by Larry Lark, Herald Special Sections Writer
Luxury automakers know what they’re doing.
Everyone’s heard of gateway drugs, but have you heard of gateway luxury cars?
The 2017 Audi A3 sedan 2.0T quattro S tronic is Exhibit A.
There are plenty of other A3 choices including Cabrio, S3, Sportback, Sportback g-tron, Sportback e-tron, and RS 3 Sportback.
All are offered in a small stylish package, at an affordable (relatively speaking) sticker, with just enough seducing quantities of power, performance, technology and luxury to get you hooked. Then you’ll be back some day, for the good stuff – the S6, or the S8 Plus. Gotcha.
It’s a German pocket-rocket that is fun to drive, yet functional and just big enough to qualify as a family sedan. The A3 seats four adults, includes a functional trunk and delivers a more-than-respectable 29-miles-per-gallon fuel economy as estimated by the EPA in a combination of city/highway driving.
My tester came equipped with a 2.0T TFSI turbocharged four-cylinder engine that generates 220-horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. It’s coupled with a six-speed S tronic automatic transmission with Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive system that delivers in all weather conditions.
A3 sprints from a standing start (0-to-60 in 6.6 seconds), with plenty of power leftover to accelerate at higher speeds. And it corners as one would expect – without hesitation.
If there are any gearheads out there, this is how the new engine increases by 16 hp. The 2.0T utilizes a combustion method with shorter compression and longer expansion phases. The compression ratio was increased to 11.7:1 from 9.6:1, further improving the engine’s efficiency and allowing for greater power and torque delivery.
My tester included the Prestige package, which adds $8,950 to the car’s bottom line. All the goodies are nice, but you have now crossed over to luxury. There is a long long list of amenities that are highlighted by 18-inch wheels, adaptive cruise control, Bang & Olufsen premium sound system, side- and rear-traffic assist, navigation, heated and adjustable front seats and more.
Standard equipment would be more than enough to keep me happy. The short list includes leather seats, panoramic sunroof, rear-view camera, Xenon headlights with LED taillights, dual-zone automatic climate control, rain and light sensors, Bluetooth, USB and more.
When it comes to safety, it’s hard to beat Audi.
Here’s one new feature I found intriguing: Traffic-Jam Assist. In slow-moving traffic at speeds of less than 40 mph, traffic-jam assist takes over not only the following distance but if necessary also the steering. Based on the data acquired from radar sensors and the front camera, the assist drives the car within the system limits, if adaptive cruise control is active.
Other safety and security features include electronic stability control, electromechanical speed-sensitive power steering, anti-lock brakes with pre-sense braking, anti-theft vehicle alarm, start-stop system, temporary inflatable spare tire and more.
2017 AUDI A3
BASE PRICE: $34,200
AS TESTED: $44,475
Base price includes destination charge. Vehicles are provided by the manufacturer. Prices may vary at local dealerships.