A Great Redesign for the Audi A3, But I’m Waiting for the TDI and e-tron
Audi, in the thick of the battle for luxury car supremacy with BMW and Mercedes-Benz, has launched its latest weapon, the all-new 2015 A3 compact sedan, and aimed it directly at its target audience, the millennials.
As Audi told the media at the A3’s launch, the A3 is the starting point for the brand. With a starting price just under $30,000, the new A3 was designed for the U.S. market according to Reinhard Fischer, director of strategy for Audi of America. While the longer, wider (than the preceding A3) sedan will have two all-new gas engines (1.8-liter and 2.0-liter 4-cylinders) to start, it will eventually have seven variants, including four body styles and five engines.
Though the gas A3s are impressive in performance while still boasting a PZEV (partial zero emission) designation, two upcoming
models (the TDI and e-tron) are the ones we’ll be waiting for at Clean Fleet Report. The 2.0-liter TFSI (for Turbo Fuel Stratified Injection, clearly translated directly from the German) pumps out a very accessible 220 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque from its cast-iron block, aluminum head double overhead cam (DOHC) engine. According to Audi, and we have no reason to doubt this based on our field tests, the 2.0-liter A3 is capable of hitting 60 mph from a stop in 5.8 seconds.
All-Wheel Drive More Efficient Than 2WD
What’s most impressive, though, is that the power is delivered so efficiently that in EPA tests this engine with all-wheel drive delivered slightly better fuel economy than the 1.8-liter front-wheel
drive model. Both had 27 combined mpg and 33 highway, but the quattro (Audi’s designation for all-wheel drive) gets 24 mpg
around town while the front-drive chalked up only 23. That stands conventional wisdom on its head when a larger, more powerful engine driving all four wheels is more efficient than a smaller one driving on the front wheels. It’s a testament to the engineers at Audi and its parent Volkswagen organization.
Handling in the Audi Quattro is what you would expect from a sporty small car. In a drive through the Santa Cruz mountains of Northern California, the Audi hugged the road admirably, easily capable of taking corners at twice the posted speed limit. The direct injection engine and turbocharger seems in perfect sync with the needs of the car accelerating up twisting mountain roads.
The new A3 has dropped 100 pounds compared to the previous generation, according to Beth Wykes, the A3 product manager. Lightweighting, which plays a critical role in performance, was accomplished through use of high-strength steel and aluminum, resulting in an improved vehicle weight/horsepower ratio that is evident on the road.
The stylized Audi look, while conservative, delivers a .30 coefficient of drag, which aids higher speed performance. My personal
preference is both the five-door hatchback featured in the previous generation, but the sedan has a good look.
The A3 comes loaded with technology and has even more as an option. Standard on the sedan are leather seats, a panoramic sunroof and xenon headlights (with optional LEDs). Other technology includes dual-zone automatic climate control, power windows and driver’s seat, 4G LTE, Wi-Fi, a retractable thin MMI screen hi-def/wheel input w/touch, LED DRL/rear lights, Audi side assist, active lane assist, and adaptive cruise control , drive select modes for steering, throttle and transmission shift.
While the sedan is enticing, we at Clean Fleet Report will await the arrival of the diesel TDI (fall 2014) and e-Tron (plug-in hybrid Q1 2015). As nice as the TFSI engine is, we believe the new diesel and the plug-in hybrid will take this model to new efficiency heights while diminishing none of the styling or performance that draws one to the Audi.
The A3 does have some serious competition. The Mercedes CLA-just out, available for approximately the same price as the A3, but in front-drive models only initially. The CLA, which also has an AMG version to go head-to-head with the A3’s coming S3 model, offers 26/38 mpg in the city/highway and horsepower and performance slotted right between the two A3 gas engines.
BMW’s 1-Series is another competitor; it has a redesigned model coming soon. It currently uses a six-cylinder engine that delivers more horsepower and torque, but at the expense of fuel economy. Of course, if they drop a turbocharged four-cylinder diesel like the one available in their X3 model, this could be a real contender. Expect some moves along those lines as BMW moves all of its models to more efficient modes.
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