You have a choice of two different engines in the 2011 Audi A3. They're both 2.0-liter four-cylinder engines, and turbocharged, but one burns gasoline and the other diesel. The 200-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged direct-injection inline-four remains the base engine, while a 140-horsepower, 2.0-liter clean-diesel four-cylinder engine was introduced last year, in the A3 2.0 TDI model. TDI models are offered only with the S tronic dual-clutch automatic transmission, which shifts very quickly and decisively. Gasoline models get either that or a six-speed manual transmission
Performance is remarkably close between the two engines. Between the two, the TDI engine is narrowly the favorite of our editors, because it cranks out heaps of torque, giving it the response of a torquey big-displacement V-6 off the line or in top gear, while in either model the S tronic gearbox doesn't make the sacrifices that automatics normally do. One thing worth pointing out is that Audi's quattro all-wheel drive system, which is usually offered in most of Audi's cars, isn't offered with TDI versions, or on versions with the manual gearbox.
The Audi A3 driving experience is a joy in most respects: light, direct, and refined. Audi's magnetic ride system is available on the A3. The adaptive-action shock absorber control system uses voltage to electrify a magneto-rheological fluid in the shocks to change their response within milliseconds, allowing the suspension to quickly change character from soft to firm, depending on driving or road conditions. The driver can choose between Normal and Sport programs by flipping a switch. The electric power steering system doesn't wind and unwind quite like a traditional hydraulic system would, but good maneuverability and a combination of crisp response at low speed and good stability on the highway make the A3 an ideal single car for both.