Audi A3 2008 review
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A soft spot for tradition is the basis for Audi's A3 cabriolet.
At a time when most carmakers are turning to folding metal roofs, Audi insists on providing a soft-top alternative.
“I have always believed that a small segment of customers are true believers — those who want their soft-top car to be a soft-top,” Audi Australia's general manager for marketing, Immo Buschmann, says.
“They are the people who believe that part of the joy of open-top motoring is the attraction of a cloth roof.”
Buschmann was speaking at the launch of Audi's baby soft-top last week. The A3 is the latest in Audi's line-up of `original' soft-top convertibles.
“The A3 cabriolet is a logical extension for the brand,” he says.
“We are one of the oldest brands in the world and from the very start cabriolets were at the heart of the brand. In 1910, when we first started, all Audi cars were cabriolets, roadsters or phaetons.
“Mass production and wider market demand led to sedans becoming the cars of choice, but we always recognised that segments of the premium market still wanted cabriolets.”
To satisfy that `small' segment of true believers, Audi is launching the A3 with two engines and a pair of gearboxes. It expects to move 300 examples this year and 400 in a full sales year.
The 1.8-litre TFSI (118kW, 250Nm) will be available at $49,900 with the single gearbox choice of the six-speed S tronic, Audi's version of the double-clutch automatic.
For the more powerful (147kW and 280Nm) 2.0-litre TFSI, shared with the VW Golf, the S tronic is $57,500 and the six-speed manual is $54,900. Audi has not shut the door on a possible diesel variant, but it is not in immediate plans.
Standard equipment levels are reasonably high. The 1.8-litre has four airbags, electronic stability control, anti-skid brakes, electronic brakeforce distribution, 16-inch alloy wheels, speed-sensitive power steering, two-layer semi-automatic cloth roof, engine immobiliser, cruise control, dual climate-control airconditioning, trip computer, eight-speaker sound system with single-disc CD, split-fold rear seats and a cloth trim interior.
The 2.0-litre adds 17-inch alloys, sports suspension, rear parking sensors, front fog lights, sports steering wheel and seats, leather trim and upgraded sound with six-disc CD.
But the devil is in the options list. Metallic paint is $1300, a three-layer fully automatic roof also $1300, Xenon headlights $1900 and adaptive corning technology $800.
Lumbar adjustment for the front seats is $600 and heating $750.
A Bose sound system adds another $1350, mobile phone Bluetooth preparation $950 and navigation from $4400.
There is more if you start off with the entry-level car.
What the A3 cabriolet does offer, whether it's with the standard roof or the fully automatic, is reasonable boot space that can be expanded to impressive by folding the rear seats.
The compact fold of the roof means boot space does not alter whether the roof is deployed or stored away.
The launch drive of several hundred kilometres through far north Queensland highlighted several things about the A3 cabriolet, none of which were unexpected.
The 2.0-litre with its sports suspension and 17-inch wheels was a less fussy drive than the smaller sibling.
It rode well over some compromised surfaces and the engine — well proven in VW guise — could rarely be faulted.
The coupling with the S tronic gearbox is a treat and after some early fascination there is little need to play around with the wheel-mounted shift paddles. The box's Sports mode will happily take care of most enthusiastic demands.
The 1.8-litre — and the suspicion is that it was down to the more compliant suspension and smaller wheels — was less settled, with more vibration back through the steering wheel.
Road noise with the roof down was again a slightly better proposition in the top-end car, with less tyre roar in particular.
All the test vehicles were fitted with the more heavily sound-insulated, three-layer option roof and though that was very effective when deployed, judgment on the standard roof is going to have to wait.
No matter how fervently the company may wish it, the rear seats in 2x2 convertibles are always going to be best suited to kids or the vertically challenged.
In the case of the A3, the area is more comfortable with the roof off.
But the real issue is knee room, particularly behind a driver of even average height.
PRICE From $49,900 to $57,500
ENGINE 1.8 litre/four-cylinder TFSI (118kW/250Nm); 2.0 litre/4-cylinder TFSI (147kW/280Nm)
TRANSMISSION Six-speed S tronic auto; six-speed manual
ECONOMY 7.6 litres/100km (all engine/gearbox combinations)
Range and Specs
|1.8 TFSI Attraction||1.8L, PULP, 6 SP||$8,200 – 12,650||2008 Audi A3 2008 1.8 TFSI Attraction Pricing and Specs|
|2.0 TFSI Ambition||2.0L, PULP, 6 SP||$9,800 – 14,740||2008 Audi A3 2008 2.0 TFSI Ambition Pricing and Specs|
|1.6 Attraction||1.6L, PULP, 5 SP MAN||$5,400 – 8,360||2008 Audi A3 2008 1.6 Attraction Pricing and Specs|
|1.8 TFSI Ambition||1.8L, PULP, 6 SP||$6,900 – 10,670||2008 Audi A3 2008 1.8 TFSI Ambition Pricing and Specs|