2015 Audi A3 Premium Sedan
2015 Audi A3 Review
With the 2015 A3 and S3, Audi is resetting the clock nearly 20 years to recalibrate. That’s when the first A4 sedan inaugurated name changes and niche shifts across its lineup. Now the A4 has sized up into a new role, carving out the need for a new, less expensive (and truly compact) Audi sedan. And now it comes full circle: with a new 2014 A3 Sedan that’s essentially the same size as that original A4.
Of course, Americans only knew the last A3 (there was no 2014 Audi A3, by the way) as the A3 Sportback, a hatchback that found a niche among those who wanted an upscale, wagon-like vehicle with all-wheel drive and lots of versatility. That Sportback will be returning next year as a plug-in hybrid, and high-performance S3 and TDI (diesel) wingmen are on the way before then, but in the meantime we have two new A3 Sedan models to build up Audi’s new entry model line: the 2015 Audi A3 1.8T, and the A3 2.0T quattro.
First to arrive is this new sedan Audi launched its 2015 A3 sedan at the 2013 New York Auto Show, notable as it is the first time the A3 has been offered as a compact four door. The new bodystyle is positioned as a premium C-segment offering, with its most obvious competitor being the new Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class (BMW has not officially announced a 2 Series Gran Coupe, which would be the third entrant in the segment). The automaker says its “A3/S3 models will be among the most technically advanced Audi products around” and there will be “no sacrificing Audi craftsmanship and premium appointments.” To put the automaker’s claims to the test, we spent a week with this new sedan in Southern California.
Unlike the Mercedes-BenzCLA-Class, which is immediately recognized for its “four-door coupe” styling, the A3 four-door is a traditional three-box sedan that looks like a seven-eighths scale version of the fourth-generation A4. Overall, its styling is clean, conservative and somewhat undistinguished – but it most certainly fits in with the rest of Audi’s lineup. By the tape, the new four-door is 175.4 inches long, making it nearly 10 inches shorter in overall length than the A4, and it rides on a wheelbase that is seven inches shorter than its larger sibling.
2015 Audi A3 Interior Exterior
Although the Audi A3 and S3 will arrive in some forms to the U.S. in Sportback (hatchback) and convertible forms eventually, the 2015 A3 hits the road running as a sedan. And it’s a shape that will ring reassuringly familiar to Audi owners and intenders, as we can’t help but think that it looks familiar. Whether speaking of the profile, the proportions, or the overall size, the new A3 Sedan is very closely aligned with the original A4 sedan, as well as the Audi 80/90 compacts that came before it. Inside and out, it makes no missteps—with neat, handsome, and even somewhat sporty styling.
From the available LED headlights, to the emphatic, spare grille, to the gentle roll of the roofline into the stubby trunk, it’s as quintessentially Audi as any of the brand’s larger sedans—a factor that those new to the luxury market (as well as those in emerging markets) will appreciate, no doubt. Look up close at the sheetmetal, however, and you’ll see that there’s been a lot of attention paid to the sheetmetal and surfacing, with subtle contours around the rear fenders, a sharp beltline crease running just below the doorline, and then the most expressive part: an upwardly rising crease that rises upward alongside the lower section of the doors. There’s also a distinctive angle to its rear pillars—which helps tuck the profile down in just the right place and make the rather abbreviated rear end avoid any hint of awkwardness. The only part we had trouble warming up to? The corners of the A3, particularly in back, are a little too rounded, and it can give the car a bulbous look from some rear angles.
The interior of the A3 and S3 ventures into new aesthetic territory for Audi. The somewhat cluttered look of the previous A3’s instrument panel has been completely excised, and replaced by a clean, horizontal orientation. It also goes completely against the grain set by the current A4 and its more cockpit-like layout. Instead the layout here is focused around a horizontal dash, dominated by round vents, and on top in the center, a new screen that tucks neatly into the dash when the power is off and reemerges when the car’s started—a uniquely German solution to infotainment that hits a fragile note in the cockpits of Benzes and BMWs, too. A trio of small climate-control knobs and a thin shelf of buttons reside along the dash’s midline, while a small, hooded gauge cluster leaves plenty of dash space open.
Down below, things are more familiar if you’ve spent any time in A4 models; you’ll find engine power, sound-system volume, and an electric parking brake control there, along with a new Multi-Media Interface (MMI) controller that now includes a pad that lets you trace individual letters of a destination or contact.
An inlay smoothly wraps around the top forward portion of the dash, ahead of the driver and front passenger, flowing smoothly into the door trim and leaving the dash to jut out and meet the doors at more of a space-expanding right angle. While we like that, the interior details feel a little misguided, as if some interior stylist was trying too hard to dress the cabin up with brightwork. Shimmering chrome rings around the climate vents are a little distracting in bright sunlight, and it lends a busier look to an otherwise clean appearance.
Both engines have cast iron blocks with aluminum heads and are mounted sideways in the nose of the A3 under an aluminum hood, and regardless of powerplant, the front suspension is an independent MacPherson strut design with aluminum A-arms bolted to an aluminum subframe. The rear suspension is a four-link design, with its springs and shock absorbers mounted independently of each other. Steering assist is electromechanical. There are disc brakes at all four corners with single-piston sliding calipers over each iron rotor (the parking brake utilizes an electrically actuated servo on each rear caliper). Wheels are cast aluminum alloy, 17-inches in diameter, wearing all-season 225/45R17 tires. Optional wheel upgrades, in 18- and 19-inch diameters, provide a maximum factory-shipped summer-compound tire size of 235/35R19.
2015 Audi A3 Engine Performance Review
The 2015 Audi A3 is as quick, responsive, and confidence-inspiring as most drivers will expect from a car that doesn’t make the grand gestures of a sport sedan. The 2015 Audi A3 first arrives in the U.S. in two forms: front-wheel-drive 1.8T models, with their 170-horsepower, 1.8-liter engine, and 2.0T quattro (all-wheel-drive) models, with a 220-hp, 2.0-liter engine.
Both are turbocharged, direct-injected in-line fours with iron blocks and aluminum heads, and mated to the familiar (VW/Audi) six-speed DSG (automated dual-clutch) gearbox. The calibration of Volkswagen’s familiar six-speed DSG dual-clutch automated gearbox has been softened somewhat for the A3—for better low-speed drivability than we’ve noticed from this transmission in the past—although if you click over to the transmission’s ‘S’ (sport) mode you get later (and firmer) upshifts, plus eager, rev-matched downshifts.
Audi quotes 0-60 mph times of 7.2 seconds with the 1.8T and 5.8 seconds with the 2.0T, but that may be due to shift points and launch smoothness (there is a launch-control feature in the stability control). In reality these two models feel just as quick in normal driving conditions—although we noted a somewhat raspier note from the 1.8T when pressed. Both engines produce their peak torque ratings (200 and 258 pound-feet, respectively) at just 1,600 rpm, so they’re fine being almost lugged and yet can ‘waft’ up to speed almost like a diesel or big-displacement engine—with nearly no detectable turbo lag—if you tip gently into the accelerator.
The most coveted edition will be the S3. With an uprated version of the same 2.0-liter turbo four and standard all-wheel drive, the S3 should be good for about 296 horsepower, and for a 0-60 mph time of about 4.8 seconds–a performance benchmark just two-tenths of a second shy of the CLA 45 AMG, which sports almost 60 more horsepower.
The A3 runs on a transverse-engine architecture, with a strut front suspension isolated on its own subframe, with a four-link torsion-beam rear suspension used for efficient packaging. The electromechanical steering system is among the best-weighted in the business, with a precision that allows you to easily place the A3 exactly where you want it to be in your lane, although actual road feedback isn’t any more vivid that in most other models of its kind (read: a little dull). Brakes also have a precise, easy-to-modulate feel.
Audi’s Drive Select will also let drivers fine-tune the A3’s throttle feel and steering effort over the usual auto, sport, comfort, and individual ranges.
As for quattro all-wheel drive, the system in the A3 isn’t at all the same as the one that’s used in Audi’s larger models from the A4 family on up. Instead it’s the Haldex clutch-pack-based system that aids efficiency by sending most or all power to the front wheels during most cruising and steady driving situations but can quickly, depending on a wide range of sensor inputs, anticipate and preemptively avoid wheel slippage by sending more power to the rear wheels for traction—as further assisted by the stability control system.
2015 Audi A3 MPG
The Audi A3 faces the increasingly high mileage expectations that even luxury shoppers have—with especially impressive MPG numbers for A3 quattro versions. At the time of posting, official U.S. fuel economy ratings for the 2015 Audi A3 still hadn’t been posted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). But Audi has released what it says are final figures. Front-wheel-drive models have the 1.8-liter (1.8T) engine, and get ratings of 23 mpg city, 33 highway, while those with quattro earn a slightly better 24 city, 33 highway.
That’s quite the opposite of how it usually is, with AWD models usually lagging their front-wheel-drive counterparts by as much as 2 or 3 mpg. Credit the A3’s Haldex clutch-pack-based system, which sends power to the rear wheels only when its needed—typically not when cruising at a steady speed. It’s also most likely a matter of gearing; models with the 2.0T engine have somewhat taller gearing that may help when you ease up off the accelerator at any speed.
In an early drive experience covering two different A3 2.0T sedans, over nearly 200 miles of rapid driving along hilly, curvy two-lane roads, we saw trip-computer-indicated averages on both cars of about 26 and 27 mpg—giving us confidence that most people will be able to achieve these cars’ 27-mpg EPA Combined rating.
The size of the fuel tank is different between the two as well—13.2 gallons for the 1.8T or 14.5 gallons for the 2.0T. And by the way, premium fuel is listed as recommended on both engines.
2015 Audi A3 Premium Sedan Image Gallery