Entry-level German sports luxury cars are a tricky proposition here. Most Americans still tend to look at the big-3 German cars as premium items, and then they’re disappointed when they sample the more meat and potatoes compacts and subcompacts from the brand. Well that could be why the Audi A3 has never been a huge seller here. Or, it’s more likely that up to this point the A3 has only been available as a 5-door hatchback. Either way, there’s an all-new A3 sedan in town, and it’s arrives with the U.S.A. as its bull’s-eye.
The 2015 Audi A3 marks an important step for Audi. Proof that they are now taking the American and, perhaps more importantly, the world’s upscale small car market more seriously, spurred along by the recent success of the Mercedes-Benz CLA250.
After all, nothing says conventional like a subcompact sedan, but the A3 4-door is far from mainstream. And while making premium attainable is not a simple undertaking, it’s one that must be completed effectively in order for the A3 to be a success here. And it should be doable as Americans have long embraced the A4 sedan.
Let’s get things started in the powertrain department, with a choice of 2 corporate Turbo I4s. A 1.8-liter with 170-horsepower and 200 lb-ft. of torque is found in front wheel drive models; and a 2.0-liter with 220-horsepower and 258 lb-ft. provides motivation to all 4 wheels in quattro models. Both come with a 6-speed S tronic dual-clutch automatic; no manual is available.
Our sample sports the 2.0, which performed admirably at our test track. Quattro makes for a grippy, if a little sluggish, launch off the line; but adequately quick, as we hit 60 in 6.0– seconds flat. We very much welcomed the true dual-clutch transmission over a CVT; still shifts weren’t as quick as expected helping us complete the ¼-mile in 14.6–seconds at 96 miles-per-hour.
While Audi’s sporty DNA shines through, this is clearly not an S model as steering is stone dead. Still there’s a solid and stable feel with just enough of an enjoyable, light weight presence that encourages pushing hard; and the A3 behaves itself well.
An all-aluminum sub-frame with MacPherson struts handles suspension duties up front, with a 4-link setup in the rear with a steel cross member. Brakes are the same for either front or all-wheel-drive A3, with our quattro stopping in a good 124–feet from 60.
This all-new sedan body is built on Volkswagen’s fledgling MQB architecture. Just about every exterior dimension is increased over the previous hatchback. Wheelbase is up more than 2-inches to 103.8. Length and width also see meaningful gains.
There’s nothing ground breaking with exterior design elements, however, as all recent Audi trademarks are in place, including the large Singleframe grille and LED daytime running lights. Both A3s ride on nice looking 17-inch 5-spoke alloy wheels.
Inside, is a whole new look for the brand. There’s still a premium feel with leather seating and panoramic sunroof standard; but it’s a clear step down from the lavish landscapes of A6 and A8. The wide and flat, simplistic dash design features large circular air vents giving it a sporting, if retro, feel; until you see the very thin navigation screen rise out of the dash. In front of the driver is a 3-spoke steering wheel and plenty of info on the gauge screens.
All controls are driver oriented, and there’s an updated version of Audi’s MMI central control, which we like even more thanks to the new toggle switches and write on feature. Front seats are roomy and comfortable, and while the stretch in wheelbase does allow for more rear seat room, it’s still barely adequate. Trunk space is more than adequate, however, at 10.0 cubic-ft. Convenience features include available Audi connect with 4G LTE connectivity and navigation. But, you’ll have to add the $1,400 Driver Assist Package if you want a back-up camera.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings for our quattro tester are 23-City, 33-Highway, and 27-Combined, and our average of 29.2 miles-per-gallon of Premium was a good one. The Energy Impact Score comes in good also, at 12.2-barrels of annual oil use with 5.4-tons of CO2 emitted.
Base pricing at $30,795 for the 1.8 and $33,795 for the 2.0 quattro seems right on the money. Though throwing in a back-up camera for that price would really make us happy.
The Mercedes-Benz CLA250 has proven that an entry-level German sports luxury sedan can indeed have big success in the U.S. if tailored properly. The 2015 Audi A3, with its premium but attainable feel, clearly delivers just as well. So, if you like your steak well-done, but not overdone, order up!
Torque: 258 lb-ft.
0-60 mph: 6.0 seconds
1/4 mile: 14.6 seconds @ 96 mph
EPA: 23 mpg city/ 33 mpg highway
Energy Impact: 12.2 barrels of oil/yr
CO2 Emissions: 5.4 tons/yr