2016 Audi A3 2.0 TFSI Quattro Premium Plus Review
From its minimalist interior with simple, curved dash top to the TT-inspired aluminum-rimmed circular vents it’s a contemporary design buff’s practical dream car, delivering exactly what the premium compact segment needed. The A3 has the looks, refinement, features, and performance to wear Audi’s badge with pride. It’s a definite short-lister in your search for a compact luxury model.
There’s only one better compact sport sedan in the premium sector than Audi’s A3, and that’s the same brand’s S3. Having already covered that sportier model in 2015 trim, I await a second turn at the wheel with eager anticipation, although another spin in the A3 2.0 TFSI Quattro is certainly a good way to wile away the time.
If you’re a fan of Audi’s big, bold singleframe grille, LED enhanced lighting elements and chiseled flanks, the new A3 sedan will certainly fit your preferred style. From the front and profile it looks just like most other Audi sedans, only smaller, while its blade-shaped taillights are uniquely elegant. My tester rode on a neat and clean set of simple silver 10-spoke alloys on 225/45R18 all-seasons, while up top about two-thirds of the rooftop gets covered in black glass making it appear as if there’s a panoramic moonscape from below, but in reality it’s just a nice large sunroof shedding light on the front half of the passenger compartment.
On that note I love the A3’s minimalist interior, from the simple curved dash top to the TT-inspired aluminum-rimmed circular vents it’s a contemporary design buff’s practical dream car. A pop-up infotainment display can be hidden away when not needed, keeping the lines of the dash clean and uncluttered, all controlled by a perfectly symmetrical collection of buttons within easy reach on the lower console, these surrounding what might be the auto industry’s largest metal-edged rotating knob, complete with a shiny black top that allows touch-sensitive finger gestures (keep your “finger gesture” thoughts to yourself, that’s Audi’s term). Back up on the stack, a beautifully simple thin strip of ancillary toggles sits just below the two center vents, while an efficiently packaged dual-zone auto HVAC panel is housed underneath. Down on the lower console again, the layout of the gear selector, ignition button, audio volume dial, and the aforementioned MMI infotainment control panel is eye candy to design devotees and relief to those who suffer from OCD, the entire interior as well laid out and efficiently packaged as this class gets.
As far as perceived quality goes, or rather the touchy, feely sense of quality most premium badged cars exude, the A3’s dash top gets a higher grade of soft-touch synthetic than you’ll find in the majority of mainstream volume branded compacts, at least those that actually include pliable plastics, while this treatment extends down to the halfway point of the instrument panel, as well as over to the front and rear door uppers, also ending about halfway down the doors where harder plastics take over. This is par for the course amongst compact premium players, extended soft-touch not available until moving up into larger, pricier models. The A3’s materials quality plus fit and finish worked well for me, and I’m a stickler when it comes to such issues, while the switchgear was mostly tight, evenly spaced and well damped, again exuding that quality feel.
As you might expect, the A3 isn’t as roomy as Audi’s A4, but it was nevertheless amply large for my five-foot-eight frame. Granted I’m not a hulk of a man, nor is my 95-pound, five-foot-even partner an Amazon woman, but there was still much more room than we could use. It’s only when venturing into the rear seating area that larger folks might feel a bit cramped, as there was a mere inch above my head when sitting in back, albeit plenty of legroom.
This brings us to the trunk. Audi claims 10 cubic feet of total volume, which makes it one of the smallest in its class, but it certainly looks larger than the number quoted and other markets have the same trunk sized at 15 cubic feet, so go figure. A set of rear folding seats are split 60/40 for stowing long items, while a large center pass-through is ideal for multiple skis and poles when the outboard seats are in use, making it perfect for a fuel-efficient trip for four to your favorite slope, with the added confidence of Quattro to get you there safely. You can get an A3 Sportback version with even more gear toting capacity when its rear seats are tumbled down, but it’s only available in front-drive plug-in hybrid E-tron trim here in U.S., so it will limit interest to those willing to spend extra for fuel savings and environmental status.
Powertrains in mind, you probably already know that the A3’s fuel-efficient “clean diesel” TDI is temporarily unavailable, but just the same I can’t see Audi losing a lot of customers now that the car is only available with two gasoline-powered engines. The base 1.8-liter mill puts out impressive numbers for the car’s 3,174-lb curb weight, with 170 horsepower and 199 lb-ft of torque allowing a 7.2-second sprint to 60 mph and a tire-regulated top speed of 130 mph, while my as-tested 2.0-liter TFSI Quattro is even more energetic thanks to 220 horsepower and a sizable 258 lb-ft of torque, which makes it good for a 5.8-second charge to 60 mph and an identical terminal velocity. Both engines benefit from direct-injection and turbocharging, while a six-speed dual-clutch automated S tronic gearbox featuring manual-mode at the shift lever comes standard.
With Quattro all-wheel drive utilizing all four contact patches below, acceleration was brisk from standstill right up to highway speeds and beyond no matter the condition of road surface, while the little A3 loves to stretch its legs on the open road, more than easily keeping up with faster paced traffic and, admittedly, difficult to keep down to posted speeds. This is a car for those who really enjoy driving, although maybe I should reword what I just said, because if you currently don’t enjoy driving you should probably test out an A3 to see if it’s the process of hitting the road that leaves you flat or the vehicle you’re strapped into.
The A3’s heightened enjoyment factor is especially notable when the freeway turns to two-lane highway, or better yet, a two-lane back road winding its way down a rocky coastline or up through a mountain pass. Let’s remember that Audis hail from Ingolstadt, an area in Germany that’s not too far from Austria’s Alps (I made the trip from Salzburg in a quick afternoon, paid rest area biffy break included, albeit I hit 150-plus mph on some stretches while at the wheel of an A8 TDI), let alone roads that intertwine through Germany’s own Black Forest. I took opportunity to test the A3 Quattro’s handling mettle right here at home, and found it especially capable through high-speed fast-paced corners, its low mass and well sorted chassis ideal for slaloming through S-turns, diving deep down into sharply undulating verticals no matter the clip, with nice, crisp response to steering input and superb braking with very little fade after repeated stomps. The A3 is a thoroughly engaging car no matter the situation, the type of vehicle that gives its driver total confidence.
Priced at just $30,900 plus freight and dealer fees, the A3 1.8 TFSI is a great value, although even at my 2.0 TFSI Quattro tester’s $34,200 price point it makes for a better deal than some rivals’ base window stickers. Both drivetrains can be had in all of the A3’s trim levels, which include base Premium, mid-grade Premium Plus and top-line Prestige trims.
Premium models include an impressive load of equipment such as 17-inch alloys, auto on/off HID headlights with integrated LED DRLs, fog lamps, heated windshield washer nozzles, heatable powered side mirrors with integrated LED turn signals, an electromechanical parking brake, micrometallic silver inlays, leather upholstery, powered windows with one-touch auto up/down all-round, a 12-way powered driver’s seat including four-way powered lumbar, rain-sensing wipers, cruise control, dual-zone auto HVAC, a tilt and telescopic leather-wrapped three-spoke multi-function steering wheel, a multi-information display ahead of the driver, Audi’s MMI infotainment, a 10-speaker AM/FM/CD audio system with an aux plug, SD card reader with 32-gigs of hard drive storage, HD and satellite radio, Bluetooth with streaming audio, that large sunroof and rear load-through system mentioned earlier, front and rear parking sonar and more.Its safety set includes the usual tire pressure monitoring, ABS-enhanced four-wheel discs with EBD and BA, plus traction and stability control, the latter with secondary collision brake assist, plus pre-sense basic crash response and eight airbags including two knee blockers up front.
You can also opt for a bevy of extras with this model, but being that I didn’t test this base car, and additionally that all of its options are either standard or available with the two upper trims, I’ll leave these details for a future review.
I actually drove a mid-grade Premium Plus trimmed model that starts at $33,600 with the 1.8-liter engine and $36,900 with the as-tested 2.0-liter mill. This model increases the wheel and tire size to those 18s already noted, while adding high-gloss aluminum window surrounds, proximity access with push button ignition, Mistral aluminum inlays inside, yet more aluminum-optic interior trim,heatable front seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror with an integrated digital compass,Audi’s music interface, and more.
Additionally, my tester included the $2,700 Technology package that adds MMI navigation, MMI touch with handwriting-recognition “gesture” technology I noted before, a color driver information system, Audi connect internet and Wi-Fi, plus Audi side assist to warn from approaching rear traffic that might be in your blind spot. Even better I was able to enjoy a crystal clear 705-watt 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio upgrade that’s available for just $950, a system that really must be heard to be appreciated.
An $800 Sport Package can also be had that consists of a sport-tuned suspension, Audi Drive Select with Dynamic sport mode, a sport steering wheel with a very nice set of alloy paddles, upgraded sport seats and a black headliner, or alternatively you can opt for the sport suspension on its own for just $250, while a set of $800 19-inch five-spoke alloys is also available. Audi will be happy to sell Premium Plus buyers an S Line Style package too, although its mostly front and rear S Line badges, plus the same logos on the front fenders and aluminum doorsills, whereas the $1,250 LED Lighting package adds a little more substance by lighting the road ahead via full LED headlamps and offering LED ambient lights inside. Finally, rear outboard side-impact airbags can be had for $350.
Alternatively you can get all of the Premium Plus equipment plus the Technology package, Bang & Olufsen stereo, Sport package, S Line Style package, LED Lighting package and more with top-tier Prestige trim that starts at $39,740 with the 1.8 and $43,050 with the 2.0, the “more” being additional S Line upgrades, power-folding and auto-dimming functions for the side mirrors, “Stop & Go” enhanced adaptive cruise control, Audi’s pre sense front accident avoidance system, and active lane assist, the latter safety features causing the IIHS to give so-equipped A3s a Top Safety Pick+ rating, while the NHTSA has awarded all A3 trims a full five stars.
Those who like my tester’s stunning Glacier White metallic paint need to be warned that it ups the price by $575, but don’t lose any sleep because Ibis White looks almost as good and will cost you nothing extra. Two additional no-cost paints are dubbed Brilliant Black and Brilliant Red, while Audi offers the A3 in six more metallics that are all priced the same. Lastly, the interior can be finished in standard Black, Chestnut Brown or Titanium Gray depending on exterior color, all at no extra charge.
As you can likely now appreciate, you don’t have to move up in size to feel thoroughly pampered in an Audi, the little A3 Sedan exactly what the premium compact segment needed and thoroughly capable of making the rest of the four-ringed family proud. It’s got the looks, interior refinement, features, and performance to wear Audi’s badge with pride, and should be the first car you check out in your search for a compact luxury model.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, American Auto Press; Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, American Auto Press; Copyright: American Auto Press