Audi A3 2015 – First Impressions
August 13th, 2015
I’ve been now almost two weeks in my new Audi A3 Sportback S-Line and I though it was a good time to give my first impression about it. Before we start, these are the tech specs of my model:
|Audi A3 Sportback||1.6 TDI (110)||7 Gears S-Tronic||Parking System Plus|
I want to focus my thoughts on 3 main points: gearbox/engine/drivability, media system and equipment/interiors.
I’ve always preferred Diesel to Petrol engines. To me they just sound better and they keep behaving great over time. I know that today the gap in long term reliability between the two technologies has been bridged more and more, but I still consider a Diesel engine superior to its counterpart. The 1.6 liters 110 HP power unit in my car is a small pretty beast. It’s a very tightly designed engine (as you would expect from a German manufacturer) and despite being “just” a 1.6, it can easily drag the car around with a nice responsiveness.
Coupled with that I have an S-Tronic 7 speed gearbox with additional paddle gear shit on the steering wheel. The gearbox is extremely responsive and the shifts are very quick and silent that you almost never notice when the shift is happening. It doesn’t matter if you are accelerating slowly or quickly; that gearbox is always there, listening and waiting for your move, to deliver just the right amount of power every time is needed.
The S-Tronic gearbox, coupled with the Engine Select system (standard on the S-Line configuration) will allow you to change the Engine/Gearbox settings, to better adapt to your driving style. There are 4 main settings to chose from, plus a fifth one that can be further customised by the driver. Available configurations are: Economic, Comfort, Auto, Dynamic and Individual.
My most used function to date is certainly the Auto one. Economic simply doesn’t deliver enough. The car is extremely tuned down in every aspect. Of course in this setting you may see fuel consumption going up to almost 90mpg, but don’t expect to be able to turn on the air conditioning system! Comfort would be the standard option where the car stays in its sweet spot, making sure to deliver a good deal of power, still maintaining fuel consumption at a decent rate.
Auto is a very nice addition because it’s sort of a real time Individual option. You can set the individual to have different configuration for the engine and the steering wheel so as to get the most out of your car. The Auto mode does the same but it’s a computer that decides how to shift the balance between the two, reacting to your driving style.
Finally, the Dynamic setting is by far where this engine can shine and deliver every single horse power that it has under the hood. The trade-off is of course the fuel consumption which spikes almost immediately. This is the engine mode you use during the weekend when you’re going out to drive and have fun while driving; and it won’t disappoint you.
The media portion of this car was one of the most researched items during the pre-buying moment. I knew I was going to get a nice pop-up LCD screen to manage music, bluetooth phone integration, engine select and navigation system.
The music interface works via bluetooth or via a dedicated and proprietary cable hidden inside the central arm rest. Even with my limited experience it’s clear how the music management is much easier if done via the cable. Doing this will allow you to browse all your albums, playlist and songs on the media screen by using the central command console. Via bluetooth instead you only get the song title and author on screen and you only get the option to skip forward, no music navigation.
At this point I need to open two different parenthesis: music playback controls and Apple Music.
Music playback controls were not that intuitive in the beginning. It took me a day to realised how to skip forward by using a physical button. On the steering wheel there is an asterisk button which can be configured to act if few different ways. From the car menu setup you can chose between a certain number of functions and one of those is the ability to skip forward during music playback. I wish there were more dedicated audio buttons so managing the music would be much easier and more convenient. You still have access to all the playback controls via the media screen Functions but that requires the use of the central console which is not immediate and definitely not convenient while driving around.
The second point is about Apple Music. One of the reasons why I was happy to switch from Spotify to Apple Music was because I knew it was going to be easier to manage in-car entertainment if my music was all stored in the default music app on my phone. You can of course play music from Spotify or any other audio app (like Overcast for podcasts), but what you don’t get in those instances is the ability to move between folders and music hierarchy without having to pick up the phone. What I’ve found so far is that the new Apple Music doesn’t always play nice with the Audi MMI. This is the situation as I think it’s working right now:
1) via the MMI controls you can see and navigate only between songs/album/playlists that are marked as offline on Apple Music;
2) via Apple Music on your phone you can access everything and start playing everything on MMI.
Depending from which point of access you are using you might see different things. I blame this weird behaviour on Apple entirely. My best guess is that songs that are online-only don’t leave any physical trace on the device for external systems and this in turn leads to MMI not having a clue about those tracks being there at all.
The other reason (if not the prime reason) why I’ve ultimately chosen this car was all about the quality of the interiors and the standard on-board equipment. With the S-Line configuration you get a lot of nice stuff: front sport seats (half leather/half cloth) with the S-Line logo; automatic dual-zone air conditioning, the aforementioned MultiMediaInterface system for media and general car setting; flat-bottom sport steering wheel and much more.
In general my feelings toward all that equipment has been super positive since day one. The quality is apparent and can be felt every time you operate one of the many on-board controls. The responsiveness of those controls is also very good and immediate, giving you the feeling of being fully in control of your machine.
At the end of the day there’s probably even too much technology on board. I still feel like a Formula 1 driver, constantly operating buttons, switches and levers at any time during any drives!
If you made it this far into this article, you may still want to read my overall impressions. Well, the short answer is that I’m extremely satisfied with my choice. Engine, gearbox and equipment really all come together brilliantly to create and extremely satisfying driving experience. It’s a car that I can greatly recommend and I’m really looking forward to the next 4 years of adventures on the road!