After spending the first month lapping up the fresh air and sunshine with the Audi A3 Cabriolet, it has now been sent back to Audi for a check-up. At the end of my first long-term report, the drop-top had developed a slight shudder when accelerating and slowing down, and a distinct lag that was particularly noticeable when trying to take off after pausing before entering a roundabout. Discussions around the office eventually headed in the same direction, could the transmission be the root of the problem?
Our Audi A3 Cabriolet long-termer is the 132kW/250Nm 1.8-litre TFSI Ambition with a seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch transmission. Priced at $52,200 before on-road costs, ours also has Audi’s Technik package ($2000), style package ($1350), front seat and neck-level heating ($1250) and LED interior lighting ($400) taking things to a grand total of $57,650.
Have reverted back to the good old plug-in hair dryer and am missing the convertible ‘do. After testing and diagnosis, the clutch was found to be the source of the symptoms and will be replaced. Audi have confirmed that no further issues were found.
Am once again zipping around, enjoying the wind in my hair and the sun beating down. When picking up the car, I asked whether clutch replacements had been an issue in other A3 Cabriolets and was advised it was an ‘unusual case’ and one that was covered by Audi’s three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty.
It’s a relief to know, had this been my car, I wouldn’t have been kicking myself for buying a lemon. The work was done quickly, the issue is covered under warranty, and I would have had a loan car free of charge while the work was carried out had I been a genuine Audi client.
I’m pondering all of this at the traffic lights, preparing to test the throttle feel, when I hear someone yelling. A middle-aged man in a red Saab convertible has pulled up at the lights beside me. I turn down the volume so I can hear what he’s saying – he’s wondering what the Audi is like because he likes the look of the new A3 and wants to buy one.
So there we were, two stereotypical representations of fragments of the target market – me being a young, blonde female and he being a blinged-up middle-aged man – yelling across at each other about how much fun convertibles are. We must have looked ridiculous.
It’s time for another road trip, this time with a friend and colleague of mine. Kat and I are going to head south from Sydney, through the Royal National Park and down along the Grand Pacific Drive towards Wollongong.
The aim of the day is to find a great spot for lunch, a swim and a body board. We can’t fit both of our boards into the boot so one gets chucked into the back seat – it’s only later in the day that we realise this is pretty dangerous and it should have been properly secured or we could have used the split-fold rear seats to tuck it out of the way in the boot.
We stop at Bald Hills for an ice cream and to watch the hang gliders. By this stage Kat is sick of me asking her to change the CD and connected her iPod via Bluetooth to play some tunes. She’s impressed with the quality of the optioned-up sound system and how clear it is with the roof down. The adjustable under-thigh support is also a winning feature.
Her main critique is the lack of USB port to charge her iPhone – Audi does offer it’s ‘music interface’ connector but that’s not ideal and in my opinion is a little clunky in a car of this calibre.
We had a few runs up and down the Grand Pacific Drive, stopped in Coledale for lunch and explored the Royal National Park, clocking up well over 300km. Our fuel consumption for this trip was 8.9 litres per 100km.
It sounds like a first-world problem. At times putting the roof down just feels like too much effort and for the past few days I’ve been driving to and from work with the roof up, despite the weather still being fine.
I wonder if the novelty wears off, and for owners there comes a point where an alfresco drive becomes a weekend affair.
Not wanting to fall into that mentality, it’s roof down and off to work. A truck brakes heavily in the tunnel behind me and it sounds like a bomb going off. Then a motorbike roars past, making me jump and setting my adrenaline off again.
The next day traffic is heavy and it’s stop-start the whole 12km – even the traffic reporter on the radio sounds depressed about the “sea of brake lights”.
But there is a valuable lesson to learn. Crawling at a snail’s pace through the Eastern Distributor tunnel I realise why many convertible owners commute during the week with the roof up. The air quality is terrible and I can practically taste the carbon dioxide and pollution.
The solution is to put the roof up when entering the tunnel, then drop it back down once I’m through.
I may be hypersensitive, but the throttle response still seems slack. I’ve passed the car around to numerous people in the office and we all feel the same thing.
However, giving it to a friend of mine who knows nothing about the previous problem, they notice nothing.
These days it seems the social lives of 13-year-olds are hectic. No less than eight teenagers have climbed in and out of the back and front seats in the past month and the boot has been filled with all kinds of paraphernalia including snorkelling gear, sports equipment, backpacks and sleeping bags.
It’s a real novelty for the girls. Hand them control of the music and next thing you know we’re the centre of attention – other drivers gawking at the three teenagers singing the latest pop songs at the top of their lungs while I pop on my sunglasses and try to hide.
An interesting thing happened today, something that I hadn’t even considered. To the left of the driver’s seat, behind the dial for the A3’s MMI (Multi Media Interface), are the electronic parking brake and roof controls. They’re identical in size and look, other than an icon on each, and right beside one another.
Every time my daughter gets in the car, the first thing she does is put the roof down. We were heading to dance class and the clouds were rolling in.
Along the way we felt the first few drops of rain and while I was pondering out loud about whether or not we’d make it to the car park, she reached for the button.
Unfortunately she hit the wrong button, engaging the brakes rather abruptly. Luckily there was no one close behind us. She is now forbidden from touching anything in the car without asking first.
Over the course of the past two months, I’ve spent around 80 hours behind the wheel and the average fuel consumption has come down to 10.9L/100km.
Some in the office aren’t fans of the gearbox and its slow reaction low down in the rev range but it’s something you get used to. Once it gets rolling, too, the gutsy engine does allow you to zip in and out of traffic easily. Two months in, I still get a thrill driving it.
Audi A3 Cabriolet 1.8-litre TFSI Ambition
Date acquired: December 2014
Travel since previous update: 785km
Consumption since previous update: 10.9L/100km