Audi’s All-New 2015 A3 Offers Lovely Luxury And Leading Technology
“You’ll be known by the friends you choose, so pick wisely,” my mother used to say, and Audi is saying the same thing today as the German automaker releases its all-new 2015 A3 compact sports sedan. To make its point, the manufacturer took a cadre of autowriters to Silicon Valley, the leading hub for high-tech innovation and development, to draw attention to Audi’s in-car interface of connectivity and information management systems in the premium compact segment in America.
“This is the first implementation in a car of Google Earth and the first car with 4G LTE,” said Scott Keogh, Audi of America President. “Audi’s A4 got us on earth and the technology in the new A3 is going to take us to the moon,” he enthused pointing out that Consumer Reports recently tapped Audi as the Top European Brand; it is also heralded for its A6 and A8 luxury models. “This is a historic moment in time, as the new A3 was developed from ‘Ground Zero’ for the U.S. market, and is being shown in the location of the highest volume Audi dealer, Audi Stevens Creek, in Silicon Valley.” Keogh says that Audi appeals to Gen X, Gen Y and Millennial buyers, in particular.
Audi is proud of its ‘friends’ -- or partners -- in innovation including Qualcomm Gobi, Bang and Olufsen, Nvidia, AT & T, and Google, among others. But, in addition to progressive technology, the German marque also wants to be known for its craftsmanship and sports performance. The most affordable sedan in Audi’s lineup shares these attributes and comes to market hoping to attract more aspirational entry-luxury buyers, as its slightly larger A4 sibling grows bigger and is positioned more upscale.
Previously available as a sportback only, the 2015 Audi A3 will now come in sedan and Cabriolet versions; a TDI clean diesel variant; and a high-performance S3 version. Audi also plans to bring a sportback plug-in hybrid to the A3 family in the future. The A3 comes in two models -- a turbocharged 1.8-liter front-wheel-drive version (starting at $29,900 plus $895 destination and delivery) and a turbocharged 2.0-liter Quattro all-wheel-drive ($32,900) -- and is available in three trims: Premium; Premium plus (starting at $32,800), and Prestige ($38,700).
Although the Audi is somewhat unique in its class, buyers may also cross-shop it against other premium compact sports sedans, like the Mercedes-Benz CLA and BMW 2 Series or BMW 3 Series.
You’ll notice the outside of the A3 sedan has been completely redesigned, but retains Audi’s signature ‘singlefame’ grille and is available with full-LED headlights. Penned with sporty, aerodynamic and athletic lines, it stretches 175.5 inches in length, sits on a 103.4-inch wheelbase, has 70 inches of width and 55.7 inches height. While it looks like a smaller version of the A4, it is 11 inches shorter. The new A3 also debuts Audi’s -- and its parent-company VW's -- new “Modularer Querbaukasten,” or MBQ, front-wheel-drive technology that comes with the 1.8-liter powerplant. It’s the first application of this platform, which has already gained some notoriety among automotive pundits in the U.S.
The interior of the A3 is tastefully designed with a somewhat clean and Spartan-like feel. A wraparound-dash with clever three-dimensional inlay encircles the driver and front passenger. LED interior lighting is available; standard are leather seating surfaces, a twelve-way power driver’s seat with four-way power lumbar adjustment, split folding 60/40 rear seatbacks, automatic xenon plus headlights with LED daytime running lights and LED taillights, plus a panoramic sunroof. Premium plus adds 18-inch 10-spoke-design Audi wheels, an aluminum interior package, advanced key/keyless start, stop and entry, as well as dual-zone automatic climate control with heated front seats. The Prestige package wears a sportier S Line exterior kit, and adds an available Driver Assistance package with 750-watt, 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen Sound System, Audi MMI navigation plus, Audi connect, Convenience package, and full LED headlights.
Audi says that the A3 is the first vehicle in its class to offer 4G LTE connectivity, and boasts of the car’s premium MMI technology, Audi drive select, and Bang & Olufsen audio. Audi’s MMI is viewed through an electronically-extending screen crafted into the center dash console and is operated by a touch pad and a rotary control wheel to make data entry super easy. MMI navigation provides Google Street View and online traffic information; Audi connect services, such as a text-to-speech function for e-mail and a dictation function for text messages (SMS); as well as a mobile app that syncs between the system and smartphones and lets passengers view high-definition videos and make video conference calls from the vehicle. A Nvidia graphics processing unit (GPU) generates complex three-dimensional images used in all online, voice control, media navigation, and telephone functions. The modular infotainment system is the most advanced version of Audi connect, and brings read-aloud Facebook and Twitter alerts, access to more than 7,000 Internet broadcast stations, RSS news feeds.
Safety features include front-seat side and knee airbags and full-length side curtain airbags to complement the sedan’s ultrahigh-strength steel frame components and a standard pre sense basic system which helps detect emergency braking needs. Optionally available are a rearview camera, a blind-spot detection system, a frontal-collision warning alert, and a system that helps keep the A3 from wandering out of its lane, and adaptive cruise control with stop and go.
We drove the 2.0-liter inline-four-cylinder turbocharged A3 with 220 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque; the turbocharged 170-horsepower/1.8-liter engine gets 200 lb.-ft; both engines are mated to the standard, dual-clutch six-speed S tronic transmission. An optional Audi drive select system allows you to adjust throttle response, shift points, and the electromechanical steering effort. Similar to other Audi models, four settings include Auto, Dynamic, Comfort and Individual. Audi quotes a 0-60 mph time of 7.2 seconds for the 1.8T model, and a sprightly 5.8 seconds for the 2.0T. EPA fuel economy is rated at 23/33/27 mpg for the 1.8T front driver and 24/33/27 for the 2.0T quattro.
We loved the exterior looks of the A3, which has the profile of a coupe. Slipping inside we found an attractive cabin, with plenty of elbow room in the front and a bit less in the rear, although the back seats are for adults, says Audi. A smallish trunk brings 10 cubic feet of stowage; split/folding seats add flexibility. Only the driver seat has power adjustments.
We thoroughly enjoyed the competence of the Audi quattro powertrain, using sport mode and paddle shifters for a more enthusiastic gearbox and throttle note. The A3 shines in its remarkable body control that comes at the hands of the chassis, steering, brakes and suspension that combine to make a confidence-inspiring ride, even on the tight and twisty roads that were the centerpiece of our 200-mile route from Menlo Park to Santa Cruz and back. Our only complaints were some tire noise, although in general the car has a quiet ride, and we would prefer more bolstering in the seats, as well as power adjustments for the front passenger seat.
Our test model was priced at $43,540, with the Prestige Package as well as a Sport Package (Audi Drive Select, sport seats, shift paddles), plus $550 Glacier White paint.