Audi A3 – A wagon no-one is afraid to call a wagon

By Al Vinikour

Like many of you this writer is a big guy with big expectations. Thus, when Audi delivered its new A3 2.0T S-tronic Quattro to our house we looked at it and jokingly (?) asked where its mother was? It looked kind of small for our tastes. However, we signed the waiver, took the keys and went back in the house. We were in no hurry to compress ourselves, squeeze inside and go for a spin. Turns out the joke was on us and we ended up wasting a block of time not driving a vehicle that has suddenly become one of our new best friends.

The A3 is classified as a small station wagon. (Do you hear that, Detroit?...a station wagon!!!!) It’s not only versatile but as an added bonus it’s fun to drive. We put it through almost every driving condition it would face in a lifetime except snow, ice and off-roading. We don’t have any doubt of its ability in snow after all it is all-wheel-drive and Quattro is among the best systems in the world and you certainly aren’t going to off-road with this thing – especially with a 4” ground clearance.

What you have is basically a five-passenger (four if you’re not a sadist) wagon that will go from 0-60 in 6.7 seconds and has a top speed electronically limited at 130 mph. Not bad for an inline four-cylinder motor. The 2.0L engine has direct fuel injection, four valves per cylinder and an exhaust turbocharger with intercooler. Horsepower is 200 and torque is 207 pound feet.

Our test vehicle had the S-tronic dual-clutch six-speed transmission. It has the feel and sound of a manual transmission but there’s no job available for your left leg. Speaking of the manual transmission, we’ve driven earlier models of the A3 with a manual transmission and you can’t go wrong that, either…unless you don’t know how to drive a stick shift…and then things could go badly for you very quickly.

The A3 was equipped with the optional S Line Package ($2,000) that gives the vehicle more aggressive front and rear fascias as well as performance tires and sportier interior appointments. Also part of the S Line Package are 3-spoke multi-function leather steering wheel, 17” alloy wheels w/all season tires, sport suspension, aluminum belt line trim, roof spoiler, front fog lamps, sport seats, S Line badges and S-Line bumpers, trip computer, illumination package and radio button, power front driver seat, Bluetooth® phone prep, storage and illumination package and brushed aluminum trim.

A highly-sophisticated suspension design provides excellent driving dynamics. MacPherson front suspension and an innovative four-link independent rear suspension create sporty and agile handling, excellent cornering performance and a high level of comfort. The A3 is fitted with electromechanical steering with speed-dependent power assistance.

The Audi A3 sports the distinctive mark of the latest Audi generation – a single-frame grille with the easily-identified Audi four circles in the center. The S Line A3s have larger and more aggressive air intakes and a front lip.
From the side the sloping roofline blends nicely with the tail end and gives it a more powerful proportion as the car sits low on the road. The rear end features our favorite – a dual exhaust system. S Line cars have a revised rear bumper with a more pronounced and contrasting lower valance.
As mentioned, the A3 is not your basic road giant. Its wheelbase is 101.5-inches and overall length is 169-inches. Front/rear headroom is 39.3/36.9-inches respectively and front/rear seat legroom is 41.2-inche/34.8-inches. Curb weight is 3,461 pounds.
Getting in to the vehicle takes a little doing – especially for people with the girth of …er…our Uncle Barney. Once in it’s very comfortable and it’s easy to drive for hours with little or no fatigue. The redundant audio controls mean you’ll never have to remove your hands from the steering wheel. Speaking of audio, standard is an Audi Concert AM/FM radio and a Sirius satellite radio prep package.

The instrument panel sits nicely before ye and the speedometer and tachometer are large enough to see without glasses. The floor pedals on the S Line are aluminum.

The air/heat vents are ideally-sized and versatile with an aluminum ring surrounding them. Aluminum trim elements throughout the interior give the A3 an upscale look. Our test vehicle had the available navigation system ($1,950) that includes a glovebox 6-CD changer. There’s a handy-dandy coin tray built into the center stack and the center armrest is ergonomically friendly. The cruise control arm is nicely hidden behind the steering wheel and out of the way of the turn signal stick. Luggage capacity is 19.5 cubic feet.

Safety hasn’t been forgotten. Standard are electronic stabilization program, front seat active head restraints, front and side airbags for driver and front passenger as well as a side curtain airbag system. Warranties include four-year/50,000 mile new vehicle limited warranty, 12-year limited warranty against corrosion perforation, 24-hour Roadside Assistance for four years provided by Road America and 12 month/5,000-mile (whichever comes first) No Charge first scheduled maintenance.

City/highway miles per gallon are 21 city/28 highway. We were consistently near, or even better than estimates because we did so much freeway driving.
There are lots of packages and optional equipment available for the A3. Base price is $30,500 and with the equipment on the test vehicle (the aforementioned S line package and Audi Navigation System Plus) – Convenience Package ($1,800), Open Sky System ($1,100), Cold Weather Package ($500) and destination charges of $825, the bottom line was $41,700. More money than usual for a family wagon…but the average family isn’t among Audi’s demographics. 

Base price: $30,500; as driven, $41,700
Engine:  2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 200 @ 5,100 rpm
Torque: 207 foot-pounds @ 1,800 rpm
Drive: all-wheel
Transmission:  6-speed automatic
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase:  101.5 inches
Length: 166.9 inches
Curb weight: 3,461 pounds
Turning circle: 35.1 feet
Luggage capacity: 19.5 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 14.5 gallons (premium)
EPA rating: 28 highway, 21 city
0-60: 6.7 seconds
Also consider: Volvo C30, BMW 1 Series, Saab 9-3 SportCombi

The Good
• Enjoyable driving experience
• Responsive 4-cylinder engine
• Loaded with safety

The Bad
• Rear-seat legroom is scarce

The Ugly
• Watch the options, there are many and they are pricey