Car Review: 2015 Audi A3 Quattro Technik

To tell the truth, I should have been disappointed. Here I was trading in my favourite car of all time, Audi’s RS7, a car I loved so much that it became my first long-term test car in a 28-year career, for the lowest sedan on Audi’s totem pole. Eight cylinders were being downgraded to four, two turbochargers on a single, solitary huffer and a manly-man 560 horses were being replaced by a comparatively girly 220. It certainly wasn’t a trade designed to get the heart racing. The best I could hope for, thought I, would be for the memory of the RS’s abundance to fade quickly enough that I might adequately evaluate the A3 in the week it was to spend in my driveway.

That was my preconception at least.

The interior of the 2015 Audi A3 Quattro Technik surprises with its level of refinement and luxury touches.

The interior of the 2015 Audi A3 Quattro Technik surprises with its level of refinement and luxury touches.
Handout, Audi

Imagine my surprise, then, when I found myself taken with Audi’s cheapest sedan right from the get-go. Indeed, even just the simple act of starting the little four-banger impressed; the first time I pushed the little chromed start button, I had to check the tachometer to ensure the car had actually started. That’s how creamily smooth the little 2.0L is. One expects such civility and rectitude from a silky-smooth V8, but four cylinders are supposed to be thrashier with much clattering of valves and thrumming of exhaust accompanying its paucity of pistons. Instead, the little 2.0-litre TFSI, the top option in the A3′s portfolio (a 1.8L turbo gas engine is available as is the VW Group’s revised 2.0L turbodiesel), settled down to a quiet 750 rpm idle without the slightest of fuss.

Nor did the 220 horsepower that I thought I would find lacking end up seeming underpowered. It might be because the A3 is so light, it could be that this particular version of the TFSI is so torquey (258 pound-feet at a low, low 1,600 rpm) or it could be that I am really good at tailoring my expectations to abilities (I am told by my son, in the kindest possible way, that this last is, by far, the least likely scenario). Whatever the case, the little A3 fairly zooms along. Like all the best cars I test, I found myself constantly needing to hold the A3 back, the 2.0L accelerating to a license-threatening 140 kilometres an hour with deceptive ease and holding that speed, again courting the ire of the constabulary, with aplomb beyond its displacement. The A3 has presence beyond its station.

The top-option 2.0-litre engine in the Audi A3 pumps out 220 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque.

The top-option 2.0-litre engine in the Audi A3 pumps out 220 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque.
Handout, Audi

The same applies to its interior. Indeed, the sensation that Audi has somehow managed to make a compact-sized sedan truly luxurious is even more apparent inside the cabin. The materials — the dashboard covering, the chrome trim bits (even if they’re fake) and even the leather feel decidedly more expensive. Compared with, say, Mercedes-Benz’s similarly-stationed CLA, for instance, the A3 feels like a Roller competing with a Chevy. Besides the softer touch materials, the A3′s layout also feels far more expensive: the MMI infotainment screen disappears into the dashboard when you shut the key off (the Mercedes’ LCD screen is fixed), the A3′s air vent arrangement (twist the outer ring to turn on and off, pull/push on the centre knob to control air flow) is elegance incarnate and the switch gear, though less dense than in higher-priced Audis, is nonetheless classy.

Indeed, methinks that the A3 will end up competing most specifically with the CLA. Though BMW’s 2 Series is ostensibly in the same class, it is a rear-wheel-drive platform with pretensions to sportiness. The A3 (and the CLA) are front-drive chassis that are, in their top-of-the-line guises, North Americanized with the addition of all-wheel-drive. Both are supposed to be what passes for basic transportation in the smallest of luxury segments.

But the A3 does it better. One gets more power, a chassis that feels more sophisticated and, especially, an interior that makes Mercedes look like they are focusing perhaps a little too much on its bottom line. Indeed, never once in driving the A3 after the RS7 did I feel like my trade was a step too far down the luxury ladder. That’s amazing considering it costs less than a third as much.

2015 Audi A3 Quattro Technik

2015 Audi A3 Quattro Technik
David Booth, Driving

The Specs

Type of vehicle All-wheel-drive compact luxury sedan
Engine 2.0L DOHC turbocharged four-cylinder
Power 220 hp @ 4,500 to 6,200 rpm; 258 lb.-ft. of torque @ 1,600 to 4,400 rpm
Transmission Six-speed dual-clutch S tronic
Brakes Four-wheel disc with ABS
Tires 225/40R18
Price (base/as tested) $42,850/$47,600
Destination charge $1,995
Natural Resources fuel economy (L/100 km) 9.8 city, 7.2 highway
Standard features Power door locks, windows and power mirrors, dual-zone electronically-controlled air conditioning with micron air filter, Bang & Olufsen AM/FM/CD player with 14 speakers, SIRIUS satellite radio, Bluetooth connectivity, Audi MMI with navigation system and Touch hand-writing recognition, Multifunction steering wheel controls, adaptive cruise control, information display, rearview camera, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, 8-way adjustable leather front seats, heated front seats, auto headlights, dual front air bags, dual front side air bags, dual rear side air bags, side curtain air bags

About David Booth