The A3 was due for a mid-cycle refresh, and it gets one that makes it even more impressive than before. Here are the juicy details.
It’s no secret that the Audi A3 is one of our favourite cars at AutoX. It may not be the most engaging car that you can buy, but it’s certainly one of the most capable. So-much-so that when it was time to choose a steed for our 100th issue last year – in which we had the small task of covering the 6,000-kilometre journey from Delhi to Kanyakumari and back non-stop in less than 100 hours, the car we chose was the Audi A3 2.0 TDI. It performed so well, in fact, that we covered 5,578-kilometres in 76-hours dead – shattering the 100-hour time limit that we had set for ourselves. The A3 was so good that we ought to have planned this story for our 75th issue, and not our 100th.
Anyway, that’s now water under the bridge. It’s 2016, and the A3 has been around now for a couple of years. Audi is in the process of introducing a more aggressive and much sharper design language for it’s entire range – in fact, the launch of the new Q7 was heavily delayed because the Audi Board and the design team wanted to ensure that they got the look absolutely right. They didn’t want the new Q7 to look timid – and even a fleeting glance at it proves that they succeeded! Nor does the brand new A4 for that matter – it looks sharp and edgy.
And that’s exactly the look that Audi has gone for with this facelift of the A3. The front end has a far edgier and more pronounced grille. If it looked friendly before, it looks imposing now. The headlamps, meanwhile, look as though they were fired from the Quinjet directly onto the front of this car. The rear isn’t quite as striking, and looks much the same – with the exception of a pair of new LED tail lamps. The S3, meanwhile, gets a set of quad exhausts that truly look the part and make it look as though it’s been injected with a potion of equal parts Viagra and steroids. But, speaking of LED’s, the headlights on the top-of-the-line variants get Audi’s Matrix LEDs for good measure. Let’s just say that you will notice this car on the road.
On the inside, all face lifted A3’s get Audi’s Virtual Cockpit – which is truly a technological tour de force. I’m someone who loves a pair of good analogue gauges, but even I’m blown away by the configurable 12.3-inch TFT screen that now makes up the instrument cluster. It just makes every pair of traditional analogue gauges look like they’re from the 1980s. Plus, in Germany, where we tested these cars, they had Internet connectivity built in – which meant that both the Virtual Cockpit screen and the screen in the centre of the dashboard had incredibly detailed high-resolution maps from Google Earth. They were so good, in fact, that you didn’t know whether you ought to look out the window to admire the Germany countryside or whether it was better to look at the two screens in the cabin that gave you an overhead view of the surrounding scenery. Apart from that there isn’t much change in the cabin, but none was needed. I’ve always loved the clean, clutter-free cabin of the A3 and, for me at least, the novelty is yet to ware off.
The Europe-spec cars that we drove, of course, get a lot more tech than we’ll get in India – such as Traffic Jam Assist, Lane Assist, Predictive Pedestrian Assist, Blind Spot Warning (which works incredibly well on the Autobahn by the way), as well as a number of other driver assist and connectivity functions that we won’t get back home.
What we will get, fortunately, is Apple CarPlay – which continues to give me a warm, fuzzy feeling every time I use it in a car. If you have an iPhone you’ll understand. If you don’t, I’m happy to take note of your abuse in the comments section.
Europe will also get a number of new models – such as a Plug-in Hybrid e-tron as well as brand new 1.0 litre, three-cylinder, direct-injection, turbocharged TFSI engine that produces 113 horsepower and 200Nm of torque. And, before you start frothing at the mouth about Audi making a three-cylinder motor, you’ll want to test-drive it first – simply because it’s incredibly refined and responsive. Sure, when you plant your foot you do notice that typical three-cylinder thrum – but not as much as you’d think. And, frankly, I happen to like it – I think it adds character. When you’re cruising, it simply doesn’t feel like a three-cylinder or the least bit underpowered.
And the best part was that our test car was giving 25km/l – mostly on the highway of course. But that’s nothing compared to the 40km/l that the e-tron was averaging. When we jumped into the car at the Munich airport, it was showing a massive 750-kilometre range – with 35-kilometres just in EV mode. It produces a combined output of just over 200 horsepower and 250Nm – from both the 1.4TFSI petrol motor and the electric motor, which is powered by a lithium ion battery pack that can be charged using a standard power outlet. Now we don’t know if either of these machines will ever make it to India – but we do know that Audi is thinking about introducing e-tron technology in the country. And it would certainly be in keeping with post-diesel-debacle global outlook!
Another machine that we may never see on our shores is the S3, which produces 305 horsepower from its 2.0 litre TFSI petrol engine and accelerates to 100km/h in just 4.6 seconds. Not only does it look phenomenal, but it goes down the road just as well as its looks promise. Frankly – hand on heart – its all the performance that you’ll ever need from a machine. On a racetrack you can always use more power and grip, but for the road the S3 has all the gumption and traction that you’ll ever be able to exploit. Even in the pouring rain, we simply couldn’t get the car out of shape thanks to the Quattro four-wheel drive system. And the car just feels stiff & taut, and oh so responsive on the road – much more so than the current generation S4 and S5. The steering is sharp and the throttle response is right there. It is a tad stiff for Indian roads though, but the optional magnetic shock absorbers will help on that front I’m sure. I, for one, would love to see this car make it to our shores.
But, lets finally look at two cars that will likely make it to India when the face lifted A3 is launched in and around Diwali (around the same time, in fact, as the new A4). Of course, we’ll get the same 2.0-litre TDI – except it’ll come with a small bump in power and torque (148bhp and 340Nm). The driving experience remains much the same as before – which is to say very capable, but, again, not the most engaging. Especially after getting out of the S3, the steering of the regular A3 feels a little rubbery, and the TDI engine feels a little too intrusive in the cabin. I wish they had improved the cabin insulation slightly. There isn’t much wrong with it a present to be honest, but a mid-cycle refresh would have been a good opportunity to improve it some more. Nevertheless, it remains fast, agile, and economical in equal measure. Moreover, the 6-speed dual-clutch gearbox is another technological marvel.
There’s simply no turbo lag in this car because as soon as you plant your foot the gearbox drops three gears instantly and the car lunges forward.And if its forward lunging that you want, the new 2.0-litre TFSI engine – which produces 187 horsepower and 320Nm – will be more than happy to comply. It’s smooth, refined, punchy, and comes with a new 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox. The only trouble is, in the models without Quattro, you do tend to get little bit of wheel spin when you really try and put the power down. But, then, with the pouring rain, we didn’t exactly have perfect conditions around Munich when we drove these cars. Personally, I would take this car in a heartbeat as a daily driver.
And that’s the beauty of the A3 – no matter which model you choose it offers everything you could possibly need in a car on a daily basis. It’s spacious, without being overgrown, it’s powerful, without being silly, and it looks good, without pretending to be something that it’s not. It’s actually quite a sensible choice – right from the e-tron to the S3, and everything in between!
- A3 2.0 TDI
- A3 Sportback e-tron 1.4 TFSI
- A3 1.0 TFSI
- S3 Quattro
Engine: 1,968cc / 4-Cylinders / 16 Valves / DOHC
Transmission: 6-Speed Dual Clutch Automatic / Front Wheel Drive
Power: 148bhp @ 3,500-4,000rpm
Torque: 340Nm @ 1,750-3,000rpm
Acceleration: 0-100km/h – 8.5 seconds
Engine: 1,395cc / 4-Cylinders / 16 Valves / DOHC
Transmission: 6-Speed Dual Clutch Automatic / Front Wheel Drive
Power: 148bhp @ 5,000-6,000rpm
Torque: 250Nm @ 1,600-3,500rpm
Electric motor power: 75kW
Electric motor torque: 330Nm
Acceleration: 0-100km/h – 7.6 seconds
Engine: 999cc / 3-Cylinders / 12 Valves / DOHC
Transmission: 7-Speed Dual Clutch Automatic / Front Wheel Drive
Power: 113bhp @ 5,000-5,500rpm
Torque: 200Nm @ 2,000-2,500rpm
Acceleration: 0-100km/h – 9.7 seconds
Engine: 1,984cc / 4-Cylinders / 16 Valves / DOHC
Transmission: 7-Speed Dual Clutch Automatic / All-Wheel Drive
Power: 308bhp @ 5,500-6,500rpm
Torque: 400Nm @ 2,000-5,400rpm
Acceleration: 0-100km/h – 4.6 seconds
Also read: Audi’s New Design Direction