The all-new Audi A3 is already famed for offering the finish and feel of an executive class car, and as if to emphasise the point it now has the boot to complete the impression – the new A3 Saloon range becomes available for UK ordering this summer, closely followed by the 300PS, quattro all-wheel-driven S3 Saloon. The first ever booted A3 begins the Vorsprung durch Technik brand’s foray into the world’s largest market segment – the compact saloon class. It slickly integrates more seats-up load space than the A3 Sportback with similarly ample passenger accommodation and performance, the latter helped by ‘Audi ultra’ lightweight construction processes that trim weight to as little as 1,205kg.
The design of the new A3 Saloon is a cross between the classic three-box concept and the coupé philosophy. Its overhangs are short, and its “tornado line” design element forms a distinct light-refracting edge that runs along the entire side. Above the side sills, the dynamic line rises more sharply than in the other two A3 models. The side surfaces have more pronounced curves, and the wheel arches are also slightly more flared. At the front, the bonnet contours, bumper and air intake design and the single frame grille have been redefined for the newcomer, while at the rear, lights with broad and low cuts emphasise the car’s horizontal lines and an integrated ‘kicked-up’ boot spoiler lends a purposeful air.
Vital statistics include a length of 4,460 millimetres, a 150 millimetre increase on the A3 Sportback, and a width of 1,796 millimetres, which is 11 millimetres wider. At 1,416 millimetres in height the A3 Saloon is also nine millimetres lower. The wheelbase equals the A3 Sportback at 2,636 millimetres, providing plenty of passenger room between the axles. The boot’s carrying capacity amounts to 425 litres with the seats up – 45 litres more than the A3 Sportback. This capacity can be increased by folding down the split rear seat backs. The boot lid automatically swings upward when unlocked.
The strict dictate of ‘Audi ultra’ lightweight design is evident in the 1,205kg kerb weight, which applies to the A3 1.4 TFSI Saloon that initially kicks off the range. Audi uses many hot-formed steel parts in the passenger compartment for low weight and maximum strength, and the aluminium bonnet and front suspension sub-frame also help to lighten the load.
Three engines at launch
The low 100kg weight of the 1.4-litre TFSI 140PS engine itself also facilitates keen performance and nimble handling. It is one of three completely redesigned units to be available at launch, all of which bring together efficiency technologies including direct fuel injection, turbocharging, innovative thermal management and the start-stop system. The line-up of engines and transmissions will grow further, and will include two new entry level engines.
As well as low weight, this 140PS version of the 1.4 TFSI is also notable for its efficiency-focused Cylinder on Demand technology. At low engine load, the system deactivates two cylinders to minimise mechanical effort and cut fuel consumption. As a result, combined economy tops out at a TDI-rivalling 60.1mpg, while CO2 is pared back to 109 grams per km. Helped by its healthy 250Nm torque peak, the A3 1.4 TFSI Saloon takes just 8.4 seconds to accelerate from 0 to 62mph, and can reach 132mph where conditions allow.
The 1.8-litre TFSI which is next in line produces 180PS and 250 Nm (184.39 lb-ft) of torque. It employs state-of-the-art technologies, including dual injection into the combustion chambers and the induction manifold, to deliver a broad spread of strong performance, but its headline figures are a 7.3-second 0-62mph sprint time and a 144mph top speed. Combined fuel economy is 49.6mpg, equivalent to 135 grams of CO2 per km.
The diesel contingent is initially represented by the latest 2.0-litre TDI producing 150PS and 320 Nm (236.02 lb-ft) of torque. It powers the A3 Saloon from 0 to 62mph in 8.4 seconds, takes it to a top speed of 132mph and is capable of returning up to 67.3mpg. This equates to CO2 output of 108 grams per km.[portfolio_slideshow]
S tronic with free-wheeling function
Depending on the engine chosen, the standard transmission is either a manual six-speed or the S tronic dual-clutch gearbox. S tronic shifts without any noticeable break in propulsive power, and is controlled by either the selector lever or paddles on the steering wheel. The ‘D’ setting is programmed for maximum fuel efficiency, and the S mode with its higher shift points for more energetic driving. Where the Audi drive select adaptive vehicle dynamics system is fitted, S tronic offers a free-wheeling function in its efficiency mode which further reduces fuel consumption.
The much praised underpinnings of the A3 and A3 Sportback are of course also the foundation for the new saloon, and it also shares their electromechanically assisted steering. A finely balanced axle load distribution (60 per cent front and 40 per cent rear, with slight variations depending on the engine chosen) and front wheel suspensions positioned well forwards work in favour of both ride and handling.
The front suspension is a MacPherson design with A-arms and aluminium pivot bearings joined to an aluminium subframe. The four-link rear suspension incorporates a steel crossmember, and its springs and shock absorbers are mounted separately. The sports suspensions for Sport and S line versions lower the body by up to 25 mm, and all configurations work with an Electronic Stabilisation Control (ESC) which includes an electronic differential lock. In fast corners, this brakes the inside front wheel very slightly to minimise understeer and improve traction.
The interior of the Audi A3 Saloon is characterised by clean lines and impressive attention to detail. The slender instrument panel with its curved front and the driver-oriented centre console epitomise simplicity and understatement. Their focal point is the MMI Radio operating system with its electrically extending screen and centre tunnel-mounted control terminal. The centre tunnel also houses the electromechanical parking brake switch.
The multi-function steering wheel has either three or four spokes, depending on the version, and in S line models also has a flat bottom. S line specification also features familiar features such as sports seats trimmed in cloth and leather and an all-black interior colour scheme.
Highlights common to all Saloon variants will include alloy wheels, air conditioning or climate control, the MMI radio with folding screen and standard digital radio, preparation for SD card navigation, Audi Music Interface (AMI) iPod connection, a Driver Information System, the Bluetooth mobile phone interface with voice control and a multi-function steering wheel.
Fingertip data entry
Like its hatchback counterparts, the A3 Saloon makes use of the new modular infotainment system (MIB). The most sophisticated of its modules is MMI Navigation plus with an SSD hard drive offering 64 GB of storage, a DVD drive and whole-word voice control. A high-resolution 7-inch-screen shows the map image in detailed 3D graphics, and the system also provides an interface with mobile phones and mobile players via Bluetooth. The user terminal has a turn/push control designed as a “touchwheel” with MMI touch – the touchwheel’s top surface is a touch-sensitive pad for inputting letters, symbols and numbers.
Other infotainment components include the Audi phone box for conveniently coupling a mobile phone to the car antenna and the Bang & Olufsen sound system. Its 705 watt amplifier drives 14 loudspeakers in 5.1 surround sound, helping to make the most of the digital radio receiver and AMI interface. LED light guides illuminate the woofer grilles in the front doors.
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Another particularly noteworthy option is MMI High with Audi connect. Audi connect covers all technologies that network the driver with the car, the Internet, infrastructure and other vehicles. The new A3 Saloon will be able to connect to the Internet via a super-fast LTE/4G standard telephone module which enables a download rate of up to 100 MBit/s in the car. Passengers will be able to surf and e-mail via an integrated WLAN hotspot, and will also have access to customized Audi Internet services ranging from navigation using images from Google Earth and Google Street View to Audi traffic information online and the smartphone app Audi music stream. They will also be able to communicate on Facebook and Twitter via a practical text function using prepared text units.
Optional full-LED headlights
Audi also offers many more comfort and convenience options, including a panoramic glass sunroof, the advanced key access and authorisation system, and adaptive xenon lights. Full-LED headlights will also be available right from launch to supplement the standard xenon lights in S line models and the halogen units in other versions – their innovative technology and distinctive appearance underscore the technological sophistication of the A3 Saloon. In conjunction with MMI Navigation plus, the lighting system uses route data to optimally illuminate the road depending on the driving situation.
Optional driver assistance systems also come from the premium class. The adaptive cruise control (ACC) maintains a desired distance between the A3 Saloon and the vehicle in front of it up to a speed of 93mph; when the driver assistance package, which combines multiple systems, is specified the control range is extended up to 124mph. When combined with S tronic, ACC also offers a stop&go function for low speeds.
The rear radar sensor Audi side assist monitors lane changes, while Audi active lane assist helps the driver to keep within the lane by making slight corrections to the electromechanical steering as necessary. The Audi active lane assist video camera is also used for traffic sign recognition. Finally, park assist with display of the surroundings relieves the driver of steering work in parallel and perpendicular parking manoeuvres.
Another highly protective option is the Audi pre sense basic safety system, which networks the vehicle’s systems and takes preventative action including seatbelt tensioning and window and sunroof closure if sensors detect an impending collision. If the adaptive cruise control option is added, it also incorporates the Audi pre sense front system. In case of an imminent rear-end collision, the system warns the driver using a staged reaction strategy; if necessary, it can even initiate hard braking. In an emergency situation at speeds under 19mph it can pull up the A3 Saloon with nearly full braking power. If a crash occurs, the brake assist system avoids secondary collisions by ensuring that the car does not travel further in an uncontrolled manner.
The Audi S3 Saloon
Soon after the launch of the new Saloon range, its flagship – the S3 Saloon – will make its debut. Its 2.0-litre TFSI engine produces 300PS and 380 Nm (280.27 lb ft) of torque, and combines highly advanced efficiency technologies – dual fuel injection, exhaust manifold integrated in the cylinder head, the Audi valvelift system and a rotary valve module for thermal management.
Paired with S tronic transmission and aided by the fast-acting quattro all-wheel-drive system based on a multi-plate clutch system, the S3 Saloon will accelerate from 0 to 62mph in 4.9 seconds; with the standard manual transmission it will need 5.3 seconds. In both cases top speed is electronically limited to 155mph, and in both cases fuel economy can notably exceed 40mpg according to the official combined cycle test – 40.9mpg with S tronic transmission and 40.4mpg where the manual gearbox is fitted. This pegs CO2 output at 159 and 162g/km respectively.
S-specific sports suspension lowers the body by 25 mm in the interest of cornering composure, electrically assisted variable ratio steering provides the right degree of weighting and feedback for every situation and large high performance brakes with 340mm front discs deliver high performance stopping power.
The S3 Saloon can scythe through corners even more cleanly if the optional Audi magnetic ride damper control with its magnetorheological fluid-filled dampers is specified. Audi magnetic ride is controllable via the standard Audi drive select vehicle dynamics system, which offers Comfort, Auto, Dynamic, Efficiency and Individual modes, and also governs the operating characteristics of the throttle, the steering, the optional S tronic transmission and the optional adaptive cruise control. In Efficiency mode these features, and also the climate control system, are set to function with minimal input from the alternator in order to conserve fuel.
Visually, the flagship in the new Saloon range is distinguished by S-specific treatments for the bumpers, single frame grille, air intakes, exterior mirror housings, side sills and rear spoiler. Four chrome-trimmed oval tailpipes embedded in the diffuser also attest to the 300PS at the driver’s disposal. In the interior, the S3 Saloon is set apart by S sports seats, instruments with grey dials and trim strips in black 3D look.
The new S3 Saloon and its A3 Saloon counterparts are set to become available to order in the UK in the summer, and full UK pricing and specification for all variants will be confirmed nearer to that point. The first A3 Saloon models will reach UK customers in the autumn of 2013, and the first examples of the S3 Saloon in early 2014.