The New Audi A3
The new premium sports model in the compact class has now reached the starting line: Audi is launching its second-generation A3. With powerful four- and six-cylinder engines developing up to 177 kW (241 bhp), quattro drive, the new automatic-shift DSG sports gearbox and highly dynamic running gear, it offers all the driving pleasure suggested by the sporty lines of its body. The equipment and trim once again reach the exclusive standard in the compact class that is also typical of the larger models in the Audi range.
The new Audi A3 has every prospect of repeating the unique success of the previous A3 model. The second generation, with its distinct sporting character, highly advanced technologies and the most dynamic design of any car in its class, qualifies again for the pole position that went immediately to the first-generation A3 when it appeared in 1996.
One of the achievements of the previous A3 when it appeared was to define a new automobile segment. - the premium compact class - and then to dominate it until production ceased. The Audi A3 was always a leading competitor on the national and international scene: this was confirmed not only by the large number of awards it received but also by its sales figures.
Emotion and precision: these two characteristics determine the exterior design of the new A3 and also give it the 'family resemblance' that identifies it as a member of the current Audi model family. The entire body is now tauter and more athletic in appearance.
With a wheelbase lengthened by 65 millimetres and 30 millimetres of additional body width, but lower by 10 millimetres in overall height, the proportions of the new Audi A3 approach those of a classic coupé. This impression is enhanced by the shorter body overhangs, the distinctly greater slope of the C-posts and the shallower windows. At the same time the occupants benefit from distinctly larger interior dimensions at both front and rear and, as a result, from a higher standard of comfort in every respect.
Striking features of the new A3's front-end styling are the marked inward taper of the sides and the dynamic shaping of the clear-glass headlights, the upper edges of which draw the eye toward the centre of the car and give the A3's front end, with its characteristic Audi double grille, a confident, forceful character.
The rear end of the body is notable for a significant reduction in joint lines and a clear, graphic division of the surface areas. This is an evolution in the formal idiom that nonetheless confirms its relationship with the previous award-winning model. A bold visual element at the rear are the exposed exhaust tailpipes - either single or double according to the chosen engine.
The interior design also expresses sporting character and elegance, a feeling enhanced by a lower seated position than in the previous model and by many other visible details such as the circular aluminium-look ventilation outlets, the high centre console with ergonomically ideal gear lever position and the sports-car-style floor-mounted accelerator pedal. The instrument cluster is compact in its dimensions, with the clear layout of a chronometer.
The definite growth in space available for all the occupants is a major step forward in the new-generation model. Those seated at the rear profit in particular from much-improved knee room and width at shoulder level. Space-saving design of the handbrake makes it possible to install two additional cup-holders in the centre console where they can also be reached by rear-seat occupants.
The extensive choice of engines for the A3 includes three new options. The Audi engineers have increased the size of the highly popular TDI engine to two litres; in addition, this engine now has four valves per cylinder. The 2.0 FSI and 3.2 V6 were recently seen for the first time in the A4 and the TT. All these engines transmit their power either to the front wheels or, as an option, by way of the quattro driveline permanently to all four wheels. Here are details of the complete range of engines:
- 3.2-litre V6, 177 kW (241 bhp), 320 Nm torque (from mid-2003)
Depending on the chosen engine, a 5- or 6-speed manual-shift gearbox is fitted; tiptronic is a further option. With six forward speeds, this automatic transmission is an unmatched offer in the compact car category.
As an alternative to the manual gearbox, the most powerful petrol and TDI versions can be ordered with the new direct shift sports gearbox DSG. This innovative transmission, inspired by motor racing technology, has twin automated clutches that permit exceptionally rapid gear changes with no break in the flow of power from the engine - and thus pure sports-car style driving pleasure.
The driver changes gear either sequentially with the gear lever or at the steering wheel paddles. An additional bonus is that the DSG offers the convenience of automatic, electronically controlled gear shifts if preferred. However, since it operates without the power losses associated with a torque converter, cars equipped with DSG have the dynamism and lower fuel consumption associated with a conventional manual gearbox. The DSG versions will be available from mid-2003 onwards.
Still with no equivalent in the premium compact class; quattro permanent all-wheel drive. Even the power developed by the highest-performance versions of the new A3 can be converted ideally into forward motion with this system, which serves as a basis for dynamic driving and active safety at the same time.
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