Audi built its reputation by delivering precision engineering, sophisticated luxury and exhilarating performance across an ever broadening range of vehicles. With the 2011 A3 series, Audi has distilled that winning formula into a street-savvy, space-efficient, five-door premium compact wagon.
Some upscale carmakers believe you should accept compromises in their entry-level models. The new 2011 A3 is the lowest-priced vehicle in Audi’s stable, but there is nothing “entry level” about this five-passenger luxury sportback. From its broad, single-frame grille to its sleek “S Line” styling, track-tuned suspension and distinctive refinement, the A3 is pure Audi through-and-through.
Audi offers the A3 in standard 2.0T Premium (MSRP $27,270) and uplevel 2.0T Premium Plus guises. There’s also a clean-burning diesel version of the car – the A3 2.0 TDI – but our focus here will be the models equipped with the gasoline-fueled 2.0-liter Turbocharged Fuel Stratified Injection (TSFI) four-cylinder engine. This engine was a Ward’s “10 Best Engine” five years running.
The A3’s 2.0-liter inline-four was the first large-scale production engine to combine gasoline direct injection with turbocharging. A showcase of advanced technology – add dual-overhead camshafts and variable-valve timing to the list – this diminutive mill punches out 200 hp and 207 lb/ft of torque. Cutting edge engine design means greater fuel efficiency as well: The A3’s 30 highway mpg rating is tops in this segment.
A six-speed manual gearbox comes standard on the 2.0T. Audi’s six-speed dual-clutch “S tronic” automatic is optional, and both transmissions send power to the front wheels. The S tronic can be set in automatic mode or shifted manually through paddles mounted on the steering wheel. When the available quattro permanent all-wheel drive is matched with the S tronic, the combination helps the A3 to sprint from zero-to-60 mph in a brisk 6.7 seconds.
Reviewers have praised the A3 for its “supple” ride and “nimble” handling. The result is a car that feels equally at home darting through holes in city traffic and winding through miles of country two-lane. Credit goes to the independent suspension with MacPherson struts in front and a multi-link setup in back.
To keep the A3 traveling where it’s pointed, Electronic Stabilization Control (ESC) uses a variety of systems – including the ABS brakes and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) – to correct a slide by automatically applying the brakes at individual wheels. Brake Assist senses panic braking and maximizes power boost for quicker stops. Lift your foot off the brake pedal while stopped on an incline and Hill Hold Assist activates the parking brake to keep the car from rolling backward. Press the throttle to accelerate, and the parking brake disengages automatically.
The A3’s interior has also earned its share of rave reviews. “The cabin’s design and materials are up to the lofty standards Audi has set for the industry,” one reporter wrote, “meaning everything fits tightly, moves with precision and looks and feels top shelf.” Drop inside the cabin and you’ll find leather seating surfaces, metallic trim and a four-spoke leather-wrapped steering wheel – all standard. Personalization options include Dark Brown Walnut wood inlays, aluminum roof rails and an open sky panorama sunroof.
Practicality and flexibility are also A3 strong suits. Keep the standard 60/40 rear seats up and you get 19.5 cubic feet of cargo space; drop them and the stowage area expands to 39 cubic feet.
Audi’s Driver Information System tops the long list of standard features on the A3 Premium, which also includes a 10-speaker audio system with AM/FM/MP3/CD and one auxiliary jack, dual-zone climate control, SIRIUS Satellite Radio with a three-month trial subscription and 17-inch wheels with all season tires.
The A3 Premium Plus adds xenon plus headlights with LED daytime running lights, an eight-way power driver’s seat with four-way power lumbar adjustment and a leather-wrapped three-spoke multifunction sport steering wheel with audio controls and shift paddles. You also get Bluetooth connectivity (optional on the Premium model) and an Illumination Package.
Highline options on the Premium Plus include a Bose Premium surround-sound system and MMI Navigation Plus with real-time traffic and six-CD changer.
Looking for a refined, versatile sportback that transcends the competition? Then you’re looking at a segment of one: The new 2011 Audi A3. Schedule a test drive today.