Sportiness and comfort – the chassis of the Audi A3 and the A3 Sportback offers both. Its high qualities are best experienced on winding, secondary highways. The initial, subjective impression is the result of the precision and ease with which the vehicle follows the steering angle, plus the stability with which it holds the road on fast corners – almost neutrally at the handling limits, with only slight understeer.
The suspension in the A3 and the A3 Sportback responds gently and absorbs impulses from the road surface with composure at any speed. The steering also remains imperturbably calm and always imparts a fine sensation of road contact plus a precise, firm steering feel.
Aluminum subframe: Front suspension
The front suspension, which has a track width of 1,534 millimeters (60.39 inches), follows a tried-and-tested design form – it is a McPherson design with lower wishbones. The subframe to which it is linked consists of lightweight aluminum, which improves load distribution between the front and rear axles.
The electromechanical rack-and-pinion steering with speed-dependent power assistance is characterized by its low energy consumption. As the system does not have to consume any energy when driving straight ahead, it saves an average of 0.2 liters of fuel per 100 kilometers. With its ratio of 16.2:1, the steering is of a sporty, direct design.
Networked with the ESP (Electronic Stabilisation Program) sensors, the steering automatically undertakes minor corrections if the A3 or the A3 Sportback drifts from its straight course, due to crosswinds, for example. A second function intervenes if the vehicle appears likely to start skidding: It inhibits steering corrections on the part of the driver, which would exacerbate the situation, by temporarily reducing power assistance, therefore making the steering "heavier". In contrast, positively impacting corrections are supported with increased servo power.
A further technical highlight in the Audi A3 and A3 Sportback is the four-link rear suspension with a track width of 1,507 mm (59.33 inches). It separately supports the longitudinal and lateral forces, which offers major advantages in practice. The trailing arms absorb the drive and braking forces; their bearings are of a relatively soft design in the interests of ride comfort. In contrast, the three wishbones per wheel are rigidly connected to the axle carrier, benefiting vehicle dynamics.
As on the front axle, the rear axle carrier is rigidly bolted to the body to increase stiffness. All of the links are manufactured from high-strength grades of steel. The shock absorbers and the compact coil springs are separate, enabling a largevolume luggage compartment. Anti-roll bars are fitted on the front and the rear axle.
In the Ambition equipment line, the Audi A3 and the A3 Sportback are factoryfitted with a sports suspension, which lowers the body by 15 mm (0.59 inches); this can also be optionally deselected. It is available as an option in the Attraction and Ambiente lines. quattro GmbH offers an S line sports suspension which lowers the body by a further 10 mm (0.39 inches).
Powerful wheels: Diameters from 16 to 18 inches
The Attraction variants are fitted with 16-inch wheels on which 205/55 tires are mounted as standard. Optional cast aluminum wheels are available with the same tire format as those fitted in the Ambiente line. The Ambition line is equipped with 17-inch wheels with 225/45 tires. Audi additionally offers a range consisting of around nine wheel variants, including four particularly sporty quattro GmbH versions in 18-inch format. A tire pressure monitor is also available as an optional extra.
The brake system harmonizes perfectly with the sporty character of the model series. Its pedal feel is spontaneous and taut, whilst its response can be precisely dosed. The size of the brakes is coordinated to the relevant engines. The ventilated front disks reveal diameters of 280 or 288 and 312 millimeters (11.02 or 11.33 and 12.28 inches), whilst the solid rear disks measure 255 or 286 millimeters (10.04 or 11.26 inches).
When fine-tuning the ESP system, the engineers attached great importance to reducing the braking distance and to both sporty and discreet regulation. The ESP system’s functions include dry braking in wet conditions, in which the pads are repeatedly and briefly applied onto the disks. The ESP system can be optionally extended with a starting-off aid called the Audi hill hold system; this is standard in combination with the S tronic transmission. The system continues to maintain the brake pressure for a moment when the driver has released the foot brake. He is therefore able to start off effortlessly uphill without the risk of rolling backwards.
Audi magnetic ride: Dynamics precisely as desired
An impressive high-tech solution is available for the gasoline engines as of 118 kW (160 hp) and both two-liter TDI engines as of 103 kW (140 hp): The electronic shock absorber control system, Audi magnetic ride, solves the conflicting aims of comfort and vehicle dynamics. Once again, the A3 and the A3 Sportback easily leave their rivals standing with this technology. A synthetic hydrocarbon oil, in which minute magnetic particles with a grain size of just three to ten micrometers (one thousandth of a millimeter) are enclosed, circulates in the shock absorber plungers. Applying voltage to a coil leads to the formation of a magnetic field, in which the alignment of the particles changes. They are positioned transverse to the oil’s direction of flow, thereby inhibiting its flow through the plunger ducts. This changes the damping characteristics within a matter of milliseconds.
The system’s control unit constantly analyses the status of the road and the driver’s style, and adjusts its operating mode adaptively. The driver can switch between normal and sports mode at the push of a button. In the normal setting – with high oil flow – the Audi A3 and A3 Sportback offer a well-balanced, comfortable ride. In sports mode – with low viscosity – they hug the road tightly and closely; rolling motions are consistently suppressed. The steering responds even more precisely, and specific support of the wheels makes the vehicles’ self-steering behavior even more neutral.
Their equipment also underlines the Audi A3 and the A3 Sportback’s character as compact premium vehicles. The extensive range of standard and optional features underpins their outstanding position.
Even in the Attraction line, which is itself full of character, both body variants leave the assembly line with two or four electric windows (3-door A3/A3 Sportback), a stowage compartment beneath the passenger seat and daylight driving lights. An easy-entry function for the front seats (3-door A3), radio remote control for the central locking system, electrically adjustable exterior mirrors with turn signal indicators plus a vertically adjustable driver’s seat round off the comfort equipment. The chorus radio system with four speakers is fitted as standard.
The standard range of restraint systems is comprehensive. It encompasses airbags for the driver and passenger, front airbags which protect the chest area and the pelvis plus a curtain airbag system. Added to these are five head restraints, five three-point seat belts – with tensioners and belt force limiters in front – and the integral head restraint system on the front seats. The front bumper and the engine hood are designed to minimize the effect of collisions with pedestrians as far as possible.
For sports fans: The Ambition line
The sporty Ambition line can be clearly recognized even from the exterior – thanks to 17-inch aluminum wheels, fog lamps and a sports suspension. Its interior offers two height-adjustable sports seats. Specially designed sill strips and inlays plus a leather-covered sports steering wheel in 3-spoke design refine the interior. A driver information system, a radio clock and a manual sunscreen for the rear window, which is integrated into the luggage compartment cover, are particularly practical features.
The Ambiente equipment line represents luxury, externally documented by 16-inch aluminum wheels in an elegant 7-arm design. Its interior offers a wealth of equipment – inlays in amber-coloured Vavona wood, a four-spoke leathercovered steering wheel, a storage compartment package, an outside temperature indicator, a cruise control system, a center armrest in front, an interior light package, an interior mirror with automatic anti-dazzle function, a light and rain sensor and a windshield which dampens external noise using a special acoustic film.
Audi offers further equipment lines for pronounced individualists. This involves the S line, which contains an exterior package and a sports package, the luxurious Audi exclusive line and the refined options from the Audi exclusive range. The regular range of optional extras already includes numerous attractive convenience features. These encompass electrically heated and folding exterior mirrors, a windshield with acoustic glazing, a cruise control system with improved operation, multifunctional steering wheels for operating the telephone, audio and navigation systems, sun blinds and assistance systems for making parking more comfortable: Rear parking aid or front and rear parking aid and the Park Assist system.
The deluxe automatic air conditioning system with sun sensor enables the driver and passenger to control the temperature individually. The options available for the seats are also extensive: A vertically adjustable passenger seat, electric lumbar supports, heating for two or four seats, sports seats and electrically adjustable front seats (A3 Sportback) – no desire is left unfulfilled.
Park Assist system: The A3 steers itself into the parking space
The Park Assist system is a brand new, particularly comfortable high-tech system. It operates using ultrasonic sensors which register longitudinal parking spaces at the side of the road when the vehicle is traveling at speeds below 30 km/h (18.64 mph). If a space is sufficiently large to reverse into, a corresponding indication is provided in the driver information system.
If the driver now engages reverse gear and accelerates, the Park Assist system takes over the electromechanical steering – it automatically steers the A3 and the A3 Sportback into the space in one maneuver. The driver only has to operate the accelerator, the clutch and the brake due to reasons of safety.
In the field of safety, Audi offers an anti-theft alarm system, fog lamps, a tire pressure monitoring system, Isofix anchors for child seats and rear side airbags (in the A3 Sportback). Xenon plus headlamps and the cornering light system, adaptive light, turn night into day.
The A3 also offers many intelligent solutions in terms of practicality. Storage compartment packages are available for the interior and the luggage compartment, plus a load-through aperture with center armrest plus a ski and snowboard bag for the rear bench seat.
A luggage compartment mat and a reversible load floor make the luggage compartment extremely versatile. An electrically driven glass roof is optionally available for the three-door model, whilst the A3 Sportback offers the optional panoramic sunroof – a very large glass roof which enables the interior to be flooded with light. A further option for the Sportback are the roof rails, available in anodized aluminum or in black.
Audi offers a wide selection of multimedia devices for optimal entertainment. The standard chorus CD radio, which comes equipped with four speakers, forms the basis of the range. This continues with the MP3-capable concert radio (six speakers) and the symphony radio with CD changer up to the Bose sound system, whose amplifier contains an integrated digital sound processor. This has an output of 195 W and controls eight or ten speakers (3-door A3/A3 Sportback) via six channels. As of the concert radio, AUX-in jacks on the transmission tunnel are fitted as standard. The Audi exclusive range offers preparation for iPod installation in the glove compartment.
Navigation: The A3 knows the way
The A3 and the A3 Sportback optionally show the driver the way. The smaller solution is a navigation system with a monochromatic 6-inch screen, which reads its data from a CD. The large navigation system plus operates with a DVD player, and is equipped with a 6.5-inch color monitor which optionally shows the route as a 3D image. It contains a radio with dual tuner, slots for reading SD cards and an AUX connection: It can be further upgraded with a speech dialog system. A TV module is also available.
Both navigation devices are located in the center console; their operating logic is oriented towards the highly-praised MMI system fitted in the large Audi model series. For mobile telephony, Audi offers an optional Bluetooth link for the
mobile phone plus a hands-free system; this link also supports UMTS-capable mobile phones.
Sale of the new-look Audi A3 and A3 Sportback will be getting off to a start in the next few days, with delivery scheduled to commence in the summer. With only marginally adjusted prices, this means a much improved A3 at an attractive starting price of €20,350.