The Audi A3 isn't merely what's new; the German automaker says the A3, a compact five-door hatchback, is what's next. The A3 is the first in what will be a succession of small and dynamic, but premium, vehicles that will be introduced in the coming years from automakers worldwide. Audi launched the A3 in the United States in mid-2005, and recently expanded the range with a second model, which is equipped with a V-6 engine and all-wheel drive.
Audi says the A3 offers the performance and sophistication of its TT coupe and roadster, but adds the versatile and practical packaging of its five-door architecture. The design is delightfully deceptive. The front end, a stance built on standard 17-inch wheels and strong shoulders, makes the A3 appear to be larger than it is. Meanwhile, the rear section combines aspects of a hatchback, sport utility vehicle, and avant (Audi-speak for station wagon). The A3 was designed to appeal to affluent Gen Xers, including those who are single and those who are starting a family but want a vehicle with sporty dynamics and styling. Put another way, the A3 is more of an active lifestyle vehicle than a typical point A to point B transportation device.
The A3 is available with a very sprightly 200-hp 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder engine or an even stronger 250-hp 3.2L V-6. The V-6 comes with Audi's well-regarded Quattro brand all-wheel drive system, while the four-cylinder can be combined with either front-wheel drive or Quattro. The four-cylinder model comes with a five-speed manual transmission but can be equipped, like the V-6, with Audi's new DSG (Direct Shift Gearbox), a state-of-the-art transmission that eliminates the clutch pedal but allows drivers to shift gears by using paddles attached to the steering wheel. The technology is similar to that used on Audi's Le Mans-winning prototype racing cars.
The A3 comes standard with automatic climate control, a 10-speaker/140-watt audio system, and other premium-class features. It also comes with an electronic stabilization program (ESP) to help the driver keep the car on its intended path, as well as front, side, and side-curtain air bags. And like all Audis, the A3 also comes with four years (or 50,000 miles) of no-charge scheduled maintenance.
The Audi A3 competes in the Compact Premium segment in the U.S. light-vehicle market, where combining luxury features with the sort of dynamic driving capabilities found in many sport compact cars scores big points with those who may be entering the luxury car class for the first time. While accounting for less than 5 percent of the U.S. light-vehicle fleet, this category includes a large number of nameplates, and the competition is fierce.
According to the J.D. Power and Associates Sales Report,SM the BMW 3 Series led this category with 106,950 unit sales in calendar year 2005. Next came the Acura TL (78,218 units sold), Infiniti G35 (68,728 units sold), and Cadillac CTS (61,512 units sold). Rounding out the crowded field are the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Audi A4, Acura TSX, Saab 9-3, Lexus IS, Jaguar X-Type, Audi A3 (5,389 units sold), Lincoln Zephyr, and three Volvo models; the S40, S60, and V50.
|2.0T Sportback (M6)||6 speed manual||$24,740||200-hp / 2.0L 4-cyl||24/32|
|3.2 S Line (Auto Direct Shift)||6 speed automatic with auto-shift||$33,980||250-hp / 3.2L 6-cyl||21/27|