“Vorsprung durch Technik” is not an empty word with Audi. And when the prestigious marque with the four rings launches a new version of one of its bestsellers, you can prepare yourself for excellence. This is again the case for the latest generation of the A3. Just read on…
Hans Knol ten Bensel
The styling people of Audi have done again a very good job. They succeeded in maintaining the "design DNA" typical of the A3 in the new model, updating lines, curves and use of materials to the present modernity, keeping at the same time a timeless touch. The car looks good from any angle, and this goes both for the exterior as well as the interior.
Just a word about the new dimensions: the new premium compact is now 4.24 meters (13.91 ft) long, 1.78 meters (5.84 ft) wide and 1.42 meters (4.66 ft) tall. Its wheelbase has grown to 2.60 meters (8.53 ft), while its front overhang has been shortened accordingly.
Stepping into the car, one is pervaded by a feeling of "panoramic vastness", getting the impression that the car is much bigger and wider than it actually is. A recessed curved piece, the wrap-around, runs the length of the instrument panel. Its construction is lean and low, and it appears to hover at the center console. Large round air vents in jet-engine styling and elaborately sculpted inlays provide decorative accents.
The choice of materials is also very judicious, and the impression of quality and elegance is omnipresent.
Daily life with the A3 is also quite pleasant. Last but not least with the improved functionality and ergonomy of the inboard navigation and entertainment system. It is now also possible to "write" with your index on the central selection knob, making the choice and input of your destination a breeze...
An impressive platform...
Previous A3 owners could find the suspension a bit too hard, and the ride a shade too harsh. All this is history now with the all new platform, which finds also its way in the new Golf and Seat Leon. A world of difference, with an impeccable ride and a suspension which takes even the nastiest potholes well in its stride.
The Audi driver and passenger can even choose the suspension settings, and go from sporting to comfort mode. Needless to say we chose the latter setting, enjoying the subtle ride in combination with sublime stability and roadholding. Also the steering now feels even more precise, adding greatly to driving pleasure.
The A3 1.4 TFSI weighs no more than 1,175 kg (2590.43 lb) – the best value in the premium compact class. Compared to the previous model, developers reduced the car’s curb weight by up to 80 kg (176.37 lb).
The occupant cell of the new Audi A3 was made 25 kg (55.12 lb) lighter. One reason is that form-hardened steels were used extensively. The engine hood and fenders are made of aluminum; together they save over nine kilograms (19.84 lb).
Many parts in the chassis and interior also contribute to overall weight reduction – from the aluminum pivot bearings in the front suspension to the blower motor of the climate control system. The entirely new engines that were developed are also exceptionally lightweight.
Indeed, driving the A3 offers loads of fun. The car steers as if on rails, the car behaves predictable in all circumstances. But there is more: we drove the A3 with the excellent six speed manual box combined with the utterly smooth and willing 1,4 TFSI 122 HP petrol engine. What a wonderful engine this is: always prepared to hover at very low revs, delivering its good pulling power and excellent economy, whilst being almost inaudible and smooth.
Its maximum torque of 200 Nm (147.51 lb-ft) is available from a low 1,400 rpm.
At the slightest blip of the throttle, the unit really wakes up and revs higher under the beautiful staccato of a thoroughbred four.
Performance figures amply prove this: the A3 sprints from 0 to 100 kph in mere 9,3 seconds, and storms forther under the melodious throb of its hard working engine to a top speed of 203 kph, or 126,14 mph.
All this is done while the car stays utterly stable and with only the slightest hiss of
wind noise... A superb high speed driving machine, tailor made for the German Autobahnen...but also very much at home on winding country roads or mountain passes, where one can enjoy the sporting balance of the car to the full.
Just to be somewhat more technical, suffice to say that all engines have the same mounting position in the new A3 – which comes from standardization in the modular transverse platform (MQB).
This mounting arrangement and the compact layout of the new gasoline engines have shortened the length of the vehicle’s front end. This let Audi developers shift the front axle forward, which benefits crash behavior and the distribution of axle loads.
The Audi A3 is also very much about economy, and our average test consumption was slightly above six litres. When one really concentrates, an average figure around 5 litres per 100 km is quite possible, and even in city driving one can achieve astonishing results, and stay below the six litre mark.
The uncanny smoothness of the engine and the whole driveline greatly help you in adopting the relaxed "eco" driving style needed to achieve these results.
The A3 really breathes upper-segment quality, be it in the way it is built or it behaves on the road. It is (very) hard to fault in any department, and embodies all the qualities needed to make it a very good car.
Indeed, Audi quality knows no compromises – and Audi employees in Quality Assurance help to ensure that this objective is met.
A considerable share of the high quality of the new A3 is already achieved in vehicle development. Conformance to dimensional tolerances in body construction, the precision of interior parts, visual coordination of all chrome and colored parts, as well as the analysis of the chemical properties of the materials – all of these areas are core competencies of Audi Quality Assurance.
So quite frankly, what are you waiting for to make (at least) a test drive?
Hans Knol ten Bensel