BY David and Judy Colman;
Is there a car with a longer formal title than this Audi? Let's translate its multiple messages. For 2015, Audi has mounted an assault on the entry level luxury market with its new-to-North America Audi A3 line. These trim and diminutive offerings weigh just over 3,100 pounds, measure 175 inches in length, but stretch wheelbase to 104 inches. Available in either sedan, convertible or coming hatchback body style, the A3 promises to be the volume leader in the company's model line. The Cabriolet we tested means convertible in Audi dialect. Its engine is the near universal VW base power plant, a 1.8 liter inline four fitted with a turbocharger to produce 170hp and 200lb.-ft. of torque. This engine powers the front-wheel-drive (FWD) version of the A3 that holds down the lower rung of the price ladder, with a base cost of $35,600. The driveline includes Audi's automatic gearbox, a 6 speed unit without paddle shifts that Audi designates "S tronic." If you elect to move your purchase upscale, the Cabriolet can be equipped with all-wheel-drive, which also includes a significant engine upgrade to a 2.0 liter turbo four good for 220hp and 258lb.-ft. of torque. Only the smaller base motor, however, returns stellar fuel economy: 35 MPG on the highway, 24 MPG around town, and an overall rating of 28MPG.
At first blush, it would appear that this Audi A3 Cabrio's base price is stunningly cheap for such an exotic import from Germany. But once you lavish the base package with what Audi calls its "A3 Prestige model" you've bumped that affordable entry level price by a whopping $8,450. If you elect to forego Prestige for pauperism, you will have to do without the following niceties: 18 inch, 10 spoke alloy wheels, heated front seats, power folding and heated rear view mirrors, Audi advanced key, auto-dimming driver side rear view mirror, aluminum interior package, S line exterior trim, LED interior lighting package, auto-dimming interior mirror with compass, Navigation system, Parking system with rear view camera, Bang & Olufsen Sound System and LED headlights with LED daylight running lights. Particularly engaging are the aluminum bits that comprise the interior trim. Horizontally striated strips of silver look terrific decorating the dash and door panels. The S line threshold entry plates add elegance to the interior. And the LED cabin lighting thoughtfully illuminates the speaker enclosures on the door kick panels, and casts just enough illumination into the footwalls to convey a sense of well being. Audi mounts modestly sized (225/40R18) Continental Pro Contact tires on the handsome alloy wheels. All in all, this Prestige upgrade is well worth the stiff tariff.
Another upgrade you'd want to consider is the all-wheel-drive configuration powered by the 220hp 2.0 liter motor, because the base 1.8T engine of our test car is just barely adequate to the car's acceleration needs. Without steering wheel mounted shift paddles, it's rather difficult to manipulate the S tronic gearbox in manual override mode. Most of the time, you'll defer to the Drive position and let the 6-speed choose its own up and downshifts. This it does in a habitually lazy manner that is serene but slow. If your driving style tends to be more, rather than less aggressive, opt for the AWD 2 liter turbo A3.
This Audi A3, built in Hungary, with a German gearbox, is beautifully constructed. Its handsome and aerodynamic cloth top drops or rises in just a matter of seconds. With the top raised, this A3 is as quiet as a sedan. When you drop the roof and hold the controller down until the operation is complete, all four windows automatically elevate. Oddly enough, however, when you erect the top, none of the windows shut at the end of the cycle. The interior of this Audi is far more luxurious and finished looking than similar entry level offerings from Mercedes or Lexus. In particular, the detailing is exquisite around the knurled and gimbaled air vents as well as on the Multi Media Interface (MMI) control knob on the central console. There's a richness to the color and feel of the Chestnut Brown leather interior that belies the A3's bargain price. Audi proves the point that you do not have to spend more than 50 thousand dollars to enjoy the full benefit of the company's legendary vault like quality.
2015 Audi A3 Cabriolet 1.8T S tronic
ENGINE: 1.8 liter inline 4 turbocharged
HORSEPOWER: 170hp @ 4500-6200rpm
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 24MPG City/35 MPG Highway
PRICE AS TESTED: $45,525
HYPES: Immaculate Construction
GRIPES: If You're an Enthusiast, Opt for the 220hp AWD Version
STAR RATING: 8.5 Stars Out Of 10