The new Audi A3 Cabriolet makes its World debut on Friday (30 Nov), the first ever premium compact class "open top" from Audi which will offer four engine options when it arrives on British roads next Spring.
Audi’s latest convertible lines up alongside established soft tops in the A4 and TT ranges. The exciting addition to the much in demand A3 range will be available with either a semi or fully automatic hood specification while crucially for an open car, its advanced body structure features a high proportion of high-strength steel reinforcing measures that provide maximum rigidity and optimum crash safety.
The A3 Cabriolet comfortably seats four occupants while the rear seat backs can be folded down for optimum practicality. The normal uncompromising Audi build quality, subtle and understated exterior design as well as exemplary driver ergonomics combine to create a prestige and elegant new contender inside and out.
Four engine versions – two petrol and two TDI – combine ample power with impressive efficiency. All of them are direct injection units with turbo charging. The performance range extends from 77 kW (105 PS) to 147 kW (200 PS). As an option, the innovative S tronic dual-clutch gearbox is available. At launch transmissions will be limited to front wheel drive.
The excellent agility and handling response that has made the A3 range enormously popular is maintained in the A3 Cabriolet, which is equipped as standard with responsive electromechanical power steering. Strong steering response and a compliant ride are achieved with the advanced four-link rear suspension. The car is launched with both "standard" suspension, or the option of "sports" suspension.
Specifications at launch – Standard or Sport – can be chosen for the Audi A3 Cabriolet. In both cases its equipment specification is generous and extensive; the Sport model includes 17-inch aluminium wheels, sports suspension and sports seats. An S line exterior package and S line sports package will also be available later in the year to UK customers from quattro GmbH.
The exterior design
Thanks to the hood’s compact folding design, Audi’s designers were able to create a comfortable four-seater with subtle lines measuring up 4,238 millimetres in length, 1,765 mm in width and 1,424 mm in height. The car is shorter than the A3 Sportback (4,286mm) but longer than the existing 3 door A3 (4,214mm).
Easily identifiable as an Audi, the exterior design creates strong presence making the A3 Cabriolet visually typical of current Audi family of models. The "face" of the A3 Cabriolet is dominated by the large single-frame grille while the headlights are also an eye-catching, distinctive feature. They can be supplied optionally with xenon plus lights, which can operate in tandem with the dynamic adaptive (steering) light technology. Within the headlamp lenses the "wing" – a chrome vapour-coated wing-shaped contour – has become established as a characteristic Audi element; its form varies depending on the type of headlight.
The optional daytime running lights in the form of an integral light strip – an important safety feature at Audi – comprise seven white light-emitting diodes in conjunction with the xenon plus units. Similarly to the headlights, the rear lights of the A3 Cabriolet are of a flat, broad design. Their technology is based on fibre optic rods, but the visual effect is of two radiant rings that clearly distinguish the car as an Audi even after dark.
When viewed side-on, the unique but subtle profile of the Audi A3 Cabriolet is clearly in evidence. The striking wheel arches accommodate large wheels: in the case of the Standard model, 16 inches in diameter. The Sport model has 17-inch alloy wheels, 18-inch wheels from quattro GmbH are available as an option. Audi supplies the A3 Cabriolet in 15 paint colours that can be combined with three hood colours – black, blue and red.
The hood and body
The fabric hood keeps its shape thanks to the mechanically moved metal linkage, which assures an excellent close fit, perfect tightness and the silhouette of a coupé. A large, heated glass rear window provides a good view to the rear.
Audi can supply the fabric top in two versions – the semi-automatic soft top and the fully automatic acoustic hood. In both cases the hood is moved by a high-pressure pump with two hydraulic cylinders. They open the large soft top in an extremely rapid nine seconds.
When lowered, the hood is folded up in a Z-pattern which takes up a minimum amount of space. The header – a rigid section at the roof’s front edge – comes to rest on top, basically flush with the body. The folded hood is set down in a compact sheet steel compartment that only very slightly reduces the luggage compartment capacity.
The clever design enables the acoustic hood to be opened and closed while driving at speeds of up to 30 km/h – a big advantage in terms of convenience when driving in urban traffic. The process is controlled by a switch on the centre console; the hood can also be opened and closed conveniently from outside the car, via the ignition key in the door lock.
The fully automatic soft top takes the form of an acoustic hood. Between the outer skin and the inner lining there is a synthetic fibre mat that further improves thermal insulation and soundproofing – at a speed of 140 km/h it is only 1 dB (A) louder inside the Audi A3 Cabriolet than in the hard top A3. If only the front seats are occupied, a wind deflector can be erected above the rear bench seat in a few simple steps for optimum comfort.
High-strength steel: low weight and maximum rigidity
An extensive package of measures gives the body of the A3 Cabriolet its rigidity, and this open-top Audi drives with the same standards of precision, agility and comfort as the A3 with permanent roof. 45 percent of the body shell is made from high-strength steel, while nine percent in fact consists of ultra-high-strength steels, combining low weight with maximum rigidity. The roof frame and roll-over bar incorporate hot-formed steels for maximum safety.
Reinforcing profiles are integrated into the side sills and vehicle floor. V-pattern steel profiles additionally reinforce the forward structure and rear end, and there is a capsule with another reinforcing frame beneath the engine compartment. There are also high-strength panels in the B-posts.
A box-shaped structure made from high-strength sheet steel separates the passenger compartment from the luggage compartment. The roll-over bars of hot-formed steel tubing are bolted into this structure. Similar high-tech tubes serve to reinforce the A-posts internally. Head/thorax side airbags are integrated into the backs of the front seats. In the event of a rear-end collision, the Audi integrated head restraint system promptly cushions the head and upper body.
The interior of the Audi A3 Cabriolet is immediately recognisable as a modern Audi; its materials, Audi’s familiar uncompromising build quality and its elegant design accentuate the premium character of this new convertible. Elegant lines border its large surfaces. The four round air vents and the side knee cushions on the centre console’s struts are reminiscent of the Audi TT.
The speedometer and rev counter’s red needles are mounted in black dial backgrounds. On the Sport model, the A3 Cabriolet is supplied with a three-spoke leather sports steering wheel. Multifunction keys are available as an option, and the S tronic transmission features shift paddles. The switches are highly ergonomic in design. The two navigation systems available use an operating logic adopted from the superior MMI concept as familiar from Audi’s larger cars.
Audi offers a broad range of options for the seats; on the Sport model, both front seats are sportily contoured. An electric four-way lumbar support is available as an option, as well as heating for the front seats or for all four seats.
The interior: that free, open-air feeling
The classic convertible character that the open top creates in the A3 cabriolet is evident in the way the interior space is used. The windscreen is as upright as on the A3 with permanent roof, creating an unobstructed, airy impression of openness – unlike many competitor concepts with a steel roof, where the windscreen lies flatter. Because the folded hood occupies such a small proportion of the luggage space, it has not been necessary to move the rear bench seat further forward. This leaves ample legroom at the rear, thanks in part to the generously long wheelbase of 2,578 millimetres.
Another of the Audi A3 Cabriolet’s major strengths in everyday use is its variable luggage compartment. The rear seat backs can be split 50:50 and released to fold flat to expand luggage compartment capacity. The wide, high through-loading space that is created increases the luggage capacity to 674 litres and the load area length to 150 centimetres – ample even for large items of sports equipment. In the standard arrangement the luggage compartment has an ample capacity of 260 litres, whether the hood is open or closed.
The A3 Cabriolet is being built in four, four-cylinder engine versions, two of them petrol and two diesels. All of them are turbocharged direct injection engines – their designations TFSI and TDI embody technological combinations that blend impressive output with high efficiency. TFSI technology demonstrated its potential over many years in the realm of motor sport – the sports prototype R8 won the Le Mans 24 Hours five times between 2000 and 2005. The Audi R10 TDI added to the string of successes in 2006 and 2007 with its immensely powerful V12 TDI.
The new A3 Cabriolet is available with a choice of two TDI engines – a combination with which Audi already established a trend in 1995; back then, the 1.9 TDI became the first diesel engine in the World to be used for powering a convertible in the Audi 80. In the A3 Cabriolet, the smaller of the two four-cylinder engines musters up an output of 77 kW (105 PS) and a hefty 250 Nm of torque at just 1,900 rpm from a swept volume of 1,896 cm3. The speedometer needle takes 12.3 seconds to pass the 100 km/h mark, and the top speed is 185 km/h. This diesel version uses just 5.1 litres of fuel per 100 km. The A3 Cabriolet 1.9 TDI is available with a five-speed manual gearbox.
The new 2.0 TDI with its displacement of 1,968 cm3 displays the strengths of the TDI concept in its most advanced interpretation -efficient, powerful and very quiet. The four-valve engine, which is equipped with two balancing shafts, has been fitted with a newly developed common rail system. Its turbocharger has variable vanes for greater responsiveness and the pistons have acquired an optimised geometry that further enhances the efficiency of the combustion process.
The two-litre engine develops 103 kW (140 PS). Between 1,750 and 2,500 rpm it generates 320 Nm of torque – enough to accelerate the A3 Cabriolet from 0 to 100 km/h in 9.9 seconds and up to a top speed of 204 km/h. The 2.0 TDI is content to clock up 100 kilometres on an average of just 5.3 litres of fuel and its emissions already undercut the limits of the future Euro 5 standard. As an option, Audi can supply the high-tech S tronic transmission instead of the manual six-speed gearbox.
Petrol direct injection: injection pressure boosted to 150 bar
The newly developed 1.8 TFSI produces 118 kW (160 PS) and 250 Nm, the latter across an engine-speed range of 1,500 to 4,200 rpm. An adjustable intake camshaft optimises filling of its combustion chambers and two balancing shafts deliver high levels of refinement.
Direct injection and turbo technology is the ideal combination for responsive driving and impressive efficiency. The turbocharger responds extremely quickly and the four-cylinder engine is high-revving and torquey. It accelerates the A3 Cabriolet with six-speed manual gearbox to 100 km/h in 8.3 seconds and on to 218 km/h; it accomplishes the EU driving cycle on an average of 7.3 litres per 100 km. Audi can also supply the sporty S tronic transmission with this unit.
Technically speaking, the 1.8 TFSI is a very close relation of the 2.0 TFSI that was voted "Engine of the Year" three times in a row by an international panel of journalists. The two-litre version puts 280 Nm of torque onto the crankshaft from 1,800 to 5,000 rpm, and between 5,100 and 6,000 rpm it develops 147 kW (200 PS). The 2.0 TFSI likewise operates with an adjustable intake camshaft and two balancing shafts, and its compression ratio of 10.5:1 guarantees high thermodynamic efficiency.
With the S tronic dual-clutch gearbox that is available alongside the six-speed manual gearbox, the A3 Cabriolet 2.0 TFSI sprints from 0 to 100 km/h in 7.3 seconds; its top speed is 231 km/h. It uses on average 7.6 litres of fuel per 100 kilometres.
Power is transmitted to the front wheels on all versions of the A3 Cabriolet; the engine versions from the 103 kW (140 PS) upwards are fitted with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard. The S tronic combines the advantages of both automatic and manual transmission. At high loads and engine speeds, this double clutch gearbox shifts between its six gears in just 0.2 seconds while maintaining high levels of refinement.
The driver can operate the S tronic by means of the one-touch lever or, in motor racing style, using the shift paddles on the steering wheel. There are furthermore two fully automatic modes available, D for Drive (standard) and S for Sport. The S tronic operates highly efficiently and its electronic management in the automatic mode ensures that the engine runs as economically as possible at low engine speeds. Even the most accomplished drivers can not accomplish this better.
The dynamic suspension
The light, compact fabric top lowers the overall weight and the centre of gravity of the Audi A3 Cabriolet. This helps the advanced suspension to realise its full potential.
Audi had recourse to a classic layout for the front suspension – a McPherson design with triangulated lower wishbones. The subframe on which the structure is mounted is made from aluminium. Bolted to the body, it provides the forward structure with very high rigidity.
The precise, firm-acting, rack-and-pinion steering operates with electromechanical power assistance with speed-dependent control. The system does not use energy when the car is driving in a straight line, saving 0.2 litres of fuel per 100 kilometres on average.
The four-link rear suspension represents another technical highlight. Its design principle brings major advantages in terms of handling characteristics because it registers and responds to longitudinal and lateral forces separately. Here again, a subframe connects the suspension with the body; compact coil springs and dampers provide vertical support.
All these technologies are key ingredients of the overall impact made by this exciting new convertible. It is characterised by the precision and responsiveness that the car delivers with every turn of the steering. The open-top A3 is sprung to deliver a responsive handling balance with a compliant ride and very high levels of lateral grip.. The self-steering behaviour remains neutral right up to a very high handling limit.
Options: sports suspension and large-dimension wheels
The A3 Cabriolet Sport model is available with sports suspension that lowers the body by 15 mm whilst the Standard A3 Cabriolet comes with 16-inch wheels with size 205/55 tyres. On the Sport, 17-inch aluminium wheels with size 225/45 tyres are standard. Audi can also supply four other wheel versions as options, as well as a tyre pressure monitoring system.
The brake system of the A3 Cabriolet likewise satisfies sports standards. The front discs are ventilated and have a large diameter. The pedal feel is direct and spontaneous, and the braking power can be regulated with outstanding ease. Particular emphasis was placed on reducing the braking distance when the stabilisation program (ESP) was being fine-tuned.
The Standard Audi A3 Cabriolet already comes with a semi-automatic hood. Four electric windows round off the specification. The A3 Cabriolet Sport will be available in the UK with a fully automatic and acoustic hood and has the distinguishing features of 17-inch aluminium wheels, front fog lights and sports suspension. Inside, the sumptuous equipment includes sports seats, a driver information system, a 3-spoke leather sports steering wheel, a wind deflector and special inlays, upholstery and door sill trims.
The range of options for the A3 Cabriolet includes multifunction steering wheel, dual zone climate control, LED daytime running lights, leather upholstery, heated seats and a parking aid. Xenon plus headlights and the adaptive light for cornering illuminate the road effectively in the dark. The storage package for the interior and luggage compartment and a ski and snowboard bag further add to the practical utility of the A3 Cabriolet.
Typically for Audi, the A3 Cabriolet too features a broad range of multimedia technologies. This extends from the chorus CD radio, with four speakers, to the Bose sound system. All audio systems from the concert radio upwards include an interface on the centre tunnel for connecting up an iPod or MP3 player. Two navigation systems – with monochrome or large colour monitor – help with providing directions. For mobile telephony, Audi offers a mobile phone preparation in combination with the audio systems.
Those who are fond of bespoke specification features will appreciate the equipment options on offer from quattro GmbH. The S line comprises an exterior package for the body and a sports package. A third option available from quattro GmbH is the Audi exclusive line.
Prices will be confirmed later this year.