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2015 Audi A3: Compact and Connected

By Sue Mead, April 26th, 2014

"You'll be known by the friends you choose, so pick wisely," is something my mother used to say. I'm reminded of this adage with the launch of the new A3, as Audi rubs elbows with some pretty important friends with the release of its 2015 compact sports sedan.

Audi wants to be known for offering the best in-car combination of connectivity and information management systems in the American premium compact segment and is proud of its "friends" -- or partners -- in innovation including Qualcomm Gobi, Bang & Olufsen, NVIDIA, AT&T, and Google, among others.

"This is the first implementation in a car of Google Earth and the first car with 4G LTE," said Scott Keogh, Audi of America President. "Audi's A4 got us on Earth and the technology in the new A3 is going to take us to the Moon," he enthused, pointing out that Consumer Reports recently tapped Audi as the Top European Brand.

In addition to progressive technology, the German automaker also wants to be known for its craftsmanship and sports performance. Previously available as a sportback only, the 2015 Audi A3 now comes in sedan and cabriolet versions, a TDI clean diesel variant, and a high-performance S3 version. Audi also plans to bring a sportback plug-in hybrid to the A3 family in the future.

strong>The A3 comes in two models: the entry-level turbocharged 1.8-liter promising 170 horsepower and 200 lb.-ft. of torque with front-wheel drive (starting at $29,900 plus $895 destination and delivery), or the turbocharged 2.0-liter quattro boasting 220 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque with all-wheel drive ($32,900); each is available in three trims: Premium; Premium Plus and Prestige.

The outside of the A3 sedan is completely redesigned, but retains Audi's signature Singleframe grille. The interior of the A3 is tastefully designed with a somewhat clean and Spartan-like feel. A wraparound-dash with clever three-dimensional inlay encircles the driver and front passenger. Full-LED headlights and LED interior lighting are available.

Audi says the A3 is the first vehicle in its class to offer so much high technology, including its Multi-Media Interface (MMI), Audi drive select, 4G LTE connectivity, and Bang & Olufsen audio. Audi's MMI operates through an electronically extending screen crafted into the center dash console; a touch pad is incorporated into the rotary control wheel to facilitate data entry.

Audi's MMI navigation provides Google Street View and online traffic information; Audi connect services, such as a text-to-speech function for e-mail and a dictation function for SMS text messages; as well as a mobile app that syncs between the system and smartphones to allow passengers to view high-definition videos and make video conference calls from the vehicle. The NVIDIA graphics processing unit generates complex three-dimensional images used in online, voice control, media navigation, and telephone functions. The modular infotainment system offers the most advanced version of Audi connect, and brings read-aloud Facebook and Twitter alerts.

We drove the 2.0-liter inline-four-cylinder turbocharged engine mated to the standard, dual-clutch six-speed S tronic transmission. Our tester also featured Audi's optional drive select system, which allows the driver to adjust throttle response, shift points, and the electromechanical steering effort.

We loved the exterior look of the A3, which has the profile of a coupe. Slipping inside we found an attractive cabin, with plenty of elbow room in the front and a bit less in the rear, although Audi promises the back seats are sufficiently roomy for adults. A smallish trunk brings 10 cubic feet of stowage; split/folding seats add flexibility. Only the driver seat is power adjustable.

The competence of the Audi quattro powertrain is thoroughly enjoyable when using sport mode and paddle shifters for a more enthusiastic gearbox response and evocative throttle note. The A3 shines in its remarkable body control that comes at as the result of chassis, steering, brakes, and suspension tuning that combine to connect to the road with a confidence-inspiring ride, even on the tight and twisty roads that were the centerpiece of our 200-mile route.

Our only complaints were some tire noise (although in general the car has a quiet ride), and we would prefer more bolstering in the seats, as well as power adjustments for the front passenger seat. Our test model was priced at $43,540, with the Prestige Package, as well as a Sport Package (Audi Drive Select, sport seats, shift paddles), plus Glacier White paint.

Specifications

Base price $36,695 (as tested: $43,540)
Curb weight 3,362 lbs.
Displacement 2.0-liter
Epa mileage rating 24 mpg city, 33 mpg highway
Fuel capacity 14.5 gal.
Horsepower (net) 220 at 4500 rpm
Motor type 16-valve turbocharged 4-cyl. w/FSI
Overall length 175.4 in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) 258 at 1600-4400 rpm
Transmission 6-speed S tronic
Vehicle type 5-passenger AWD compact sedan
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