January 6, 2005
By: Joe Wong
A3 Sportback Impressions
The new A3 size wise is comparable to the new Jetta. The 5-door hatchback (call it a mini Avant if you want) comes standard with a 2.0L Turbo with FSI (Direct Injection) producing 200 HP and 207 lbs/ft of torque mated with DSG. In fact they claim the DSG equipped A3 is faster 0-60mph than the manual tranny.
Like all new generation Audi’s it sports the new corporate nose treatment and is targeted at “younger, more active” buyers. As an option, you can order the dual opening “Open Sky” sunroof. All new Audis, including the A3, are pre-wired (including the roof antenna) to support Satellite radio (both offerings). Lastly on the features menu, the A3 will also include electro-mechanical steering with a 16:1 ratio.
At a starting price of around $25,000 US, it will appear in showrooms in May. They plan to offer the 3.2L V6 with DSG and Quattro several months later.
5-door hatchbacks are not a new configurations, although Audi’s new A3 is quite stylish done and somewhat reminiscent of the Mazda 3 sport wagon offering. The interior is standard Audi quality feel and finish. Being their smallest offering in North America, however, you will definitely feel it in the shoulder room and leg room – particularly in the back seat.
The soon to be offered 3.2L V6 with DSG and quattro should be quite an exciting combination. Depending on the pricing, I would seriously consider buying this over BMW’s X3 which is targeting the same market segment. Of course, the X3 does ride higher and provides higher ground clearance. Still, how many X3 owners actually intend on going off road anyways? The A3 is definitely more of a driver’s car, and singles or couples with active lifestyles will be most likely to seriously consider it.
Audi A4 / S4 Impressions
Audi’s “theme” when designing the new A4 was “Sporty, Progressive & Sophisticated”. Much like their predecessors, it is no big surprise that the new A4 is a smaller version of the new A6. This seems to be a trend among many other German and Japanese auto manufacturers.
In the case of the A6 and A4 if you were blindfolded and then put in the driver’s seat of one or the other, you would have a hard time quickly identifying which car you were in. The one tip-off would be size, as the A6 obviously has more interior room. That said the steering wheel, dash etc. are the same.
I realize the auto manufacturers are trying to be more “efficient” in sharing components across the product line, but this approach takes away the “personality” of the individual cars. Perhaps the cookie-cutter small, medium and large approach is intended to make buying decisions easier. Personally, I would prefer a bit more differentiation between the models.
The A4 is now a bit longer and wider, and ongoing improvements have been made in the areas of suspension and braking. Yes of course the corporate nose and tail light treatment a la A8/A6 have been included. They say the new A4’s brake components are from the S4 and the new A6 parts bin. They are also offering larger tire/wheel combinations from previous years and the hugely popular, bigger cup holders which received a lot of applause from the media!
The new corporate nose treatment was the most apparent exterior styling change for the 2005 A4. The larger grill has apparently been designed to provide more air flow for the radiator and according to Markus Auerbach, designer, “with the combination of the eyes (headlights) and mouth (grill) the car has a mean, aggressive look.” I think I still need to spend a bit more time with the new Audis before passing judgment on the grille.
The two A4 engine choices are the new 2.0-liter turbo with FSI and the 3.2L V6 with DSG which replace the outgoing 1.8T and 3.0, respectively.
The B7 S4 Avant was also featured but does not offer DSG in its auto-stick variant. A shame really, DSG would really make sense here. However as an upside, the dated AVUS-style wheels have been replaced with wider 5-spoke wheels, which is an improvement in my humble opinion.
Johan de Nysschen, recently hired Executive Vice President of Audi of America and Audi Canada, presented during the Audi press conference. This was his first public speaking engagement in the role. Mr. de Nysschen talked briefly about his background and his recent transition to this new posting. He specifically stated that the L.A. market was critical, as many car buyers here feel that the car they drive is a direct reflection of them.
de Nysschen acknowledged that Audi AG needs Audi of America to be more successful in this market. He appears to be humble, yet determined to turn things around coming off a disappointing year of sales.