Audi A3 Performance
Audi has succeeded in creating a hatchback with the power and feel of a sports car. Whether driving the base 2.0 T or the 3.2 Quattro, most say the A3's performance is quite good.
Many describe the A3's fun-to-drive persona as its chief asset. To the Car and Driver similarly reports that the A3 "evinces Audi qualities we admire -- light steering, a vault-like platform, a fine ride-and-handling trade-off, a Lexus-smooth idle … heel-and-toe-able pedals, and a willing shifter. Overall, the A3 is one of those special terrier-like cars that are always eager to go.", the A3 "has just the right combination of power, weight and balance to make it a hoot to drive."
Acceleration and Power
Reviewers especially commend the base engine's muscle. The 2008 Audi A3 2.0 T makes 200 horsepower with an inline four-cylinder spark-ignition turbocharged engine, featuring FSI Direct Injection technology. New Car Test Drive says that it "offers superb balance and excellent throttle response that make for a convincing sports car when the road is right." About.com is more effusive in its praise: "There are not enough words in the English language to describe how wonderful the 200 horsepower 2.0 T engine is," the reviewer says. The adds that the 2.0 T "pulls like a draft horse from the get-go." The 2.0 liter engine's estimated fuel economy is 22 miles per gallon in the city and 29 mpg on the highway, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
The 3.2 liter V6 makes 250 horsepower with its spark-ignition DOHC. Although reviewers report that the 3.2 has punch in addition to all-wheel drive, some feel the extra weight causes sluggishness. As Edmunds says, "Although the 3.2 Quattro's standard all-wheel drive will be an asset for those who face slippery driving conditions, the heavier weight of this A3 means not much is gained in performance; the sprint to 60 mph takes 6.8 seconds." The EPA rates the 3.2 engine at 18 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway.
The 2.0 T is available with a six-speed manual or with Audi's six-speed Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG) automatic transmission, but the 3.2 is only available with the automatic. Most had the opportunity to test the DSG and describe it as surprisingly responsive. USA Today says the DSG "shifts crisply and blips the gas when downshifting, as you'd do if double-clutching a manual transmission to match engine revs with the lower gear you'd just chosen." Meanwhile, the describes acceleration: "From a standing start, punch the go-button and the 3,329-pounder will accelerate to 60 mph in 6.7 seconds, the DSG cracking off three changes with Glock-like precision. Yahoo!"
Handling and Braking
Handling is tight and up to Audi standards, reviewers say. The A3 uses a MacPherson-strut front suspension and a four-link independent suspension in the rear, which is "better in reality than on paper. It is firm and quick without being harsh or uncivilized," according to The Auto Channel. Edmunds comments: "In typical Audi fashion, the ride is comfortably firm and the A3's handling is just as sporty as its larger siblings'. The junior Audi's well-tuned suspension keeps the car buttoned down in the turns, even as midcorner pavement imperfections try to knock it off line." Cars.com concurs, "You get a nice ride with the regular suspension; you feel bumps, but it's not bad."
The A3's steering is also praised by most reviewers. Edmunds states, "When curves come up, the 2008 Audi A3's electromechanical steering does a superb job of quelling vibrations and kickback without marring feedback." To the , steering is "finely calibrated and well-weighted." Cars.com describes steering as "on the light side," but nevertheless finds that "it's precise and yields good maneuverability."
The A3's four-wheel disc brakes are powerful. New Car Test Drive says they are "big enough to handle repeated pedal stabs without overheating," and their "high-tech electronics ensure optimum braking in all conditions." Audi A3s feature anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution, traction control and hydraulic brake assist.