First Drive: 2022 Audi A3 & S3

2022 S3 in the snow

The all-new 2022 Audi A3 and S3, might be the boldest jump from chassis-to-chassis we’ve ever seen… and I think they nailed it.


By: Talia Pakkala

On an ever-changing Denver day, we had the pleasure of test driving the new 2022 Audi A3 and S3. Our full review of both models can be read in our upcoming quattro Magazine, today we’ll share first drive impressions on the 2022 S3. 

Side-by-side with their predecessors, it is clear the new A3 and S3 are entirely new vehicles. While both models are wider, longer, and taller than their previous generation (type 8V) siblings, updated body lines accentuate all the right curves to remind us of the compact B5 it pays homage to. With the help of an S sport package on the S3, it will drive smaller as well.

Expect to be welcomed by the newly restyled honeycomb grille on whichever model you pick. The new S3 is of course more than just eye-catching from the street. Parked, it features a sporty rear lip spoiler, large quad exhaust tips, and 14.1” two-piece cross-drilled front brake discs with brilliant red calipers. Sitting a cool 15mm lower than the A3, these not-so-subtle upgrades easily set it apart from the rest.

On the inside, the cars greet new owners with the same level of change as the exterior. An updated interior focuses all attention on the driver, creating a cozy cockpit with all the operator needs just a touch away. Standard MMI touch screen and digital clusters bring A3 derivatives up to speed with the largest and most luxurious Audi models. The S3’s new 12.3” virtual cockpit features an entirely new MMI from the previous model and as we drove in the A3, much akin to the one enjoyed in the new RS 6 with customization options for the cluster.

Much less alluring but surely something all MQB owners will rejoice over, the interior refresh finds cupholders near the armrest, allowing full-sized beverages ample room, while a storage console with optional wireless charging now resides where last-generation’s cupholders fared.

Audi didn’t just overhaul the design alone on these new models. The A3 front-wheel drive and quattro variants find themselves with 201 hp and 221 lb-ft tq, offering better fuel economy than before alongside the new 48-volt mild-hybrid systems. The S3 beefs up to 306 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque, going 0-60 in 4.5 seconds.

Safety features reach a whole new high with added options such as: adaptive cruise, side with rear cross traffic assist, exit warning, lane guidance, and parking assist. What excites us though is the standard features offered on both A3 and S3 including Audi pre sense basic and front, high beam assist, lane departure warning, and rear view cameras. What once required added packages for these models is now attainable standards for anyone who is shopping for their next compact sedan. 

Driving it for the first time through the streets of downtown Denver, the S3 blended brilliantly. It drew just enough attention from pedestrians while comfortably cruising light-to-light in the new eight-way power S sport seats. Waiting for the light to change and auto-start-stop to quietly re-fire the cylinders, you realize how practical a daily Audi’s new small sedan truly is. Then, when normal traffic opened up and the mountain elevation called, the S3 answered.

Included in our tester, S sport suspension with damper control takes this already nimble sedan to the next level. With a quick tap of the 14.1” brakes and a smooth turn-in to the corner, slowly throttling upon exit, the S3 feels as though it was made for this… which it is. Each turn feels tighter and faster as the route led higher-and-higher in elevation. Throttling out of a corner in sport mode as conditions began to change caused the S3 to softly kick out the rear-end. With no effort on the part of the driver, the system recognized balance was off and adjusted within seconds to get back in a straight line and ready for the next turn.

As if ordered up by Audi engineers, the bright sunny day turned into a winter wonderland as the Colorado sky opened up with snow rained. While the downpour of powder meant dialing back the S3 just a bit, it did allow us to further experience the sure-footedness that the new S3 has to offer. Downshifting via paddle in sport mode ignited excited crackles from the exhaust, audible even from within the quiet cabin. While our tester adorned summer tires, even in the now wet and cold conditions the S3 proved its ability to maintain control. 

Starting at $33,900 before quattro, destination charge, and applicable taxes, the 2022 A3 is joining the market as an attainable and feature packed compact sedan, for all those who enjoy the brand with four rings. Currently, S-line is not offered on models in America unfortunately, though we hope this changes in future model offerings. So, if you are seeking the extra styling that comes alongside this upgrade, starting at $44,900 before destination charge and applicable taxes, the 2022 S3 is your step into this package with sport intentions.

With a complete overhaul of the exterior showing no subtlety to its sporty nature, and a true improvement to the previous generations interior flaws, the new A3 and S3 are quite a bang for the buck. Now feature packed with technologies that used to cost you added package upgrades, it’s clear these two are offering up an introduction into Audi ownership for those that may focus more heavily on price tag than driving experience. 

If we’ve left you wanting more, be sure to read our full write-up on the 2022 A3 and S3 in an upcoming issue of quattro Magazine.