Wednesday, April 23, 2014

2015 Audi A3 1.8T

While people interested in the entry-level luxury class are all over cars like the Mercedes-Benz CLA, it's easy to forget that the segment existed long before Mercedes introduced its swoopy new four-door to the U.S. Audi was actually one of the first to enter the segment, way back in 2006 with the A3. The original A3 failed to leave its mark, though. It was a four-door hatchback, and because it was a four-door hatchback, Americans generally weren't that interested. The all-new 2015 Audi A3 sedan likely won't have that problem. With the entry-lux segment more important than ever, the 2015 Audi A3 1.8T proves that Audi's taking the segment seriously.

Powered by VW Group's new 1.8-liter turbocharged I-4, the front-drive-only 2015 A3 1.8T makes 170 hp and 200 lb-ft of torque, which it puts to the ground through a six-speed dual-clutch automatic. Accelerating from 0-60 mph in the A3 1.8T takes 6.8 seconds, and the base A3 is through the quarter mile in 15.4 seconds at 89.4 mph. In comparison, the A3 2.0T Quattro launches quicker thanks to its 220-hp 2.0-liter turbo-4 and standard all-wheel-drive system, needing 5.4 seconds to hit 60 mph and 14.0 seconds to finish the quarter mile, with a 98.6 mph trap speed.

Though the A3 2.0T sports better performance numbers than the 1.8T, I think the A3 1.8T is the one to have if all-wheel drive isn't on your must-have list. The A3 1.8T doesn't feel noticeably slower while driving and its gearing feels shorter, making it feel perky around town. The 1.8T-equipped A3 also has lighter, more communicative steering than the 2.0T, which makes it much more fun on back roads, especially considering the A3 2.0T seems to have a bit of trouble transitioning quickly left to right on quick switchbacks.

Among the biggest changes to the 2015 A3 is the way it looks: the Americanized A3 now sports a traditional sedan body style, and for better or worse it looks like a three-quarters-sized A4. Parking the A3 next to an A8 gives an interesting look at how scalable Audi's design language is. While the A3 is certainly handsome, I can't help but feel like it's almost too conservative for the young millennial buyers Audi is targeting. Park the A3 next to Mercedes' CLA and I bet you the majority of passersby younger than 30 would choose the CLA over the A3 on looks alone.

Inside, the 2015 Audi A3 makes up ground compared to Mercedes. Though some members on staff are quick to call the A3's interior cheap, I think minimalistic is the right word. The Audi's interior is simple, looks nice, and is intuitively laid out. The CLA is beautiful and has a bigger trunk. In my opinion the interior of this Audi is terribly boring. It actually looks like a simpler version of the CLA's interior.

The Google Maps-based navigation system renders quickly, the Siri-like voice control is better than Siri, and its chock full of why-didn't-they-think-of-that-sooner features like picture destination, which uses GPS data saved on a photo you take with your smartphone to navigate the car to that exact destination. Trying to track down a lost friend? Have them text you a picture of where they are, import it into the A3's MMI system, and off you go.

While the 2015 Audi A3's bells and whistles are killer, there are a handful of issues with the interior – tire noise being chief among them. The A3 is already relatively heavy, an extra 10 or 20 pounds (just 171 eggs!) would make a big difference.

With a base price of $30,795, the A3 is pretty well-equipped. The neat flip-out screen in center stack is standard, as are leather seats, HID headlights with LED running lamps, automatic wipers, and a plus-sized "panoramic" sunroof.

2015 Audi A3 1.8T

BASE PRICE:  $30,795
VEHICLE LAYOUT: Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan
ENGINE:   1.8L/170-hp/200-lb-ft turbo  DOHC 16-valve I-4
TRANSMISSION:  6-speed twin-clutch auto.
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) : 3108 lb (60/40%)
WHEELBASE: 103.8 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT: 175.4 x 77.2 x 55.7 in
0-60 MPH: 6.8 sec
QUARTER MILE: 15.4 sec @ 89.4 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH: 106 ft
MT FIGURE EIGHT:  26.7 sec @ 0.67 g (avg)
ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY:  147/102 kW-hrs/100 miles

CO2 EMISSIONS:  0.73 lb/mile

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