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Why Audi’s RS 3 is the best small sedan for 2022 – Robb Report

The 2022 Audi RS 3 at Spring Mountain Raceway in Pahrump, Nev.

Audi’s brand new RS 3 is a ferocious little thing. It’s as if the automaker’s smallest sedan is possessed by the ghost of a Jack Russell Terrier – or more extreme, a Tasmanian devil – waiting to be unleashed at its driver’s will. Docile to annoyed, Audi’s blistering banshee really stands on its hind legs, capable of going head-to-toe with just about anything made for real-world driving.

I love small cars with big personalities and power, and the fact is that some of the most rewarding to drive use the age-old hot-rodder formula to pack a lot of engine into a small platform. That’s why compact coupés and sedans such as the BMW 1M, various Mercedes-AMG C-classes and, of course, the smaller RS ​​models from Audi offer so much unbridled fun.

The 2022 Audi RS3.

The 2022 Audi RS 3 compact sports saloon.

Audi AG

Now, after a one-year hiatus, the RS 3 returns, with all the hallmarks of its predecessor, with a little more of everything except size. Well, actually it’s about an inch wider and about 60 pounds heavier, but it also has 401 horsepower and 369 ft lbs of torque at 3,500 rpm, an increase of 7 horsepower and 15 ft lbs, respectively. The North American engine, in particular, produces a few more horses than versions made for the rest of the world. The RS 3 can embarrass cars with twice the size of power plants, going from 0 to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds, an improvement of 0.3 seconds over the 2020 model. Fragile egos and those who brag should consider the 180 mph track speed option. Pay more, go faster. In fact, the model set the all-time compact car lap record on the Nürburgring Nordschleife, with a time of 7 minutes 40.748 seconds. But as we’ve often noted, numbers are academic and for the most part irrelevant when describing the dynamic capabilities of a model like the RS 3. Forget counting, it’s so much more fun to just get in and motive

To do that, Audi’s welcoming team invited us to Spring Mountain Raceway in Pahrump, Nev. The journey from Los Angeles and back was sumptuously accomplished in the new Audi S8 (a story for a future installment). That very fast thrust through the desolate desert ended abruptly at the “Welcome to Pahrump” sign, after which one undergoes a five-mile jaunt through the city at a heavily enforced 35 mph — what felt like the speed of glue — making the time run out. counting less than half a dozen firecrackers vendors and multiple storefronts selling firearms, cannabis and plenty of “loose” slots. But once safely on the well-fenced track and its community, we were greeted by a brightly colored RS 3 fleet in colors such as Kemora Grey, Python Yellow, Turbo Blue and the model’s scorching debut hue, Kyalami Green. Our mission was to hammer the RS 3 both on the track and on a road through the barren but beautiful desert highways on either side of California and Nevada. Night floating on the skid path followed dinner.

The 2022 Audi RS 3 in various colors.The 2022 Audi RS 3 in various colors.

Available colors for the RS 3 are Kemora Grey, Turbo Blue, Python Yellow and Kyalami Green.

Audi AG

It always cuts me off when, in some situation, a friend or stranger suddenly “reads my mind”, being able to finish my thought or sentence. The Audi RS 3 can do that. Perhaps it’s the car’s ideal balance, the four-wheel drive quattro powertrain or the brilliant engine that begs to be throttled within an inch of its 2.5-litre lifespan. This mill has a rich heritage, starting with the 1980 Audi Quattro, and is the only Audi five-banger made today, aside from the one in Audi’s TT. Its history goes back to some of the most accomplished race cars in the Audi stable, such as the 1984 Audi Rallye Quattro A2, one of the best Group B rally cars of all time, which was in attendance, courtesy of our Audi hosts, Mark Dahncke and Steven Marks, who unmasked the historic Audi Tradition division to take him and three other priceless Audi race cars from Ingolstadt to the garage next door.

Classic Audi race cars at Spring Mountain Raceway in Pahrump, Nev.Classic Audi race cars at Spring Mountain Raceway in Pahrump, Nev.

Historic Audi motorsport cars, clockwise from left: a 1988 Audi 200 Quattro TransAm production racer, 1984 Audi Rallye Quattro A2 Group B rally car, 1987 Audi Sport Quattro S1 Pikes Peak Hill Climb variant and a 1989 Audi 90 Quattro IMSA-GTO production racer.

Audi AG

Talk about inspiration and authenticity! The Rallye Quattro A2 was rolled out of the garage, driven into the pits and set on fire, louder than a rented machine gun at a shooting range in Las Vegas. Though vastly attenuated, the RS 3 cackles with the same staccato cadence, thanks to the 1-2-4-5-3 firing order that is the turbocharged engine’s inimitable vocal signature. At higher revs, it’s a sound no less inspiring than the song of a Ducati bevel-drive twin or a Ferrari V-12, especially through the optional RS sports exhaust system.

But an engine alone doesn’t make a great car, and the RS 3 has plenty of other winning features that add up to make the whole machine greater than the sum of its parts. Audi’s seven-speed S-tronic dual-clutch transmission engages the gears immediately and has a strong track record in motorsport competition. The standard RS sports suspension with Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC) does not use previous Audi Magnetic Ride and optimizes cornering in Performance mode with only a small sacrifice in comfort. In Comfort mode, the car is a perfectly delightful highway cruiser, although a quick swipe of the central touchscreen Mr. Hyde unleashes.

The 2022 Audi RS 3 (left) and the Audi Rallye Quattro A2 on the track at Spring Mountain Raceway in Pahrump, Nev.The 2022 Audi RS 3 (left) and the Audi Rallye Quattro A2 on the track at Spring Mountain Raceway in Pahrump, Nev.

A Python Yellow RS 3 with the 1984 Audi Rallye Quattro A2 racer close behind.

Audi AG

Of course, the brakes have been upgraded from the four-cylinder A3 and even S3 models, with six-piston calipers clamping 14.8-inch steel discs up front. Available 15-inch ceramic fronts shed 22 pounds, look great and keep the stylish 19-inch cast aluminum wheels squeaky clean. Available 5-Y spoke wheels are available with optional Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R motorsport tires but you will need to sign a waiver to get them as these are track only.

The track is exactly where we experienced the RS 3’s handling chops and unflappable traction, thanks in large part to the RS Torque Splitter. The RS 3 is the first Audi model to use the new rear, a component that distributes the drive torque for the rear axle completely variably between the left and right rear wheels. The result is improved stability, especially on wet surfaces, and maneuverability during fast corners in wet or dry situations. The RS Torque Splitter is fully integrated into Audi drive select, which offers five different modes from Comfort to RS Performance – the latter designed for track use to minimize over- and understeer in fast corners. RS Torque Rear mode allows for controlled drifts, aptly demonstrated in Spring Mountain with a wicked nighttime track lit by stadium-strong lighting.

A close-up of the driver's side front wheel on the 2022 Audi RS 3.A close-up of the driver's side front wheel on the 2022 Audi RS 3.

Optional ceramic front brakes save 22 pounds of unsprung weight.

Audi AG

At higher speeds, or even stationary, the RS 3 is an attractive design. Audis have always been “designer cars,” relatively understated and without unnecessary embellishments that can quickly get old. That’s not to say the RS 3 doesn’t have performance-enhancing details that are visually appealing. The solid and sturdy 2022 model is distinguished by a more aggressive stance and more sculpted panels than the previous version introduced in 2017.

The most noticeable difference is at the front, where the gloss black honeycomb Singleframe grill – with air-guzzling intakes on either side – is given a face through matrix-design LED headlights with digital DRL and a new checkered flag design that animates on start-up and shut-down. The car’s behavior is enhanced by wider wheel arches on all four corners, enhanced by a huge air vent in the mudguard behind each front wheel arch.

The interior of the Audi RS 3 from 2022.The interior of the Audi RS 3 from 2022.

Black is the theme in the RS 3 and the only interior color available.

Audi AG

The semi-transparent black glass roof contrasts nicely with the paintwork and conceals a sunshade in the headliner, which should be an option for purists like this driver who hates sunroofs on performance cars. Around the rear, the gloss black theme continues with a rear spoiler, RS-specific rear bumper with integrated diffuser and LED taillights with their own new boot sequence. The available RS Sport exhaust system features fully variable valve control and massive twin oval gloss black tailpipes on either side. Incidentally, no artificial sounds are amplified in the cabin; The RS 3’s exhaust note is pure and authentic.

The interior is a business and comfortable place to be. Black is the theme in the RS 3 and the only color available. That’s fine, especially as the eight-way power front sport seats are upholstered in fine RS-embossed Nappa leather and RS-spec honeycomb stitching, which can be chosen in black, red or Kyalami green. Other green interior touches also add excitement to an otherwise austere design.

Infotainment is easily achieved via the 10.1-inch dashboard-mounted touchscreen, and the many driver assistance systems that normally cost extra from other German brands are standard, including lane departure and parking assistance. The RS 3 goes on sale this summer and has a base price of $58,900. If you go all in, expect to push $73,000 and add a modest $3,900 for a special Audi Exclusive paint job. It’s hard to imagine getting such a satisfying car for less money. † † or even for much more.

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