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2022 Audi S3 review: Luxury hot hatch is at the top of its game

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Aussies have bought more than 50,000 of the old versions of this luxury performance car. The new one is even better.

The brand’s entry-level pocket rocket combines turbocharged power with all-wheel-drive traction and a touch of exclusivity in a package that has attracted more than 50,000 local customers.

It’s a similar set of ingredients to Subaru’s WRX STI, but the Audi has outsold the STI by five-to-one across a similar period in showrooms. That’s because performance car buyers also appreciate life’s luxuries.

Based on a new generation of Audi’s A3 hatchback and sedan, the latest S3 is loaded with premium features such as a 12.3-inch digital dashboard, multi-coloured ambient lighting, heated and quilted leather seats with contrasting stitching, Matrix LED headlights, a 15-speaker Bang and Olufsen stereo and more.

The S3 has all the safety features Audi can summon as standard, plus adaptive sports suspension, 19-inch alloys and a quick-shifting dual-clutch automatic transmission with all-wheel-drive.

The new model is powered by an evolution of the Volkswagen Group’s familiar 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine. While previous versions were detuned to suit Australia’s hot climate, the latest car delivers the full 228kW and 400Nm offered overseas. That’s enough for the S3 to rip to 100km/h in a respectable 4.8 seconds before reaching a top speed limited to 250km/h.

Priced from $70,700 plus on-roads (about $80,000 drive-away) as a five-door Sportback or $73,200 in sedan form (about $82,500 drive-away), the S3 costs about $10,000 more than the previous-generation model, or $17,200 above a regular A3 Quattro.

Audi says extra equipment justifies the jump in price. Prospective buyers are likely to compare it with the mechanically similar Volkswagen Golf R, though.

Until now, the Golf and its sister Audi have had essentially the same running gear, but that changes with the new generation.

VW’s contender undercuts the Audi by almost $5000 while packing more power, bigger brakes and a clever torque-vectoring differential that promises sideways thrills on the track with the help of a new drift mode.

Audi is saving those features for its barnstorming RS3, positioning the S3 as a model that prioritises prestige appeal ahead of outright driving thrills. The S3 makes a strong first impression, particularly when you settle in behind the steering wheel. Audi’s cabin looks and feels premium, with quality materials and crisp details. It growls to life with a digitally enhanced snarl at the press of a starter button, then settles into a purposeful purr.

Effortless in everyday driving, the S3 benefits from excellent ergonomics, with easy to access infotainment and climate control functions.

The brand’s measured approach to driver assistance is another point in the Audi’s favour, making the S3 an ideal companion for traffic snarls and long highway runs.

Adaptive shocks do an impressive job of absorbing most imperfections, though the suspension is a touch noisier than expected when tasked with bigger bumps.

It’s an easy car to live with on a day-to-day basis and justifies its price premium by delivering rapid cross-country pace when called upon.

The turbo motor’s flexible power delivery serves up easy progress, helped by a fat swath of torque low in the rev range. The seven-speed paddle-shift auto and all-wheel-drive system helps get every joule of energy to the ground.

Accurate steering and well-modulated brakes instil confidence, though enthusiasts might look for a little more sparkle under the bonnet or a little less understeer at pace.

The 50,000 previous customers won’t have a problem with the new S3 – it’s decently punchy, and more luxurious than ever.

VERDICT 4/5

Fast, generously appointed and easy to live with day to day, the Audi S3 is easy to recommend to prestige buyers.

AUDI S3 SPORTBACK VITALS

Price: About $80,000 drive-away

Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo, 228kW and 400Nm

Safety: 7 airbags, auto emergency braking, active cruise control, blind-spot and lane-keep assist, rear cross-traffic alert

Warranty/servicing: 5 years/unlimited km, $2580 for 5 years

Thirst: 7.4L/100km

Cargo: 325 litres

Spare: Repair kit

But wait, there’s more:

Want more wallop? Consider the new Audi RS3. Powered by a yowling five-cylinder set to go down as one of the most charming – and potent – motors ever offered in a compact car, it packs 294kW and 500Nm – enough to reach 100km/h in just 3.8 seconds. It sounds like a baby Lambo, and should deliver a more engaging drive. The catch is that it’s not cheap – you’ll need at least $100,000 to put one in the driveway.



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