The New Audi A3

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March 28, 2003

Text and pictures courtesy of Audi AG

The new premium athlete in the compact class is now set to enter the market: Audi proudly presents the second generation of the A3. Powerful four- and six-cylinder engines with up to 184 kW (250 bhp), quattro drive and the new, automatic DSG Direct Shift Gearbox team up with the highly dynamic suspension to provide exactly the driving pleasure you will sense at very first sight when admiring the sporting lines of the body. And the exclusivity of the car’s features and materials once again conveys the supreme standard so typical of Audi’s large models in the compact class.

The new A3 is therefore entering the market with the clear intention as the most sporting car in its class to thrill not only the loyal A3 driver, but also many new purchasers in the market. And these new customers must be won over against competitors with a big name and a renowned image. Competitors, indeed, who themselves have followed the successful concept of the former Audi A3 in the still young compact premium segment.

To reach this objective the engineers developing the successor to the Audi A3 gave themselves a very demanding brief from the start, focusing in particular on driving pleasure. Clearly defined concepts help to reach this objective, for example the emotional and dynamic exterior design together with the matching, sporting interior, a wide range of engines and transmissions for the first time including a six-cylinder version, and a chassis and suspension clearly setting the new benchmark in this class. A further objective was to outperform the high level of equipment and model features of the first A3 in order to successfully reach additional target groups.

The new Audi A3 therefore has everything it takes to continue – and, indeed, enhance – its predecessor’s unique story of success. The second generation stands out through its superior sportiness, highly developed technology and the most dynamic design in its class, giving the car the same pole position clinched by the first generation of the Audi A3 right from the start.

The trendsetter: the first generation of the Audi A3

Audi A3 made its debut in the compact range as a three-door saloon in 1996.
And it immediately established the benchmark in its market segment more than any other car at its time, the proverbial premium quality of the A3, its elegant body design and outstanding dynamic performance establishing a new trend for a new era.

In a part of the market where common sense and economy had previously been the crucial purchasing motives, the A3 introduced new values and, indeed, a new philosophy. The strategy of success was based on Audi’s self-imposed standards in terms of safety and quality, design and innovation carried over from the brand’s large model series and transferred to the compact segment.

With a wide range of equipment and an equally wide choice of accessories, the A3 allowed the customer to create his or her personal “dream” car more efficiently than ever before in the compact range. High-torque TDI and fast-revving spark ignition engines ranging initially from 66 kW (90 bhp) to 132 kW (180 bhp) offered every customer exactly what he – or she – wanted. Sporting quattro versions, the uncompromising S3 initially developing 154, then 165 kW (225 bhp) and the five-door models introduced in 1999 subsequently completed the model range.

Almost 875,000 customers the world over, as well as motor journalists and other car experts, have confirmed the convincing concept of this car ever since the Audi A3 made its debut in the market. National and international awards such as the Golden Steering Wheel and Europe’s Best Car as well as the German Federal Product Design Award and countless wins in comparative tests by the motoring press clearly prove the qualities of the Audi A3.

This success has continued consistently over the years, the Audi A3 consistently ranking No 1 in its class in terms of stable value until shortly before the end of its production life: After two years the A3 still commands an average of 75 per cent of its original price in the German second-hand car market.


Exterior design

Emotion and precision: These two features characterise the exterior design of the new A3, making it stand out clearly as a fully-fledged representative of Audi’s current design line.

Wheelbase increased by 65 millimetres or 2.56″, an increase in width by 30 millimetres or 1.18″, and a reduction in height by 10 millimetres or 0.39″ give the new A3 proportions reminiscent of a classic coupé. This impression is further enhanced by short front and rear overhangs, the much lower rake of the C-pillar, and the flatter window surrounds.

Apart from aesthetic qualities, the most important results of this growth are the significant increase in interior dimensions both at the front and rear as well as a higher standard of spaciousness throughout.

Firmer and more athletic: the silhouette

The generation leap now borne out by the new model is confirmed not only by the car’s dimensions and proportions, but also through its qualities and details: The entire body of the car is even firmer and more athletic in style thanks to the contribution of many redesigned features. The side view of the Audi A3 is characterised by two contour lines now acknowledged as the very foundation of Audi’s new design language: the shoulder line and the dynamic line.

Extending along the side-sill, the dynamic line forms a clear contour from one wheel arch to the other, accentuating the broad track of the car and its firm stance on the road. Particularly powerful in their contours, the round wheel arches would appear to literally rest on the side-sills and the foundation thus created, standing out from the dynamic line. Large 16- and 17-inch wheels underline this effect of masculine sportiness and make the dynamic potential of the new Audi A3 clearly visible even at a standstill.

The shoulder line emphasizes the plasticity of the side section just as clearly and convincingly, continuing the upper horizontal border created by the headlights, moving along the top of the front wheel arch and sloping gently towards the rear before tapering out in an almost straight line on the wide C-pillar. Serving as a light-breaking edge, the shoulder line enhances the three-dimensional look of the car, distinguishing the side section of the new A3 from its predecessor.

The angle opening up discreetly to the rear between the dynamic line and the shoulder line accentuates the gentle wedge shape of the car’s athletic silhouette. This impression is further enhanced by the slightly rising baseline along the windows interacting with the coupé-like roofline. The visual centre of gravity of the new A3 is thus clearly moved towards the muscular-looking rear end of the A3, creating the impression that the entire car is about to leap forward.

New lines, new face

The front end of the A3 is characterised by the distinctive arrow shape and the dynamic look of the clear glass headlights. Pointing to the middle, the upper edges of the headlights give the face of the car with the double grille typical of Audi a self-confident, powerful character.

The grille itself has gone through a significant process of evolution, the outer edges on the upper and lower segment being visibly connected to one another by two clear lines in the bumper. Together with the swept-back, arrow shape of the entire front end, this design significantly enhances the plasticity and, accordingly, the presence of the car’s face.

The flat air inlets beneath the headlights segmented by transverse bars accentuate the horizontal subdivision of the A3’s face.

Like the side and rear of the car, the front end is finished consistently in body colour even including the area beneath the bumper. This feature gives a very specific but nevertheless modest and unpretentious sign of exclusivity to the highly dynamic lines and design of the new Audi A3.

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