I’m at a point in my life where I just want a car to feel special. That doesn’t mean it has to be expensive, it just has to have a certain quality, one that is almost hard to describe. When you are behind the wheel, it should entertain as well as transport. When you park it and walk away, you should look back at it and smile. Ken Block both entertained, and made me smile. I’m not going to trade on that tragedy to get clicks for a new car review, but it was more than a little poignant that I had this Turbo Blue Audi RS 3 when I learned of the accident that took his life. It’s not hard to imagine this RS 3 sliding around wrapped in a Hoonigan livery. I sadly didn’t do a lot of sliding, but I did spend a very intriguing week with the little Audi and had a lot to say about it.
But first, check out Jeff’s video review of this pretty Kyalami Green 2022 Audi RS 3.
2022 Audi RS 3 Overview
The Audi RS 3 tab I have open as I write this says “2023 Audi RS 3 l Sports Car l Audi USA” which gives you a little bit of context of how Audi views it’s diminutive sports sedan. The tried and true definition of a “sports car” typically limits things to two doors, and many times, two seats, but I am a progressive sort, so I’ll hear them out. It certainly has the specs of a sports car, 401 horsepower and 369 lb-ft come from its 2.5L five-cylinder engine. It’ll send that power efficiently through the Quattro AWD system and hit 60 mph in as few as 3.3 seconds. That’s incredibly quick to say the least. Especially since it’s not light, tipping the scales at 3,649 pounds. A lot of weight for a car that’s just over five inches shorter than a Civic Si, a strange comparison to be sure, but it will make sense later. But they make it in some great colors.
For the 2022 model year, the RS 3 started at $58,900, but the 2023 RS 3 is listed as having a starting MSRP of $60,900. Perhaps they knew people would pay a premium for such a special car. Spoiler alert, it’s worth it.
You can see how our tester was spec’d, all in you were still a hair under $65,000 out the door with quite a bit of kit added. Let’s dig a bit deeper into this compact wonder.
2022 Audi RS 3 Inside & Out
The first thing you notice about the RS 3 is the proportions. It’s both small and large at the same time, its width taking you by surprise (that’s what she said (…sorry)). You know how I said it was over five-inches shorter than a Civic Si, well it’s also two-inches wider than said Honda. The big fenders are filled nicely by 19-inch y-spoke matte black wheels and red brake calipers. Our tester did not have the Dynamic Plus package ($5,500) which adds ceramic front brakes but did have the Black Optic package ($750) that adds darker badging all around, a black roof, and the aforementioned black wheels.
Overall the RS 3 looks purposeful, like it knows what it’s doing and you should mind your own damn business and keep moving. It looked at home on the streets of DC and stood out parked next to Audi Field, home of the DC United football club. It’s bright paint drew quite a bit of attention from other enthusiasts, more on that in a bit. And while that bright green paint from Jeff’s video, or perhaps the “Python Yellow” option might be tempting, I think I’d opt for Turbo Blue for my RS 3.
Inside, it’s more of the same, an aggressive but upscale tone permeates the RS 3’s cabin. There tons of sporty bits like the RS emblem stitched into the seats, as well as the hexagonal vents on either side of the wheel that reminded me of my time driving a Lamborghini Urus. The ergonomics are solid and while there is no volume knob there is a dial, so that’s something. I like that there are actual buttons below the screen but they are not all illuminated at night, so you can’t really tell what they do. Sadly the RS 3 didn’t have Audi’s fantastic massaging seats, something this middle-aged dude is a massive fan of, but the RS 3 has some little touches like the windshield wiper settings that were just intuitive and easy to use.
Rear leg room is 35.2 in. which was OK, but not amazing. The Civic has a bit over two-inches more legroom, again this odd comparison will make sense later. I promise.
There is all of 8.3 cu. ft. of space in the trunk, something that makes you firmly aware of the RS 3’s small size. It fit my youngest’s hockey bag, but just barely, and his stick ended up in the back seat. For comparison the Civic Si has 14.1 cu. ft. of trunk space.
There is a handy chicken nugget holder up front though.
2022 Audi RS On The Road
Sure, you could buy an RS 3 as a status symbol, after all I would argue that the “RS” brand is fairly elite in the European car market. Now that you can get small displacement AMGs and “M Performance” models the mighty RS has remained undiluted. However, the RS 3 is such a drivers car that buying it just for the badge would be a disservice to the engineers who created this little wunderkind.
Enough practicality and badge talk, let’s start with first impressions behind the wheel. Honestly my first impression was “not bad” (insert Obama face here) which was a little bit of a let down. It’s rides a bit rough depending on the road surface, the seats are firm, and the car repeatedly yelled at me about the speed limit on the heads up display over and over. That was kind of distracting when trying to drive, plus it’s actually in two places, in the HUD and up on the driver’s info screen on the dash.
Eesh, not a good start.
Oh hello, what’s this RS button on the wheel?! Oh shit, that changes everything!!
Seriously, the RS 3 is good in regular driving modes, but the RS modes unlock the fury. I recall exclaiming “fuuuuuuuuuuuuuc….” as the RS 3 just absolutely rocketed down the highway. It just keeps pulling and then you shift (or it shifts) and it does it all over again. It’s intoxicating and I found myself doing it over and over. Massive fun, especially in a car that weighs a non-insignificant 3,639 pounds. Sure, there is a little bit of turbo lag at first, but it’s quick and almost queues up the fun. “Oh boy, here it comes, weeeeee”. Like I said, you should want a car that’s special, and damn this thing is special. And that’s just in a straight line.
The wider track means 265 mm width tires up front and 245 mm in the back and that translates into grip, grip, and more grip. The RS system makes for a no-nonsense point-and-shoot style of driving. Tell the RS 3 “bro, go that way” and it does so without hesitation. Dive deeper into the RS button’s hotness and you’ll end up in full hoon mode. It’s basically drift mode and reminded me a bit of driving a Focus RS but with more power. However, and this is adds to the greatness, it’s a fantastic highway cruiser! You can configure the “Individual” setting and put all the go-fast stuff in fun mode and select “comfort mode” for the suspension. The seats, while firm, are comfortable and made for a great long-distance driving companion. Even the lane keeping function was pretty subtle and doesn’t jerk the wheel when you get close to a painted line.
As I said, the RS draws significant attention from other enthusiasts, So, when a nice chap in a tuned 335i wanted to mix it up I just hit the RS button and banged it through a few gears (only up to the posted speed limit of course, take it to the track kids). We exchanged some thumbs ups (that thing looked stock but was legit quick) and parted ways a few miles later. I retuned to comfort mode and calmly and smoothly returned to highway cruising.
2022 Audi RS 3 Summary
That’s the RS 3’s party piece, it’s more than one car. Sure, it’s $60,000+ but you get a brute’ish brawler and a comfortable cruiser all in one car. I mentioned the size comparison to the 2023 Honda Civic Si for a reason, I’ve just bought one to replace my Mach-E. At just $30,000 I went into the RS 3 review wondering “is this really twice as good”.
It is, and I’d buy one of these in a heartbeat if the finances worked out. The size is just right, sure it’s a little tight for four adults but during my week with it there was plenty of room for kids and stuff. It’s a practical little four door sedan (a hatchback would have been baller though) that can paste a permanent smile on your face. I still grin when I see pics of this Turbo Blue monster.
I want one, and hell I’m single now so if it lines up, I’ll just go ahead and buy one.