|Audi has refreshed the 2017 A3 Cabriolet with new frontal styling. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Take a look at the recently updated 2017 Audi A3 Cabriolet, a refreshed version of the entry-level luxury convertible that’s made a comfortable home for itself just below the A5 Cabriolet since it debuted for the 2015 model year. Audi isn’t alone in this category thanks to BMW’s 2 Series Cabriolet, which gets an even more subtle facelift and interior improvements as part of an early 2018 release (the former appearing to be nothing more than body-colour lower fascia paintwork added where matte black used to be, some chrome splashed onto the top edge of the corner vents, and an interesting new hexagonal take on the corona LEDs within the headlamps, plus more of an M2 design added to the Sport package fascia),
|The A3 Cabriolet has long made for a sporty profile. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
First and foremost it looks every bit an Audi and a particularly attractive one at that. While the brand’s horseshoe-shaped singleframe grille is big and imposing on any model, most find it difficult to figure out exactly which Audi is heading toward them from a distance. This is done intentionally, and while some competitors have attempted to add near full-size versions of their grilles to compact models with questionable effect, none has succeeded as wholly as Audi. As it is, all Audi cars, from the full-size A8 to the comparatively tiny A3, are obvious siblings.
|The new A3 Cab looks good from all angles. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
All receive a new chiseled edginess to their designs in the form of new sharply scalloped standard HID and as-tested optional full LED headlamp clusters bookending a broader more angular grille frame, this latter item visually floating above a variety of reshaped lower fascias; the differing fascia designs dependent on
|New available full LED headlamps improve nighttime visibility and look great. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
On that note, the just mentioned S Line package not only enhances the front fascia, but also provides rocker extensions down each side and a new bumper cap with intricately fashioned diffuser-style details for the rear lower fascia, this latter addition worth the price of admission alone.
As always with a mid-cycle update, Audi added new standard and optional wheel choices to the mix, while new exterior paint finishes are also on the expected upgrades
|The S Line package adds a sportier front fascia. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Where Audi often wins against rivals, including BMW, is interior design and execution, and the new A3’s improvements won’t help the Bavarian’s cause. Tasteful minimalism continues, as do high quality surface treatments that include plenty of soft synthetics, genuine aluminum inlays and accents, plus rich leathers.
As for all-important electronic interfaces, the A3’s infotainment system continues to power up out of the dash upon startup, which is a bonus for those who’d rather stow it away during night driving, and a negative to others who prefer larger displays
|These gorgeous 19-inch rims are available with the S Line sport upgrade. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
The A3’s display is controlled via a beautifully finished rotating aluminum dial with classy knurled edges. It’s situated on the lower console, which is common in the premium sector, making it easy to perform handwriting gestures, as well as pinch, swipe and tap inputs on the knob’s matte black circular top. The Audi MMI system’s brains get filled with much of the latest tech, such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus various apps like Spotify and WhatsApp, and more when upgraded to the $600 Audi Smartphone interface (which is standard in $46,900 second-tier Progressiv and $51,300 top-line Technik trims), while its new iPhone-inspired graphics and more intelligent interface make it easier to figure out.
|The A3 Cabriolet’s powered fabric top looks superb and is three layers thick for optimal sound deadening. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
|Upgraded taillights are now LEDs. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
I could go on talking about the Virtual Cockpit ad nauseam, or for that matter the A3 Cabriolet cabin’s improved switchgear, much of which now utilizes white backlighting for a bright, modern look, or we could all just celebrate that a USB port is now standard across the A3 line (it was Apple or the highway before), but we really need to get into the nitty-gritty of performance.
Just like earlier models, the 2017 A3 Cabriolet automatically upgrades the engine from the A3 Sedan’s base front-drive layout to standard Quattro AWD, which means
|The S Line package adds this stunning diffuser-style rear bumper cap. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Like with the sedan’s base engine, auto start/stop reduces emissions and fuel consumption, the 2017 A3 Cab’s claimed five-cycle economy being a very reasonable
|The A3 Cab’s cabin balances sporty and comfortable traits ideally. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
For those that choose performance over pragmatism the A3 Cab scoots to 100km/h in just 6.3 seconds and on to a 209-km/h (130-mph) top speed, more than enough to get you in serious trouble with the law. My tester was upgraded with a gorgeous set of 19-inch machine-finished five-spoke alloys shod in 235/35 Continental ContiSportContact summer performance tires, providing a nice balance of comfort with superb at-the-limit cornering capability.
|The flat-bottomed steering wheel comes as part of the S Line upgrade. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
The A3 Cab’s four-cylinder spools up power quickly while making the most of the six-speed gearbox it’s mated too, a set of quick-shifting paddles at the back of the steering wheel providing a level of driver engagement only upstaged by a true manual, unfortunately not available on the Canadian market.
Fortunately Audi’s Drive Select is, providing Comfort, Auto and a Dynamic modes, the latter for enhancing the already nicely set up MacPherson strut front and four-link
|Numerous improvements make the new A3 Cabriolet even nicer than the outgoing one. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
To be totally truthful, I found myself driving slower than usual with the A3 Cabriolet. There’s something about dropping the top on a sunny day that makes me want to take in the surrounding scenery, and the car’s easygoing stride (when not in Dynamic mode), compliant ride (surprisingly so considering its big footprint), and overall comfortable demeanor leant itself to laid back motoring.
The top fully retracts in less than 20 seconds (or alternatively it takes about 30 seconds to deploy), and can be lowered (or vice versa) while driving at speeds up to 50 km/h, so you don’t need to worry about doing so while waiting at a stoplight. All four windows can be powered up or down buy a single button too, a convenient feature found just aft of the four
|Audi’s Virtual Cockpit needs to be experienced to be fully appreciated. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
It’s best to take in the interior with top down on a sunny day, a quick walk-around revealing stunning satin-finish aluminum trim around the rear of the passenger compartment, butting up against thinner strips of the same material running along the lower edge of each side window, before meeting up with the pièce de résistance, a set of aluminum capped A-pillars.
|The MMI infotainment display powers up out of the dash upon startup, or when reversing if you chose to stow it away while driving. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Those front seats include forward, rearward, and up-and-down powered control, but oddly the backrests only offer manual adjustment. This was once a typical German trait, but other than the A3 and some Volkswagen models, manual recline is rarely combined with other powered seat controls anymore. It’s all ok until your passenger wants to take a nap on a road trip, because rotating the circular knob is a
|The dual-zone auto HVAC interface is particularly attractive and very well-made. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
From relying on old tech to embracing the future, the aforementioned Virtual Cockpit slays all competitors when it comes to wow factor and real-world functionality, while the dual-zone auto HVAC interface is beautiful bit of user-friendly
|Most everything you’ll need is right at your fingertips. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Directly in front of the driver is a sensational leather-wrapped flat-bottomed multifunction steering wheel with paddle shifters and heatable elements, this part of the aforementioned S Line upgrade package that also enhances exterior styling with a sportier front and rear fascias, side sill extensions, and the previously fawned over brushed aluminum trim, a 15-mm lower sport suspension, unique S line
|The rotating MMI infotainment system controller allows for tap, pinch and swipe gestures on top of its blackened centre. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
I should mention a handful of Technik features not yet named, which include auto on/off LED headlights with heated washer nozzles, dynamic cornering and auto high beams, LED daytime running lights, LED taillights with dynamic indicators, heated power-adjustable side mirrors with ultra-slim integrated LED turn signals and driver’s side auto-dimming, proximity-sensing keyless access with pushbutton ignition, an electromechanical parking brake, LED interior lighting, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, rain-sensing wipers, cruise control, Bluetooth with audio streaming, satellite radio, front and rear parking sensors, electronic immobilization, an alarm system, and an attachable rear-seat wind blocker.
|These upgraded S Line sport seats are fabulously comfortable. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
The only A3 Cabriolet Technik options include the aforementioned S Line sport package, the big 19-inch rims and rubber, various $800 metallic paint hues, no-cost Black or Chestnut Brown interior motifs, and a $1,400 Technology package that adds adaptive cruise control with stop and go capability, which makes
|There’s room in back for smaller folk or kids. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
If the A3 Cab has any shortcomings it would be in the back seat and trunk due to a shorter wheelbase than the A3 Sedan, but of course no one should expect anything more when buying into this compact convertible class. As it is, the rear seats are accommodating enough for smaller folk as long as you pull the front seats forward enough to make room for legs and feet (not an issue when my five-foot-eight frame is in the driver’s seat), and the 279-litre (9.8 cubic-foot) trunk is amply sized for a weekend getaway even if golf clubs are required, much thanks to 50/50 split-folding rear seatbacks that can be lowered by levers on the cargo
|The trunk can be expanded via the handle on the upper panel when the roof is upright. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
As noted earlier, the only serious alternative to the A3 Cabriolet is BMW’s 2 Series Cabriolet, and you probably don’t need me to recommend one over the other as it really comes down to personal choice. Both are fun to drive, fuel-efficient, include four-season all-wheel drive, come filled with state-of-the-art tech, and are very well made. Audi delivers the price advantage in base trim at $43,800 compared to $46,300, but at the other end of the pricing spectrum BMW furnishes the 335-horsepower M240i version-so far Audi’s North American divisions haven’t offered the 300 horsepower S3 Cabriolet to compete.
While the prospect is tantalizing, I must admit our Canadian-spec A3 Cabriolet is more than adequate in the city, where it will likely be used most often, and still fully capable on a curving back road or the wide-open freeway. In other words, I believe you’ll be more than satisfied with Audi’s traditionally even-keeled approach to performance and comfort, while the stylish little drop-top should please in every other way as well.
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