Good things come in A3′s

Good things come in threes, they say, so – given that this is the third-generation A3 from Audi, making its world debut today in Geneva and due in South Africa in the third quarter of this year – we can expect lots of good things.

It’s almost exactly the same size as it predecessor at 4237mm long and 1421mm high, although a little wider at 1777mm, but has a longer, 2601mm wheelbase for better handling and more interior space, and it’s 80kg lighter, partly thanks to aluminium wings and bonnet – in fact, the 1.4 TFSI model weighs only 1175kg ready to go.

The new A3 will launch with three four-cylinder engines, all essentially new developments, starting with a 1.4-litre (1395cc) TFSI turbopetrol rated at 90kW and 200Nm, the latter available from 1500rpm, taking it from 0-100km/h in 9.3 seconds and on to 202km/h at a cost of 5.2 litres/100km and 120g/km of CO2.

The 1.8-litre (1798cc) TFSI combines direct injection with supplemental injection into the induction pipe and varies the valve stroke based on load to kick out 133kW and 250Nm from 1250-5000rpm. It sprints from rest to 100km/h in 7.2 seconds, reaches 230km/h while averaging 5.6 litres per 100km and 130g of CO2 per kilometre.

The two-litre (1968cc) TDI produces 105kW and a punchy 320Nm, taking off from 0-100km/h in 8.6 seconds and reaching 215km/h while burning an average of 4.1 litres/100km and spitting 106g of CO2 per kilometre.

The 1.4-litre TFSI and two-litre TDI are paired with a six-speed manual gearbox; the 1.8-litre TFSI comes with a seven-speed S tronic twin-clutch transmission. All the variants in this first phase drive the front wheels; quattro permanent all-wheel drive will follow later in 2012, as will further engines, including a 1.4-litre TFSI with cylinder-on-demand technology and a 1.6 TDI for which Audi claims fuel consumption of 3.8 litres per 100km.

ALTERNATIVE DRIVETRAINS

Versions with alternative drive systems such as hybrid, natural gas and e-gas, it says, are also in development, as is a new S3.

An electronic stability programme that includes a limited-slip differential is standard across the range, while the optional Audi drive select system lets the driver vary the steering weighting, throttle response and (in auto models) the transmission shift points and can be upgraded to include control of the optional magnetic ride system.

The new A3 follows classic front-wheel drive architecture with McPherson strut-and-wishbone front suspension, and a multi-link rear layout that absorbs longitudinal and transverse forces independently.

A Sport suspension option lowers the body by 15mm, while the S line suspension drops the plot by 25mm for even sharper dynamics.

FLOATING DASHBOARD

As in larger Audis, the cockpit curves around, with the slender instrument panel seemingly floating above the slim centre console, which is angled towards the driver.

By pulling the nozzle at the centre of each of the four large, round air vents, the air stream can be adjusted from draft-free wide dispersion to a directed stream of ventilation air.

The A3′s boot has a capacity of 365 litres, expanding to 1100 litres when the split rear seatbacks are folded. The load floor can be set at two different levels – either for maximum volume or alternatively as a level cargo floor.

Options include an LED interior lighting package, a panoramic glass sunroof, sports seats, heated seats, advanced key keyless access, deluxe electronic climate control with economy mode and adaptive light for the xenon plus headlights, which can be supplemented with variable headlight range control.

The modular infotainment platform enables, for the first time, hardware updates without stripping the dashboard, thanks to a plug-in Multi-Media eXtension module featuring an Nvidia Tegra 2 T20 graphics processor for voice control, online, media, navigation and telephone functions.

AUDI CONNECT

When the system boots up, an ultra-thin (11mm) 150mm or 180mm (depending on the model) monitor with a high-gloss black magnesium housing automatically rises from the fascia. The rocker switches or ‘hard keys’ have been rearranged, and in the top version, MMI navigation plus, the large rotary pushbutton has a touch-sensitive surface that lets drivers input letters and numbers by finger.

An SD card with navigation data can be ‘retrofitted’ at a later time, or if the navigation package is selected with the car, the MMI radio automatically incorporates this feature.

MMI navigation plus has a media centre with 60GB memory capacity, DVD drive and voice control, and links to cellphones and mobile player devices via an integrated Bluetooth interface.

The system bundles all the infotainment technologies that let the driver network with the internet, infrastructure and other vehicles. Passengers can conveniently surf and email with up to eight mobile devices via an integrated wi-fi hotspot, while the driver has access to navigation with images from Google Earth, Audi’s new ‘music stream’ web radio function, Google POI search by voice control, Google street view and online traffic information.

This uses anonymous information from the movement profiles of hundreds of thousands of smartphones and navigation units that are travelling on the road to offer a very up-to-date picture of the traffic situation, whether in town or on country roads. The driver sees their individual route on the MMI monitor shown in green, yellow, orange or red, depending on traffic load.

DRIVER AIDS AND NERVOUS PASSENGERS

Standard kit includes adaptive cruise control, which maintains a desired distance to the car ahead by accelerating and braking, up to 150km/h or if you order the assistance package, which combines several systems, up to 200km/h.

In case of an impending collision, the system warns the driver in progressive stages and then partially brakes to reduce the car’s speed at impact.

If a collision does occur, it locks the brakes on (at less than 30km/h), unlocks all the doors and switches on the interior lighting; if the car has the online package, it’ll even call emergency services for you.

Side assist monitors traffic at the back of the car with radar, simplifying lane changes, while active lane assist helps the driver to stay in lane by making a slight steering correction if necessary. The system’s video camera is also used by the traffic sign detection system to warn the driver about speed limits and other traffic signs, while the rest recommendation system detects when the driver is tired and warns them to take a break.

An optional park assist system takes over steering duties for the driver during perpendicular and parallel parking. If necessary, it can make multiple forward and reverse manoeuvres while its 12 ultrasonic sensors detect obstacles around the car.

Parking system plus adds four small cameras – in the grille, at the rear and in the door mirror housings – that record images of the A3′s immediate surroundings. A computer assembles these images, and the driver can call up different views on the on-board monitor, including a bird’s-eye view, special views that show the areas in front of and behind the car – or even a view of cross traffic.

And finally, Audi has developed a pre sense system, similar to the one used by Mercedes-Benz, that tensions the front seat belts with electric motors and closes the sunroof and side windows when the ESP sensors detect an unstable driving state.

Yes Cyril, now your car will tense up and grab you when you give it a fright, just like a nervous passenger.

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