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When it comes to cars that scream summer, convertibles are top of the list and while the Audi A3 Cabriolet is one of them, it also has a few tricks up its sleeve that make it stand out from other drop-tops.
It's late December and the Audi A3 Cabriolet is joining the CarAdvice garage as a long-termer, just in time for the Christmas break. There will be barely a couple of days to become acquainted with the car, ahead of a planned road trip from Sydney to Queensland.
Our model is a 1.8-litre TFSI Ambition seven-speed S tronic that'll set you back $51,900 before on-road costs. The car has been optioned up with Audi's $2000 Technik package, $1350 style package and front seat heating as well as neck-level heating for $1250. Add an acoustic hood for $450 and LED interior lighting for $400 and our as-tested price totals $57,350.
I have to admit screwing up my face a little at the colour combination. The Audi's exterior is a beautiful off-white, but the interior is brown... there's a little bit of black trim too as well as silver accents which are nicely textured and the combination would be fantastic without the brown in the mix.
There was no easing into it, the A3 was loaded up with suitcases and Christmas gifts ready for the 796km journey from Randwick, NSW to Warwick, QLD. My one-year old, energetic, hairball of a dog — a Staffy cross Husky called Chilli — will also be coming along.
One of my favourite features is the split-fold rear seats that create portals through to the boot space, increasing its ability to accommodate odd-shaped cargo when you need it. That certainly came in handy while playing Tetris with everything needed for a two-week holiday to the Sunshine State.
We're up before dawn breaks. It's a ten-hour drive plus stops, which will be frequent to prevent fatigue (thank you Driver Reviver) and allow Chilli to stretch his legs.
A quick check of the basics — tyre-pressure is good, fuel tank is full, the trip-metre is reset to test highway fuel economy, and we're on the road counting down kilometres.
As the sun starts to shine, I desperately want to put the roof down. But that's not going to happen, all that fresh air would be too exciting for the dog. I can just imagine him running from side-to-side across the back seat, trying to jump in the front, and jumping up to put his paws on the boot lid.
There are long stretches of single-lane two-way highways and at times, very few opportunities to overtake. When it came time to leave the Grey-Nomads and B-Doubles in our wake, the Audi handled it with speed and elegance, producing 132kW of power at 5100-6200rpm and 250Nm of torque from 1250-5000rpm.
Even over rough surfaces, there is very little scuttle-shake and not a lot of road or engine noise (probably thanks to the acoustic roof option).
It's smooth and comfortable, eleven hours over country highways and there's not a sore bum-cheek in sight by the time we roll in to Warwick. Chilli has spent most of the trip burying his nose in the rear air-vents so he's looking as fresh as a daisy.
We make a quick stop to dress him in his Christmas costume (dressing up to meet my extended family for the first time), then the roof finally comes down. It takes 21 seconds, but after a long day it feels like an eternity.
Cruising through town at 60km/h, we attract a lot of attention. There's not many convertibles in country towns, let alone shiny new ones with a dog dressed in reindeer ears hanging his head out the side.
Every member of my family has been for a ride in the convertible. The weather has been mostly hot and sunny for the past few days, so the roof has been down and rear-passengers have enjoyed the convertible blow-dry (better than a hairdresser, that's for sure) and come away with a smattering of sunburn. There is now a tube of sunscreen living in the glove-box.
The electric roof can be opened or closed at up to 50km/h which has come in handy a few times when sun-showers came out of nowhere.
Even the men have commented on the look of the car. Compared to the previous one, it's more masculine, fewer soft lines and it looks longer.
I've learned a new trick too. Because of the heat, my dog has been losing hair at an alarming rate, coating the poor Audi interior. It's easy to clean though - just pop the roof down and hit the highway. The hair is blasted out in the mini-tornado, just make sure you don't have passengers in the vehicle or they'll be picking hair off their face and clothing for hours.
The past week has been busy. Catching up with family and friends in Queensland is sadly a once-a-year affair, so there has been trips to Brisbane and Toowoomba.
One thing has become crystal clear, I find the location of the CD player infuriating. It's in the glove-box, tucked up in the top right-hand corner making it difficult to change while in the drivers seat. I'm old-school and carry a stash of CD's with me when I travel, changing them frequently.
That being said, the sound system is great, particularly for the driver and co-pilot. When the roof is down at highway speeds it does get a little difficult for rear-passengers to sing along.
Our regional Queensland adventure is coming to an end - but we weren't going to get back to the city before encountering some local wildlife.
A couple of days ago, arriving back into Warwick from Brisbane, I took a wrong turn off the highway and wound up taking a dirt detour. A rabbit bolted out and proceeded to run straight in front of the car for around 200m. It darted off when a snake slithered out to cross the track.
The adventure involved slowing quite quickly (but safely and steadily) on the loose surface, and the Audi was impressive in its stability and its composure over the almost corrugated surface.
Since arriving back in Sydney and getting back into the nine-to-five rhythm, I've been monitoring the urban fuel consumption.
On the road-trip the A3 used 6.9-litres/100km which I was quite impressed with given the distance and number of towns along the route that mucked with the straight highway figure. Audi claim it's capable of using just 5.8-litres/100km.
In the city however, so far it's up around 12.4-litres/100km. It will be interesting to see what the average is after a few months.
Starting to get used to having a two-door car. Early on it seemed a bit of a hassle to have to slide and fold the front seats to let passengers in and the doors felt long and heavy.
It soon becomes second nature though. Allowing extra space in car parks when you know people are going to be climbing in and out is now something I automatically think about when parking.
I've also developed a habit of loading up the shopping straight into the rear seat when the roof is down. It's quick and easy, no mucking around with boots or leaning past the front seat to deposit the bags on the back seat. Lazy? Maybe. So convenient though.
Something is wrong. Having a long-termer in the CA garage is a bit like buying your own new car. You learn its nuances and know when something is up.
It's almost like a child and today I'm a concerned parent. The A3 seems to have slowly developed a lag from a stand-still, it doesn't feel as sharp as it did when we picked it up. It also feels like its shuddering.
There are no lights flashing on the instrument panel so hopefully its nothing too serious. Summer is still in full-swing and weekends are made for heading to the beach with the top down.
Like any new-car owner should if they suspect something is going on, we send the Cabriolet back to Audi for a check-up.
I hope it's nothing major because there is still plenty of summer to enjoy.