We were summarily impressed with the A3 sedan when we attended its press introduction in San Francisco a year ago. Since then, Audi dealers have had trouble keeping the little sedan on their lots as demand for the entry-entry-luxury segment ramps up. In order to broaden the A3 line, as well as go head-to-head with other small, high-performance German offerings such as the BMW M235i and Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG, Audi rolled out the S3 sedan – a more heavily pressurized and tightly suspended version of the previous 2.0 TFSI range-topper. So is this simply a Golf R in evening wear, or a legitimate successor to the performance Quattro throne? Read on to find out.
Tag - a3
Having spent a bit of time in Europe, I recall the new Opel Insignia I rented once from an airport counter a few years back. That car was an “estate”, a body style we’re not fortunate enough to get here, for obvious sales reasons. Still, the brief encounter with that station wagon was a pleasant one, and a driving experience immediately drawn to mind during my week with the Insignia’s American stepsister, the Buick Regal. I don’t think I’m wrong in my belief that it’s the most European car GM sells in this country.
Much has been made of the German Big Three’s move toward the mainstream in terms of price; at no time in history has one of these luxury marques been more attainable by the non-wealthy (in the US at least). But most of the opinions voiced in the press have been somewhat negative, at least from a purist’s perspective. “What’s the point of an aspirational brand if any middle management type can afford one”, they argue. We spent a week with the CLA250 in the hopes we could separate the editorial banter from the car underneath.
In a car industry flush with new luxury categories, the one that seems to present the most room for growth is the one at the small end of the spectrum – the “Premium A-segment”, filled with cars like the A3 seen here, the Mercedes-Benz CLA, and the BMW 1-/2-series. Audi of America’s President, Scott Keogh, told the group of journalists gathered in northern California for the press introduction of the A3 1.8 and 2.0T sedans that he saw 400% growth potential in the segment over the next few years. That’s serious headroom, and if these first new A3 models to hit our shores are any indication, a place where torrid competition will be taking place among manufacturers.