The days are getting shorter, the temperature is dropping and our time with the Audi A3 Cabriolet is drawing to a close.
Over the course of the past couple of months, the A3 drop-top has been put through its paces around town, on a road trip to Queensland and on a jaunt down south of Sydney.
Its paint work has been covered in dust during accidental detours onto unsealed roads, its leather trim smothered in dog hair thanks to my husky x staffy and, if it could, the Audi would have hung its single-frame grille in embarrassment as my 13-year old cranked the stereo and sang top-note as often as I’d allow.
Our long-termer is the 1.8-litre TFSI Ambition seven-speed S tronic that’ll set you back $52,200 before on-road costs.
The car has been optioned up with Audi’s $2000 Technik package including MMI navigation, parking system and sound system, a $1350 launch package (which adds leather seats, acoustic hood and LED interior lighting), a $1350 style package (complete with LED daytime running lights, sport suspension and specific 18-inch alloy wheels) and the front seat heating plus neck-level heating combo for $1250. As-tested, the price totals $58,150.
We were getting quite comfortable in the A3. It suits our lifestyle, it's surprisingly practical and has yet to encounter a mission it can’t handle.
Driving around today with a colleague, I flip from the radio to the music library on his phone and realise I’ve officially mastered the Audi Connect system.
I’m using the MMI dial and associated buttons to navigate through the phone, media and navigation systems without thinking about it.
Doing what I do for a living, it’s something I find incredibly frustrating acclimatising to yet another new infotainment system format. But having spent so much time with the Audi, it’s become a familiar friend. Mastering the media system is part of the ownership experience, and even the most frustrating systems become second nature eventually.
I hate parking. In particular, reverse parallel parking. That’s not to say I’m an inept parker; in my opinion I’m actually quite good. I just like to park at a comfortable pace.
My problem is with other drivers who lack the self-control to exercise patience for even ten seconds and feel the need to crawl close enough to make maneuvering into the spot tricky (or near impossible) despite the fact I used my indicators to signal my intentions, or who are just a***holes and get on the horn straight away.
The A3 Cabriolet has the ability to perform a semi-automated park, something that I had forgotten is fitted and that I hadn’t yet used.
The button is located on the centre console: push once for parallel and twice for perpendicular parking. The system will scan the gaps between parked cars as you drive past and let you know when there’s a suitable space.
From there it’s a simple matter of changing from drive to reverse and controlling the brake and throttle. The Audi takes care of the steering automatically so that you don’t have to strain your neck to get the angles right.
And voila! The A3 ends up parked snuggly between the other vehicles with the wheels closer to the kerb than expected.
The convertible is popular among other staff in the office. Not pointing any fingers but someone isn’t as economical a driver as me.
At the end of my last long-term report, fuel consumption was a respectable 10.9L/100km.
It’s now jumped to a thirstier 13.3L/100km. I had been spending most of my time driving in comfort mode, and I suspect a few people prefer to drive it in dynamic mode.
It’s interesting to note that the lag discussed in my previous reports is not as pronounced in dynamic mode. But being the frugal driver I am, for everyday use I favour fuel efficiency over punchier acceleration.
One thing that has remained impressive is the ride. It's comfortable and has been engineered to effectively reduce the scuttle-shake that is common in other convertibles.
The Audi TT had recently been launched in Australia and during an event at the Audi Centre Sydney I took one for a spin.
There are some big changes that I’d love to see in the A3. The virtual cockpit concept for one, and also the TT's neat air-conditioning control set up.
In the TT each duct is self-contained when it comes to controlling temperature and fan speed, meaning no extra buttons. It looks clean and fresh and the simplified centre console landscape would suit the cabriolet.
It’s been a busy week, with plenty of hours clocked up while running errands throughout the city.
It’s good to see the fuel consumption creeping back down.
The tyre pressure monitor has alerted me to a loss of air in the front left tyre and a quick run to the service station is all that’s needed to get me back on the road.
Due to my reptilian like aversion to cold weather, the roof hasn’t been down for a few days.
Realising that the window of opportunity is rapidly shrinking, I resolutely decide to see out the rest of my time in the convertible sans roof – unless it rains of course.
During the height of summer the cooled seats came in handy, and now the heating function is getting a work out. And Sydney's cold snap provides the chance to really see if the neck-level heating truly makes a difference.
If you’ve never experienced a neck-warmer, it can be a little unnerving the first time. The warm air blowing on to the back of your neck is designed to be comforting, but its almost like someone is invading your personal space and standing far too close behind you, breathing down your neck.
For those that struggle to move past that initial icky feeling, here’s a tip to combat it. Wear a scarf so the material heats up and you don’t feel that direct airflow.
Our time in the Audi A3 Cabriolet is up and I have to admit I’ve grown attached to it.
At first I was put off by the odd combination of an off-white exterior with brown/black/silver interior, but that has faded into insignificance.
I’ve grown accustomed to the laggy feeling of the dual-clutch transmission and even the frustration of using the CD player and having to use Audi's clunky proprietary connector to hook up my phone is far less problematic than it used to be (for more on these issues see long-term report one and long-term report two).
For my daughter and I, the convertible had been part of our lives for three months, taking us on a long road trip, a few overnighters, several weekend cruises and around a hundred school pick-ups and drop-offs.
Its closest competitor is the BMW 2-Series convertible and CarAdvice’s Tim Beissmann facilitated a comparison between the two (read what he had to say here).
The Audi offers an extra level of functionality over the BMW 2-Series convertible, with split-folding rear seats. It may seem like a simple thing, but it was surprising how often I was grateful for the extra cargo space configuration options.
After a total of 139 hours behind the wheel covering almost 3800km, the fuel economy figure at the end was 10.3L/100km. Nowhere near the claimed 5.8L/100km but it’s worth taking into consideration that I spent very little time in efficiency mode.
Though I enjoyed my time with the 1.8 TSFI Ambition, if I were purchasing I’d seriously consider the 2.0 TDI Ambition for the same amount of coin, $52,200 before on-road costs, or perhaps the 1.8 Quattro Ambition ($55,200) for a sharper, more enjoyable drive. Though if you just want to get into a small drop-top Audi as cost-effectively as possible, the entry-level 1.4 TFSI Attraction is $47,600.
Audi A3 Cabriolet 1.8 TFSI Ambition
Date acquired: December 2014
Total Kilometres: 3795.6
Fuel Consumption: 10.3L/100km
Hours behind the wheel: 139
Photos by Christian Barbeitos