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by George Skentzos

IT SEEMS  to be that time of year again, where the sun begins to shine and convertibles are once again fashionable. Audi’s latest addition to the drop-top market comes in the form of the new 2008 Audi A3 Cabriolet, combining the sporting genes of the hatch with the pleasures of open-air driving.

With no less than four engine variants – all of which are turbocharged – the driver can match the cabriolet to their driving style. Whether it be a Sunday cruiser, where the polite fuel consumption of the diesel would be more than adequate, or a trendy sports convertible.

The diesel line-up consists of an economical 1.9-litre TDI engine, producing 77kW and 250Nm at just 1900rpm and using only 5.1 litres of fuel per 100km, as well as a 103kW 2.0-litre engine for when performance is slightly higher on the agenda, which will accelerate the cabriolet to 100km/h in just under 10 seconds whilst retainig impeccable fuel manners – only 5.3l/100km.

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The petrol offerings are far more tempting, with the 1.8 TFSI and award winning 2.0 TFSI, churning out 118kW and 147kW respectively. Both retain impressive fuel consumption figures at 7.3 l/100km for the 1.8-litre engine and a slightly higher 7.6l/100km  for the 2.0 engine – an insignificant increase considering its enthusiastic 0-100km/h sprint of only 7.3 seconds.

Aside from the 1.9-litre TDI which receives a five speed manual, the rest receive the six speed manual as standard, with the option of an S-tronic transmission which can shift through each of its six gears in 0.2 seconds through the use of either a one-touch lever or steering-wheel mounted shift paddles.

Of course the showcase of A3 Cabriolet is the classic fabric folding roof which trumps its hard-top competitors for both weight and speed, able to open or close in a rapid nine seconds. Audi can supply the roof in two variants – the semi-automatic soft top and the fully automatic acoustic hood to reduce road noise.

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More impressive though, the Cabriolet retains its silhouette from the hatch, where the windscreen remains upright unlike most convertibles which tend to be elongated.

Inside there is ample space for four occupants, while the rear seat backs can be folded down, increasing the luggage capacity from 260 to 674 litres – regardless of whether the hood is up or down. Added comforts such as electric four-way lumbar support and heated seats are also available as an option.

The overall weight, compact design and ideal centre of gravity helps the Audi dynamic suspension to realise its full potential. The Attraction line comes with 16-inch wheels with size 205/55 tyres. On the Ambition, 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.

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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.

Equipment levels are generous with conveniences such as four electric windows and the standard daytime running lights round, sports seats, a driver information system, leather sports steering wheel, wind deflector, Bose sound system and special inlays, upholstery and door sill trims.

Sales begin February 2008 in Germany, with Australia to follow at a later date.






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