With the launch of the A3 Sedan this spring, Audi is entering the world’s largest market segment, the class of compact sedans.
The dynamic four-door car offers all of the strengths of the A3 model series – with low weight thanks to lightweight design, powerful and highly efficient engines and numerous high-end solutions for infotainment as well as driver assistance systems.
We tested here the formidable 1,8 litre TFSI version, coupled to the S-Tronic transmission. What a delightful combination this proved to be…
Hans Knol ten Bensel
Dynamic and elegant looks
Nowadays, it is not easy to let a classic three box sedan design really stand out, but we have to admit that the Audi styling team succeeded quite well to give the car a distinctive, elegant and yet dynamic exterior. The design is a cross between the classic three-box concept and the coupé philosophy. The overhangs are short. The four-door car has a 2.64 meter (8.66 ft) long wheelbase and an overall length of 4.46 meters (14.63 ft).
With a width of 1.80 meters (5.91 ft), the A3 Sedan is eleven mm (0.43 in) wider than the A3 Sportback; its height (1.42 meters [4.66 ft]) is still nine mm (0.35 in) lower than that of the Sportback.
The contours of its hood, the bumpers, air intakes and its interpretation of the grille are also unique to the Sedan version. We have to admit, the car looks good from any angle, and has this timeless Audi styling language all over it.
This is also true for the interior. a long arc spans the width of the windshield. One gets the impression to be sitting in a very wide car. The instrument panel with its curved front is slender, and the centre console is slightly turned towards the driver. We find again the classic round dials for rev counter and speedometer, engine temperature and fuel levels are indicated by led lighted dots.
Clarity, ease of use and excellent finish and quality of materials characterize this interior, where one immediately feels at home.
Light, powerful and fast…
The A3 Sedan is a rather light car. With a 1.4 TFSI engine, the sedan has a curb weight of just 1,250 kg (2,755.78 lb).
This is the result of the fact that Audi uses many hot-shaped steel parts in the passenger compartment for low weight and maximum strength, while the engine hood is made of aluminum.
The body is very rigid, crash-safe and quiet. Of course, this is an excellent basis for superior performance, precise steering and flawless road manners and last but not least economy.
The 1.8 TFSI produces 132 kW (180 hp) and 250 Nm (184.39 lb-ft) of torque. It utilizes an extensive package of high-end technologies, including dual injection into the combustion chambers and the induction manifold.
It is a true marvel. Very quiet and vibrationless, almost inaudible at cruising speeds, it has a marvellous thoroughbred throb when more power is asked. Revving it up through the gears is a true delight, and of course it enables sporty performance, taking 7.3 seconds for the standard sprint to 100 km/h (62.14 mph) and reaching a top speed of 235 km/h (146.02 mph).
Its combined fuel consumption is 5.6 litres per 100 km (42.00 US mpg), equivalent to 129 grams CO2 per km (207.61 g/mile). The responsiveness of the engine is of course masterfully enhanced by the S-tronic transmission, which is ideally tuned to the engine, and will always choose the right gear depending on the chosen programme. The D shifting map is laid out for maximum fuel efficiency.
In the “Efficiency” mode, the S tronic offers a free-wheeling function. This adds to a very “zen” driving style, when you are in the mood. Needless to say that it also dramatically reduces fuel consumption in heavy town traffic.
In the “S” mode, the engine is constantly kept in the higher rev ranges, certainly when accelerating or frequently changing speeds, and of course one comes to enjoy fully the delightful behaviour of this “pur sang” engine.
Audi drive select vehicle dynamics system…for that ideal behaviour to suit your mood.
The Audi driver in the Ambition line enjoys a sports suspension, 17-inch-alloy wheels, sport seats and the Audi drive select system. It is the Audi drive select system I want to talk about. It offers a choice between Comfort, Normal and Dynamic mode. Not only the responsiveness of the chassis/suspension is altered, but also the S-Tronic behaves differently. In the Comfort mode, the transmission/engine management is set on Efficiency, and the free-wheeling function is engaged. In Normal mode, the transmission will still choose higher gears whenever possible, with chassis/suspension setting finding a good balance between road behaviour and comfort. The Dynamic mode will not only make the suspension sporting, the transmission lets the engine also rev higher. The steering servo settings are also differing according to the chisen driving modes.
Road holding is beyond reproach. The Audi chassis engineering is truly excellent. Providing the foundation here is a finely balanced axle load distribution (60 percent front and 40 percent rear, varies somewhat for different engines).
All engines are tilted twelve degrees towards the rear, while the front wheel suspensions are placed far forward.
The front suspension is a MacPherson design with A-arms and aluminum pivot bearings. It is joined to an aluminum subframe.
The electromechanically assisted steering system operates sensitively and efficiently together with various assistance systems. In the four-link rear suspension, which utilizes a steel crossmember, the springs and shock absorbers are mounted separately. The sport suspensions for the Ambition line and S line lower the body by up to 25 mm (0.98 in).
Electronic stabilization control or ESC also includes an electronic differential lock. In fast driving through curves, it brakes the inside front wheel very slightly to minimize understeering and improve traction.
Our test car came equipped with an impressive list of extras. First of all the adaptive cruise control (ACC), which maintains a desired distance between the A3 Sedan and the vehicle in front of it up to a speed of 150 km/h (93.21 mph); When combined with S tronic, ACC also offers a stop&go function for low speeds.
Needless to say that we liked this ACC very much, and it is truly a delight to use in our congested traffic nowadays. One can choose between 4 distances.
This ACC came on the test car with Pre sense front, which is integrated in the adaptive cruise control system. In case of an imminent rear-end collision, the system warns the driver using a staged reaction strategy; if necessary, it can even initiate hard braking. In an emergency situation at speeds under 30 km/h (18.64 mph), Audi pre sense front can brake the A3 Sedan with nearly full braking power. If a crash occurs, the brake assist system avoids secondary collisions by ensuring that the car does not travel further in an uncontrolled manner.
The test car also included LED lighting and the so-called headlight assistant. This system will change light intensity according to traffic conditions: “all weather” light to reduce glare effect from heavy rain or snow, and further reaching “autobahn” light from 110 km/h onwards.
Quite impressive was also the GPS Plus in combination with the MMI Touch. This top-of-the-line option included also a Bang & Olufsen sound system and MMI navigation plus. The latter’s ultra-sleek 7-inch screen extends electronically from the instrument panel.
The user terminal has a turn/push control designed as a “touchwheel” with MMI touch – the touchwheel’s top surface is a touch-sensitive pad for inputting letters and numbers.
The MMI Navigation plus system interfaces to cell phones and mobile players via Bluetooth.
The Bang & Olufsen sound system had to be heard to be believed. Its 705 watt amplifier drives 14 loudspeakers in 5.1 surround sound, and LED light guides illuminate the woofer grilles in the front doors. In short, a wonderful sight and sound experience.
The A3 Sedan proved very impressive in many respects. Superbly styled and finished, with a marvelous engine and transmission, and an excellent chassis. Delivering tons of driving pleasure, all this coupled with very good economy and ease of use.
We certainly regretted to part with this car, but were consoled with a test drive of the Ambiente version with the 2.0 TDI 150 Diesel engine and 6 speed manual box. You will read our test of this car also soon in these columns…
Hans Knol ten Bensel