.5/10
  • Tech - 8/10
  • Value - 6/10

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