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Audi A3 Cabriolet

Introduction

It was roughly about seven years ago that I had a tryst with an Audi sports car which changed the course of my destiny.  I had just completed my fifth semester of college and in that ‘make something out-of-myself- in- life’ mode I was interning with a publication. But it was not a newspaper or magazine and after two dull stints I had finally got the chance to train with an auto magazine (ironically called Automan) based out of Oman where my dad was working.

The training mostly involved preparing stories for publishing and it all seemed routine, that is until Raj Warrior, the editor, took me along for an Audi test drive in the hills above Muscat City. It was a fantastic experience to watch him throw an Audi S5 in the corners and then blast it down the straights easily clocking over 200kmph; I was hooked and knew exactly what I had wanted and since then had dreamt of doing the same. However, with life being what it is, this dream seemed like a distant one that is until I discovered that I was going to review the Audi A3 Cabriolet at CarWale, and all the memories came flooding back!
The A3 cabriolet in a sense is the first non-conventional body style to be introduced from the Audi stable, in India, since its official arrival in 2007. They played it safe for many years in terms of products but are now offering a lot more as the choices of its buyers too have expanded. It is precisely this choice that has allowed me to fulfill a long standing dream of testing a sporty Audi and I was glad it was the A3 Cabriolet to start with. It has been billed a lifestyle product for those looking for something different from the standard range of luxury offerings.

Exterior

It’s a sense of familiarity when you look at the Audi A3 cabriolet from the front because it’s essentially the face of the A3 sedan that we see. The large black slatted grille is overlapped by the automaker’s four rings while the headlights expand outwards to the sides.

 The cabriolet sits marginally lower than the sedan (4.42mm vs 4.45mm) with a pronounced forward heaviness thanks to the slope in the bonnet which is the same in the sedan but much more noticeable thanks to the lower height of the convertible. The air dams of the front bumper have little aerodynamic vanes which also serve to add to the sportiness of the car.
 
The side profile reveals the entire extent of the nose heavy stance as well as the sharp rake of the windshield. In that typical orderly German fashion we can see three separate sections to the side. The first section is the area around the edge of the cabin which sports a large chrome surround.
The second section comprises most of the door as well as a strong shoulder line. The third section is a large crease that extends from the edge of the softly flared rear wheel arch to the front wheel arch. The wheels themselves are large 17-inch clover design units which are specific to the non-sedan body styles of the A3.
This being a convertible, it looks particularly good with the roof down. Press down on the roof button in the centre console and watch the roof, windows and boot do a 20 second (we timed it!) synchronised dance to make the car go from top to topless. We would always recommend you bring the car to a complete halt and then take down or put up the roof.  
The rear, like the front, has all the familiar Audi bits like the two- piece tail lamp as well as the familiar bulge below the bootlid section. Like the sedan, the cabriolet too has a small lip at the edge of the boot which doubles up as a spoiler. The rear bumper sticks out a bit and has a little honeycomb section just above the two- piece single side exhaust for additional cooling.
The A3 cabriolet is a combination of a modern product with all the traditional elements of a budget convertible. It will certainly get you the attention with the top up and more so when the roof is down and also because it is something you do not see every day on the roads.

Interior

The Audi A3 cabriolet has exactly the same layout and elements as the sedan and is available with either the full grey colour scheme or the two-tone beige and grey combination which looks much better but in the long run is likely to be harder to maintain.

Slip into the driver’s seat and you are greeted by a four-spoke steering wheel and analog dials with a digital display nestled in between. Reach over to the side as well as under the seat to adjust yourself into a comfortable position and you are greeted by manual controls to perform all three functions, a let –down when you consider that this car is priced at Rs 44 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi).

The centre console is a chrome affair thanks to everything in the middle being either laced with it or getting a shiny garnish. While I would have normally criticised the use of so much bling in the cabin, it seems to have been done in an elegant way and with just the right amount to make it look premium.

The infotainment system is pretty basic and requires you to have the proprietary Audi MMI cable to physically connect anything to the system. It makes use of a five-inch screen which pops out of the dashboard when you activate it. While this may feel rudimentary, what is quite exciting is the B&O speaker system which work quite well even when the roof is down.  The navigation system has to be specified as an optional extra when purchasing the car.

One of the elements I found particularly interesting were the aircon vents which have been designed to resemble a jet fighter’s turbines. The vents get a chrome bezel which has to be rotated to control the airflow and a tug or push on the central circle will either focus or diffuse the airflow respectively.  The AC itself is a dual-climate zone unit and is pretty effective thanks to the small cabin.

Move over to the back and there is not much on offer there. The reduced wheelbase means that space is hardly available at the back making the seats best suited to small children or for carrying luggage.

However, that being said there are dual AC vents as well as cup holders for the rear passengers. The seats also tumble forward fully for additional carrying capacity. The boot space is 320-litres which is not much due to the reduced dimensions but can swallow up a few bags even with the roof down.

 
The real party begins when the roof goes down. As we had said in the exterior section, it is a 20- second synchronised dance between the windows, roof and the boot after which the car takes on its party avatar. You sit low in the cabin and are treated to the sweet burble of the 1.8-litre TFSI engine when you floor the throttle.

Having spent so much time in a convertible for the first time in my life, it was a strange yet amazing experience to keep moving but also be treated to the full visual spectacle above and beside me while we drove up and down the slopes of Malshej Ghats outside Mumbai. Since it is a rare body style, you do get a lot of attention when the top is down.

Engine & performance

The Audi A3 cabriolet is powered by a 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine that produces 177bhp@5100rpm and 250Nm of torque at 1250rpm. The gearbox is a seven-speed dual-clutch unit which sends power to the front wheels.
The engine is quite smooth and there is more than sufficient power for a vehicle of this size, it is not electrifying or sledge hammer-like but rather one that will allow you to have a lot of fun both on the straights as well as in the corners. There is a small amount of torque steer which further adds to the fun factor in the car.

With the roof down, all you have to do is mash the throttle and the engine builds up to a lovely soundtrack. Consequently, it emits a sweet and very audible grunt as you change down a gear. It is decently fuel efficient as we were able to get around 8kmpl to 9kmpl despite driving spiritedly for most of our test drive and we believe that with a lighter foot, it is possible to achieve an even higher number.
 
The biggest contributor to the fun factor is the seven-speed DSG box. In manual mode it is very quick to respond and power is available throughout the range all the way to the red line. Audi has fitted the A3 cabriolet with paddle shifters as well as the option to shift using the gear lever on the centre console. In the automatic mode, the engine is a little more sedate and gearshifts are done according to the throttle input. We were able to do 100kmph at 2000rpm making for very smooth cruising speeds.
Our test vehicle did not have access to the various drive modes that one normally finds with most Audi models. This is an optional extra and has to be to be specified separately  when the car is purchased.

Ride & Handling

The Audi A3 Cabriolet gets McPherson struts in the front and a multi-link rear suspension. The ride quality is on the firm side and combined with the large wheels make for a stiff setup. It is plush and almost carpet- like when the tarmac is really good but as soon as the road quality drops, the ride becomes hard once again.

We believe that a major contributing factor to this is the fact that the car is a CBU for India and has been designed keeping the high quality roads found in Europe. The steering is a little dead and there isn’t sufficient feedback to go very hard in the corners.
I did not like the brakes as they were spongy and lacked the required initial bite. They are progressive in a manner that will need you to start braking much earlier than you would normally do while driving such a vehicle.

These in all probability are the same brakes on the standard car and it appears Audi has not changed or modified them in any manner in a bid to keep the costs down. The car does get all the standard bells and whistles like ABS with EBD, traction control as well as an ESP. If we look beyond the hard ride, it is easy to notice that the car is fun in the corners and thanks to the stiff setup is able to hold its own more often than not.

Verdict

Billed as a lifestyle product, the A3 cabriolet definitely has quite a bit going on for it. The engine is punchy, it looks pretty decent and thanks to some good German engineering is a lot of fun to drive. I have to admit that it is not a perfect package and comes with its own set of flaws like the hard ride, lack of certain features and compromise on space. However, these are mostly minor and in the case of the feature list it is not like what is already available is anything low-rent.

What you do get in plenty if you buy and drive an A3 cabriolet is obviously the top-down experience (one with Mother Nature). More importantly, it provides you with a fun experience both if you’re behind the wheel or even sitting as a passenger, which is essentially the very idea behind the existence of a budget convertible. You also enjoy a fair bit of attention due to the rarity of the vehicle and obviously the convertible nature of the car.
To sum it up simply, if the A3 sedan was a bit bland and very business-like, then A3 cabriolet is the same car dressed up in a Hawaiian shirt/dress and is ready to hit the bar, toss back a few screwdrivers and head out for a bit of partying.

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Audi A3 Cabriolet Price in India

CityOn-Road Prices
Mumbai₹ 64.75 Lakhs onwards
Bangalore₹ 64.92 Lakhs onwards
New Delhi₹ 58.2 Lakhs onwards
Pune₹ 64.32 Lakhs onwards
Hyderabad₹ 61.52 Lakhs onwards
Ahmedabad₹ 58.4 Lakhs onwards
Chennai₹ 60.9 Lakhs onwards
Kolkata₹ 55.89 Lakhs onwards
Chandigarh₹ 56.65 Lakhs onwards
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