On the mechanical front, quattro all-wheel drive, previously available only with the uplevel 3.2 liter FSI V-6, is now available with the base 2.0T engine with the brilliant S-Tronic double clutch automated manual. Audi believes quattro on the 2.0T will expand the A3's viability in the snow belt, but in all honesty, a front-wheel-drive vehicle with traction control like the A3 is a pretty stellar performer in the white stuff to begin with. But as we all know from the legions of 4WD owners in the suburban sunbelt, people will pay for four-wheel drive whether they need it or not. Capability, it would seem, trumps necessity in the land of driveway bragging rights.
An arguably more useful option is Audi's Magnetic Ride option, previously available only on the TT, which consists of trick magnetorheological shock absorbers that can go from soft to stiff in milliseconds. Having been used to much applause on Corvettes and expensive European luxury vehicles alike, this system is remarkably in its ability to offer a luxury-plush ride and athletic responses in the same vehicle.
Aesthetically, the A3 is brought in line with Audi's most current design DNA, which means bold LED running lights, a shorter front overhang (a la A4), and a new bevy of wheels that, judging by those on the A8 and A4, will present a more dynamic and aggressive design.--Colin Mathews