Through explanation and elaboration, I’ve established my affinity for premium automobiles in small packages. The newly redesigned Audi A3 has occupied much of that conversation, which is indicative of its gifted execution.
The best-in-class ranking it enjoys among its peers, by most accounts anyway, is thanks to a strong value proposition compared to the BMW 2-series, which suffers from feature anorexia, and a deceivingly upmarket feel over the Mercedes CLA-class, which many have said is unrefined and too un-Benz-like.
Audi intends to further widen the gap between its competitors by offering the A3 with several power sources – the base 1.8 liter turbo four cylinder, the upgraded 2.0 liter turbo four, the ultra-boost 2.0 in the S3, a turbo diesel in the TDI model, and a plug-in electric hybrid.
I drove the TDI this week, and found its soft grumble endearing. Its performance beats the base gasoline engine but not that of the 2.0, thanks to muscular torque and a modest horsepower count.
I’ve always wondered how the two numbers impact performance. Steve explained to me that torque helps you accelerate, and horsepower keeps you going. Diesels traditionally have had higher torque counts than horsepower, the opposite case of gasoline mills.
There is nothing groundbreaking about the A3 TDI, other than a zippy and efficient powertrain. However, equipped with the Active Driving Assistant, as this Prestige model was, there is.
Engaged properly and given a user-specified speed and following distance, the A3 silently followed a Chrysler in front of us on Westshore Boulevard. It stopped all on its own, and accelerated to the predetermined 45 mph when the other car turned. In the daylight, its artificial eyes will also keep you in your highway lane by following striping and steering the front wheels, no hands needed.
The TDI is not available with Quattro all wheel drive, as the two technologies would not fit into the A3’s frame. I have always enjoyed Quattro, so that is a disappointment given the engine’s brilliance.
After driving this particular car, I don’t think the Prestige package is necessary over the Premium Plus. It adds a Bang & Olufsen stereo, LED headlights, which are very bright and admittedly quite cool, some distracting interior ambient lighting, advanced navigation, and little else.
I would have no regrets with the mid-level model, which still includes leather, xenons, a “panoramic” sunroof, dual-zone auto A/C, and the multimedia display sans nav. Many of the individual features can be ordered as a la carte options, like scuff-avoidance parking sensors.
The TDI-propelled A3 starts at $32,600, and climbs to $41,050 for the loaded Prestige version. Choose your options (and engines) wisely with this sassy little German sedan, and you can get away for a good price and low running costs.