First, ahead of its formal unveiling at the Shanghai motor show in April, Audi previewed the sedan version of its A3 here on 26 March, the eve of press days for the New York show. Secondly, Audi took its fans back to the days of the first-generation A4 of the mid-1990s, with an A3 sedan that, at 10 inches shorter than the current A4, is almost exactly the same size as that car’s original edition.
"It is a car Audi of America asked for," said Mark Fruechtnicht, A3 product manager. Whereas the A3 has always been available only as a hatchback, the new A3 — which is still sold in Europe and other major markets as a hatch — was designed from the beginning as both a hatch and a sedan.
The American and Chinese markets broadly prefer cars with trunks rather than those with hatch backs. In the US, only the A3 e-tron plug-in hybrid-electric vehicle will retain the hatchback design. The US-spec sedan will feature four internal combustion engines that pair with different drive platforms: a front-drive 170-horsepower 1.8-litre four-cylinder gasoline turbo; a front-drive 150hp 2-litre turbo diesel four-cylinder; a Quattro all-wheel-drive 2.0-liter gasoline turbo four cylinder; and the S3's Quattro 2-litre turbo, generating nearly 300 hp. Horsepower figures are not yet public for the regular Quattro 2-litre gasoline setup, but more details will be available as the car’s US launch in spring 2014 — as a 2015 model — approaches.
While the A3's exterior could be read as conservative, the cabin is the minimalist paradise for which the brand has become known. The mission brief was to re-create the execution of an A8 flagship sedan in a compact package, Fruechtnicht said. That means a high-resolution navigation display powered by the latest graphics chip from Nvidia, along with an available 705watt, 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system.
Outside, Audi's signature LED headlights are optional, as are a number of other subtle body enhancements. The omissions were intentional, conspiring to keep the A3's starting price reasonable while still giving compact buyers access to the full buffet of Audi tech – much of which is oriented toward smartphone optimisation.
A new feature called Phone Box, housed below the centre armrest, automatically boosts a handset’s reception when it is sitting inside — a clever incentive to dissuade drivers from handling their phones while driving The car's own telematics and data systems will run on the 4G LTE network for faster access to the internet and internet-enabled apps.
Pricing and fuel-economy data will be released closer to the A3, S3 and A3 e-tron’s targeted sale dates.