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Driven: Audi A3 Cabrio to drive conquest sales

Tops down: The roof of the new Audi A3 Cabriolet can be lowered in 18 seconds at speeds of up to 50km/h.

Ragtop’s design rethink for A3 Cabrio should bring fresh buyers to Audi

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4 Jul 2014

AUDI Australia is expecting its new A3 Cabriolet to usher in new buyers to the brand who may not have considered the previous model in the past.

On sale now, with a sedan-based silhouette featuring longer and sleeker proportions as well as a more efficient roof-folding design, the second-generation premium convertible is casting its net wide enough to snare people who may have otherwise bought a BMW 3 Series or similar.

However, according to Audi Australia product planner specialist for the A3, Matthew Dale, the new Cabriolet will not stray into A5 Convertible territory because of its growth in size, refinement and features.

“I don’t think there will be any cannibalisation with the A5 Convertible,” he told GoAuto at the A3 Cabrio’s launch this week.

“They are at opposite ends of Audi’s convertible range and so appeal to different customers.

“Plus we see a new type of buyer (compared to the old Cabriolet) because of its new convertible top arrangement.”

The previous A3 Cabriolet proved to be a successful addition to the Ingolstadt firm’s range in Australia, averaged about 25 per cent of A3 volume, and even exceeded 35 per cent in its first full year on sale (2009).

That was when the sun-seeking Audi’s sales hit the 600-plus annual unit threshold. A similar yearly tally is expected for the Mk2 version, though it is clear that the brand’s ambitions are significantly loftier due to the lower entry pricing and improved product offering.

However, with the A3 range expanded this year to include a four-door three-box sedan for the first time, the new ragtop’s piece of the A3 pie is forecast to settle down to about 15 per cent of overall sales.

It will also soon face stiff competition from the new BMW 2 Series Convertible, while a next-generation Mini Cabriolet is also set to hit the scene by sometime in 2016.

Almost half of all A3 Cabriolet sales are earmarked to fall to the entry-level 1.4 TFSI Attraction, priced from a lower-than-anticipated $47,300 (plus on-road costs).

“We expect the base model to account for 45 per cent of total sales,” Mr Dale revealed.

Next up will be the 1.8 TFSI Ambition, making up 25 per cent of volume.

Kicking off from $51,900 – the same price as the 2.0 TDI version, which Audi said should account for 10 per cent of the A3 Cabriolet market share – it is also the only variant with all-wheel drive quattro availability (for a $3000 premium).

All up the latter should snare about 20 per cent buyers.

Standard kit in the Attraction includes five airbags including a knee device, but no curtain protection owing to its convertible design, leather upholstery, climate control air-conditioning, front and rear parking radar, one-touch all-window control, Audi’s MMI multimedia controller and accompanying big screen, auto headlights and wipers, 17-inch alloy wheels and a space-saver spare (except the puncture repair kit in the quattro version).

The Ambition in the 1.8 TFSI and 2.0 TDI cars adds Audi Drive Select that alters steering, suspension and engine response levels according to Comfort, Sport or Auto settings, front foglights, and more upmarket trim all round.

To help simplify things, Audi is offering a number of package options with the newcomer.

Getting the ball rolling is the $1990 Comfort Package bringing electric front-seat lumbar support, front-seat heating, keyless entry and start, auto-dimming mirror, exterior mirrors that fold and dip electrically and a better-insulated roof material known as ‘Acoustic Hood’. On its own that’s a $450 option.

The $2000 Style Package adds Xenon high-intensity discharge headlights with LED daytime running lights, 18-inch alloys and Sports Suspension that sees a 15mm drop in ride height.

For $2650 extra buyers can add the Technik Package, which brings satellite navigation, a driver information display, all-round parking radar with rear-view camera and an audio upgrade.

Finally there’s the $1800 Assistance Package that introduces adaptive cruise control, a pre-crash car preparation regime, lane keep assist, high-beam auto control and a lane-change obstacle warning.

Note that the Cabrio premium is $9400 over the corresponding A3 Sportback five-door hatch.

Built on the Volkswagen Group’s MQB Convertible architecture that is itself an offshoot of the A3 Sedan base, the Cabrio ushers in a 50kg weight saving over the previous version. Kerb weight for the lightest version is 1380kg.

Perhaps the biggest change is the K-fold roof mechanism, a less intrusive and lighter item than the old Z-fold system.

Able to drop in 18 seconds and operable at speeds of up to 50km/h, the more practical and compact turret design allows for a bigger boot area – 320 litres in total.

A split/fold rear backrest expands the luggage capacity and versatility capabilities into the cabin. With the roof down, cargo capacity is reduced to 275 litres.

Length is up 180mm to 4420mm, width and wheelbase rise by 20mm to 1790mm and 2600mm respectively, while the car is 15mm lower than before.

Being derived from the latest Mk7 VW Golf, suspension consists of MacPherson struts up front and a four-link rear end, while the rack and pinion steering employs an electromechanical system.

All four A3 Cabrio variants rely on turbocharged and direct-injection twin-cam four-cylinder engines with an EU6 emissions rating, matched with a dual-clutch transmission dubbed S tronic in Audi speak.

The volume-selling 1.4 TFSI uses an all-new 1395cc unit producing 103kW of power and 250Nm of torque between 1500-3000rpm.

Aided by a cylinder-on-demand and idle-stop technology to help save fuel, it hits 100km/h from standstill in 9.1 seconds on the way to a 218km/h top speed, and averages fuel consumption of 4.9 litres per 100km, and 114 grams per kilometre carbon dioxide emissions rating.

A 1798cc engine in the 1.8 TFSI is the other petrol sipper on offer, delivering a healthy 132kW from 5100-6200rpm and 250Nm between 1250-5000rpm.

This 1430kg ragtop returns a 7.8-second 0-100km/h time, 242km/h V-max, 5.8L/100km fuel use and 133g/km of CO2 emissions.

The 1.8 TFSI quattro version, meanwhile, adds a hefty 110kg to the kerb weight bottom line, so Audi ups the torque ante over the front-drive model to 280Nm between 1350-4500rpm.

Interestingly, the AWD model loses the others’ seven-speed S tronic transmission for an older six-speed device, yet it’s faster to 100km/h by 0.2 seconds.

Conversely, maximum speed slides back to 234km/h and it’s thirstier by 0.8L/100km for a 21g/km CO2 deficit.

Lastly there’s the 2.0 TDI’s 1968cc variable turbine turbo with indirect intercooler to help this diesel pump out 110kW between 3500-4000rpm and 340Nm from 1750-3000rpm.

Because of the TDI’s front-wheel drive layout, its kerb weight is a reasonable 1480kg, for a 100km/h sprint-time of 8.8 seconds, 224km/h top speed, 4.7L/100km fuel consumption and 122g/km of CO2 pollution rating.

By December Audi fans will be able to drive the range-topping S3 Cabriolet, boasting a 221kW/380Nm 2.0-litre TFSI turbo tearaway driving all four wheels.

Audi said the old A3 Cabrio had a 55/45 female demographic bias it expects this one to equalise the gender appeal owing to a more masculine appearance.

2014 Audi A3 Cabriolet pricing*
1.4 TFSI (a)$47,300
1.8 TFSI (a)$51,900
2.0 TDI (a)$51,900
1.8 TFSI quattro (a)$54,900
*Excludes on-road costs.

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