Geneva Motor Show: Audi A3
The trailblazing Audi hatchback credited with filtering the 'premium feel-good factor' through to the compact class is about to raise the stakes yet again as the all-new A3 makes its debut in Geneva.
CO2 emissions of as little as 99g/km in the new A3 have been made possible with the help of ‘Audi ultra’ lightweight technology, which has enabled it to tip the scales an impressive 80 kg lighter than its predecessor. The aluminium front wings and bonnet help in this regard, and contribute to a class-beating kerb weight of just 1,175kg for the 1.4 TFSI model. In terms of dimensions, the new A3 is virtually identical to its predecessor in length and height at 4,237mm and 1,421mm respectively, but it features a longer 2,601mm wheelbase in the interest of dynamic composure and interior packaging. It is also slightly wider at 1,777mm.
The single-frame radiator grille that is typical of Audi dominates the look of the front end, and as before in higher specification models it is flanked by xenon headlamps with LED daytime running lamps, the latest versions featuring a new ‘clasp-like’ solid band which surrounds more of the lens. These will also be optional for other models, and wherever they are fitted the tail lights will also be equipped with LEDs. In the longer term, full LED headlights will also be available, and will be a first in the compact car segment.
In profile, the pronounced tornado line – a classic element of Audi design – gives structure to the area below the windows, and above the sills a dynamic line rises sharply upward. The gently sloping C-pillars and the roof that sweeps back into a modest spoiler lend the car a distinctly coupe-like air.
At the rear the spoiler edge above the diffuser emphasises the width of the new premium compact, and the inner architecture of the split tail lights is a variation on the headlights’ theme. The tailgate has a sculpted, three-dimensional look, and below it in the diffuser insert are either one or two tailpipes on the left side depending on the engine type.
At launch, the new A3 will be available with one TDI and two TFSI engines, all of which incorporate many efficiency technologies – direct injection, turbocharging, innovative thermal management and the start-stop system. All three units are ‘downsized’ in the interest of efficiency but deliver performance and response worthy of a larger capacity engine thanks to advanced turbo charging. The benefit of this concept can be seen in fuel economy improvements averaging 12 per cent.
The 1.4-litre TFSI, with its 1,395 cc engine displacement, produces 122PS of power and 200 Nm of torque, the latter available from 1,500 rpm. This engine powers the A3 from rest to 62mph in 9.3 seconds and on to a top speed of 126mph. Its combined fuel economy is an impressive 54.3mpg, equivalent to CO2 emissions of 120 grams per km.
The 1.8-litre TFSI – with an engine displacement of 1,798 cc – produces 180PS and delivers 250 Nm of torque between 1,250 and 5,000 rpm. It combines direct injection with supplemental injection into the induction pipe, varies the valve stroke based on load using the Audi valvelift system and utilises a very elaborate thermal management system to quickly heat the engine after a cold start. It enables the A3 to complete the sprint from rest to 62mph in 7.2 seconds, to reach a 144mph top speed and to achieve a combined economy figure of 50.4mpg, equivalent to 130 g CO2 per km.
The 2.0 TDI with 1,968 cc engine displacement also offers a high-performance thermal management system. Its two balancer shafts were relocated from the oil pan to the crankcase, which clearly improved smooth engine running. Producing 143PS and 320 Nm of torque, this diesel delivers tremendous punch.
The A3 2.0 TDI sprints from a standstill to 62mph in 8.6 seconds and reaches a top speed of 134mph. In the combined cycle test it covered 68.9mpg – equivalent to CO2 emissions of 106 g per km.
The A3 engine line-up will gradually expand to include further highly efficient, low-emissions units. A version with the especially efficient 1.6 TDI engine will debut later in 2012, promising 74.3mpg potential with CO2 emissions of just 99g/km, and models employing alternative propulsion methods such as hybrid, natural gas and Audi e-gas will also be introduced in certain markets. Performance enthusiasts will also be well catered for by a new S3.
At launch, the 1.4-litre TFSI and 2.0-litre TDI engines will be linked to a six-speed manual transmission. In the 1.8 TFSI, the seven-speed S tronic transmission will be standard; the highly efficient dual-clutch transmission integrates a freewheeling function in conjunction with Audi drive select. All of these transmissions transfer power to the front wheels; quattro permanent all-wheel drive will become available later in the year. Its centrepiece is a hydraulic multi-plate clutch which can variably and very rapidly distribute power between the front and rear wheels according to the prevailing conditions.
The third generation of the three-door model is the first to break cover in Switzerland, and will open for UK order in spring priced from approximately £19,000 ahead of first deliveries in September.
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