2015 Audi A3 Cabriolet and S3 first drive
Speed or sun? Audi brings new choice to small-car buyers
Photo: Mark Richardson
Monaco —The 2015 Audi A3 cabriolet doesn’t get many looks here, even with its roof down. The 2015 S3 sedan is even blander. They can’t compete with the Veyrons and Zondas and Phantoms that park every night outside the casino.
But they’re not out of place, especially when the sun shines inside the cabriolet’s immaculate cabin, or the S3’s engine pulls it ahead of the fastest scooters from the lights.
Neither of them will be coming to Canada for a while, missing the North American summer entirely, but I drove both here in the south of France a couple of months before their European launch.
Like all Audis these days, their quality is beyond reproach. The seats are comfortable and everything is well put together, falling to hand exactly where you’d expect. They’re small but solid.
Cabriolet is larger but lighter
Photo: Mark Richardson
Let’s consider the cabriolet first. Actually, it’s not as small as it used to be. It’s 18 cm longer than the previous generation (which was not sold in Canada), and all that extra length is behind the rear axle. Audi says this makes for a better-balanced car, with a 56/44 weight ratio from front to rear.
It’s slightly wider too, by a couple of centimetres, and the wheelbase is also stretched an extra two centimetres.
It’s not heavier, though. More use of lighter materials mean the new cabriolet weighs 60 kg less than before. It also benefits from a lighter roof, which weighs in at just 50 kg – half that of many other small convertibles.
There are two cloth tops available in three different colours, with an optional “acoustic” roof that cuts outside sound for a quieter ride when it’s in place. “Convertible drivers do want people to know they’re driving a cabriolet, even when the roof is in place,” says Audi.
The powered roof goes up or down in 18 seconds – I timed it – and will do so even while driving at up to 50 km/h. It tucks completely into the trunk when it’s down and leaves a flat profile at the rear.
There’s no rigid rollover bar to protect passengers but clutter up the looks; instead, if the car should flip for any reason, two spring-loaded vertical steel columns will shoot up from behind the rear passengers to help protect them from the road.
None of this reduces the storage space from the previous generation, presumably thanks to that extra length. The trunk offers 320 litres of storage, or 275 litres when the roof is tucked away, which is 50 litres more than before.
Frugal on fuel
Photo: Mark Richardson
Those lucky Europeans get a choice of three different engines – a 1.4L and 1.8L gas turbo, and a 2.0L diesel – and either manual or automatic transmissions. In Canada, we’ll get only a more powerful 2.0L gas engine with just the S-tronic automatic transmission.
No price has been announced, but it will probably be about $44,000. Audi convertibles generally cost about $12,000 more than the base models, and this is not likely to be an exception to that.
It’s a shame we’ll not get the diesel, because it sounds like affordable fun. I didn’t drive one, but it makes 150 hp and a lovely 251 lb.-ft. of torque while returning a potential 4.2L /100 km. Once again, the American reluctance to accept diesel power cuts us short, where Audi is understandably unwilling to pay for all the Canadian government testing needed to import a car that’s not been approved by the U.S. authorities.
Oh well. The 2.0L engine is hardly chopped liver. It’s similar to the motor found in the current A4, and makes a very healthy 220 hp and 254 lb.-ft. of torque. Fuel consumption is not yet known.
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