Photo: “Audi A3 Limousine” by Kārlis Dambrāns
By Jonathan Takiff, Daily News Columnist
Posted: March 21, 2014
“GREAT THINGS in small packages” is a consumer tech mantra, with makers compacting ever more features into ever smaller designs.
This goal is being applied to upscale compact cars in the U.S. market, with the 2015 Audi A3 4-door as an apt case in point.
BY THE NUMBERS: Jazzing up big sister A4′s staid looks, nicely outfitted at $29,900 (plus delivery) and laden with extraordinary tech features and options (pushing a fully loaded ride to 44 large), the A3 has generations X and Y and millennials in its sights.
Doesn’t hurt that this tidy package squeezes (at just 175 inches long) into a tight city parking spot and drives like a sportin’ dream with great steering feedback and road engagement.
She’s a confidence builder.
The base model achieves 0-to-60 mph in a hair over seven seconds with the standard 1.8 liter turbocharged/injected 4-cylinder engine feeding the front wheels. Reach 60 mph in 5.8 seconds with the optional ($3,000) 2.0 liter 4-cylinder pushing all four wheels in road-gripping “Quattro” version.
Both arrive with a 6-speed dual clutch automatic (with manual stick override) doing the mostly smooth shifting. Mileage is a decent 23-24 mpg city, 32-33 highway, though engines demand premium fuel.
A CUTIE OF OUR OWN: Lux little cars, often hatchbacks, have long ruled Europe, where streets are narrow, you park on the sidewalk and fuel costs are astronomical. The slightly longer A3 sedan was designed for U.S. and China markets, says its maker.
Fetching cabriolet (convertible), turbo diesel, S3 (high performances) and hybrid plug-in electric/gas hatchback versions also will be delivered from Audi’s new assembly plant in Hungary. The A3′s new, 30G archrival, the Mercedes Benz CLA250, is also made in that country.
AN OPEN AND SHUT (THE DOOR) CASE: Honestly, that new baby Benz lost my interest at the Philly Auto Show as soon as I sunk inside its cocoonlike, plastic-trashed interior. Don’t they realize? People live in here!
The Audi’s interior exudes airiness, a classic Bauhaus simplicity, good materials and smart ergonomics. Plus standard leather seats, a huge retractable sunroof and a well-executed, 10-speaker sound system with CD-to-hard drive and SD card music storage.
Three can squeeze in back.
The real eye grabber inside is the pop-up 7-inch Multi-Media Interface (MMI) color screen and center console array of companion toggle switches, keypad buttons and mode-control wheel, a configuration introduced four years ago in the $80,000 Audi A8!
This high-tech control center eliminates button clutter. There’s also voice control and, of course, iOS and Android phones connect wirelessly for hands-free calling and Internet music streaming.
A $1,900 MMI upgrade adds GPS navigation and hand writing recognition that allows you to input your destination with a finger on the touch-pad-enhanced control wheel. Very cool. Another $700 gets you MMI Navigation Plus with Audi Connect, the first-ever car infotainment rig with high speed 4G/LTE mobile phone and data connectivity built in.
With a monthly (about $17) AT&T fee, Audi Connect creates a Wi-Fi hot spot for passenger devices and smartphone-linked Audi apps, and showcases news and photo sites, fuel locations, airport departures and weather.
It can display/speak Twitter and Facebook posts – though not SMS. At least, not yet.
Most carmakers update tech on a five- to seven-year product cycle. But the modular, replaceable Multi Media Extension Board uniquely hiding in the A3 glove box will allow Audi (and partners like Nvidia and Qualcomm) to keep the car on the tech tip with chip and software updates every two years. However, 2015 A3 owners won’t be able to swap out an old board for a new one.
Audi A3 upgrades add pleasure and price
Premium Plus Package
Grows tires and rims to 18 inches, adds keyless entry and start, automates climate control, heats seats/wipers/outside mirrors. Also upgrades passenger seat with 12-way power control and lumbar adjustments to match driver’s standard electric chair. $2,550.
Adds four-mode Audi Drive Select, more comfortable front sport seats and steering wheel paddles for manual shifting. $500.
Advanced Technology Package
Builds on standard front-end “Pre-Sense” circuitry (preps car systems for collision) with Active Lane Assist and Adaptive Cruise Control. $1,400.
Bang & Olufsen Sound System
Four more and better speakers and extra power, Dolby Digital Surround DVD soundtrack decoding (you can’t watch while driving), performs quasi-surround processing of stereo signals (works well) and adjusts volume to cabin noise. $850.
FCC-approved but not yet priced center console insert connects your mobile phone to the A3′s external antenna for improved reception. A second version will add cordless “Qi” induction charging.