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2015 Audi A3 Sedan: First Drive

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From the driver's seat of the 2015 Audi A3, it's easy to play favorites. This new most affordable sedan in the Audi lineup has the best in-car interface—and perhaps the best combination of connectivity and clean-interface information management—of all the premium compact sedans.

Option one with the MMI Navigation Plus system, and with the new Audi Connect system that includes embedded 4G LTE high-speed data connectivity, you can dial in quick-interacting Google Earth maps, traffic info, and even Street View images of your destination—and enter that destination, accurately tracing a letter at a time, without having to deal with voice commands. And that, while you even share your data connection with passengers.

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While MMI, and this car's near-flawless, latency-free infotainment, completely won us over (as well as its super-clean interface overall)—it's truly this new compact sedan's 'killer app'—it was the rest of the car that we emerged feeling only lukewarm about.

The reality is that the A4 family—arguably the model that truly brought Audi back from a deathwatch in the U.S. nearly 20 years ago—has moved up in size (and it's moved upscale). So to tease out more aspirational entry-luxury buyers in the U.S. (and in China, as well as other markets), Audi is this time making the A3 a full family of vehicles—including Sedans, a convertible, and yes, a wagon-like Sportback, which was the only style offered to the U.S. the last time around.

For this new-generation A3, we'll see the Sportback only as a plug-in hybrid—in a year or so—while Audi is pushing the Sedan Stateside, with several additional versions on the way, including a TDI (diesel) and a high-performance S3 sport-sedan variant later this year.

In the meantime, we have two models: a 1.8T front-wheel-drive model, and a 2.0T quattro all-wheel drive model. Audi quotes a 0-60 mph time of 7.2 seconds for the 1.8T model, versus just 5.8 seconds for the 2.0T. But don't let that deceive you; in off-the-line bravado or in transition responsiveness, this past week we found that the two models feel closer than you might think.

1.8T or 2.0T, it's plenty quick

A couple of other factors come into play, and one of them is weight. Quattro models are nearly 200 pounds heavier than those with front-wheel drive, and it’s a difference you can feel. We actually ended up preferring the quattro model, for its more settled ride quality (the front-wheel-drive model can be a bit pitchy on some surfaces). The other is that front-wheel-drive models are geared a bit lower, so you seem to have a better choice of ratios at lower speeds especially—a difference that doesn't show in those acceleration times.


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