2015 Audi A3 Road Test Review
By Bob Plunkett
Ripping along California 35, a narrow band of blacktop charted along redwood-studded ridges of the Santa Cruz Mountains south of San Francisco, the new 2015 Audi A3 2.0T Quattro notchback sedan carves a non-skid course around many tight corners.
Four low-profile performance tires cling to the blacktop like a cheetah traipsing through superglue because power from the Audi A3's engine is constantly channeled to all of the wheels, thanks to the vehicle's all-wheel-drive (AWD) system which in the lingo of Audi is called Quattro.
The Haldex-based Quattro system, using a torsion-sensing center differential, automatically shifts the majority of all engine torque to whichever wheels, front or rear, attain the best bite of traction on slick pavement.
The 2015 Audi A3's 2.0-liter 4-in-line engine, with turbocharger and intercooler plus Audi's remarkable FSI (fuel straight injection) technology applied, feels vigorous and quick, drawing on the full force of the plant's production of 220 hp peaking between 4500 and 6200 rpm plus 258 lb-ft of torque spread across a broad band from 1600 to 4400 rpm.
Transmission is a fuel-saving 6-speed dual-clutch electronic automatic labeled S tronic with broad shifting flexibility and virtually no interruption to the power flow.
Also on tap is the optional Audi drive select system which allows a driver to customize throttle response, shift points and the electromechanical steering effort through four settings: Auto, Dynamic, Comfort, Individual.
The suspension -- McPherson front struts and a 4-link rear design -- feels light and lively, while the steering -- employing a new electromechanical system that saves weight and enhances the fuel economy -- acts quickly and precisely.
Brakes, with a big disc at every wheel, rely on electronic and computerized links to tame the all-season tires. Anti-lock brake (ABS) controls are standard, along with electronic brake distribution (EBD) plus Audi's electronic stabilization program (ESP) that checks lateral slippage and skidding.
The Audi A3 2.0 Quattro 4-door notchback sedan is the latest treatment of Audi's compact car, which also comes in a front-wheel-drive (FWD) edition called A3 1.8T outfitted with a 1.8-liter in-line-4 turbo plant netting 170 hp at 4500-6200 rpm and torque of 200 lb-ft between 1600-4000 rpm.
Previously, the A3 series consisted of a 5-door hatchback under Audi's descriptive label of Sportback.
For the 4-door notchback sedan a new platform with a front-mounted and transversely-positioned engine stretches the wheelbase length to 103.8 inches, improving the ride quality and adding space to the passenger compartment.
The sedan version of A3 resembles Audi's best-selling A4 sedan only in slightly reduced scale. It's drawn in rectangular format with a sloping snout and abbreviated tail linked by a canopy arching over the cabin with low-slung windows and side pillars muted.
On the prow Audi's designers planted a single-frame grille sandwiched between sharp-edged and narrow bi-xenon headlamps featuring white-light LED tube rings for daytime running lamps. Side panels are chiseled with a character line notched low on each side that seems to swing upward in movement toward the tail. The blunted rump looks clean with wraparound low fascia and left-side 2X tailpipes in chrome.
A3's cabin layout is familiar with two sport buckets in front and a broad bench in back with indentions for two but room for three. Yet there's a high waistline to this scheme with clean styling for the dashboard and impressive textures and finishes applied, such as the standard leather upholstery and available aluminum trim.
A retractable 7-inch MMI high-res display rises from the top center dash and links to a rotary MMI control wheel mounted on the center console.
Both A3 sedans -- 1.8T and 2.0T -- trim in three levels: Premium, Premium Plus, and Prestige.
Base model Premium brings a surprising load of standard equipment such as the bi-xenon headlights, LED daytime running lamps and LED taillights, leather upholstery, a large panoramic moonroof and Bluetooth streaming audio. Premium Plus adds aluminum cabin trimming, a keyless entry system and 18-inch wheels and tires, while Prestige carries the S Line exterior kit and offers a Driver Assistance package, the Audi MMI Navigation kit with online services, a Bang & Olufsen premium sound system, and more.
Audi's MSRP chart begins at $29,900 for the A3 1.8T Premium or $32,900 for the A3 2.0T Premium.