2008 Audi A3 3.2 S line quattro
2008 Audi A3 3.2 S line quattro. Click image to enlarge

Manufacturer’s web site

Audi Canada

Review and photos by Michael Clark

Photo Gallery:
2008 Audi A3

For those of you who didn’t grab yet another one of my cryptic 1970’s automotive references, the Sportabout was the station wagon version of the AMC Hornet. Oh great; now I have to explain who AMC was. We don’t have that kind of time at Inside Story, so let me nutshell it for you. The Sportabout, in my opinion, was easily one of the most sensibly-sized wagons of its day, or crossovers, as is today’s buzzspeak.

The Audi A3 may not have been paying homage to the House of Teague on purpose, especially with a strong Avant heritage all its own. Speaking of strong, have you smelled the price of premium unleaded lately? The Just Enough Vehicle, or JEV concept, is poised to push uber-utes into the Smithsonian. This week’s tester is the Audi A3 3.2 S line quattro, with an MSRP of $47,250 as equipped (base from $32,300).

The Cockpit

The three-spoke sport wheel gets manual tilt and telescoping action, with tab and trackwheel controls for audio, and a phone interface that appears to only be roughed in
the instrument array includes a driver information screen
The three-spoke sport wheel gets manual tilt and telescoping action, with tab and trackwheel controls for audio, and a phone interface that appears to only be roughed in (top); the instrument array includes a driver information screen. Click image to enlarge

Whichever number of ‘A’ you choose, the Audi design language carries through in impressive fashion for driver positioning. The three-spoke sport wheel gets manual tilt and telescoping action, with tab and trackwheel controls for audio, and a phone interface that appears to only be roughed in. Bluetooth completion adds a $650 bump to the option list. The six-speed S tronic automatic adds up and downshift paddles, or simply use the manu-gate mode on the floor-mount shifter. A separate cruise control stalk is found at the seven o’clock position on the column.

The wiper stalk controls front and rear swish, with intermittency, as well as the navigation rocker switch for the Driver Information Screen in the instrument array. The power window lifts are fully automatic for descent, as well as lift, with pinch protection. The heated power mirrors controls are found in the same real estate, while the power releases for fuel and hatch doors are located in the driver’s side door pocket. Headlamps employ an auto setting.

There is little to brain-cramp the pilot, or front seat passenger in the A3 centre stack
There's a glove box-like compartment under the front passenger seat
There is little to brain-cramp the pilot, or front seat passenger in the A3 centre stack (top); There’s a glove box-like compartment under the front passenger seat. Click image to enlarge
The Centre Stack

There is little to brain-cramp the pilot, or front seat passenger in the A3 centre stack. The audio system is friendly to navigate, as well as roughed-in for SIRIUS satellite radio, an additional $470 tick. The stability control switch is easy to engage/disable, while the HVAC system offers auto climate mode, and dual zone heating for front passengers. A minor complaint is how you get to your preferred temperature. The dial actuators are spring-loaded, which requires the user to hold the dial in the fore or aft position to reach the desired level of cool or toasty. Six-step dials control front seat heat.

Cubbies!

Speaking of the centre stack, the first of numerous cubbies presents itself here, in the way of a spring-loaded card tray. The locking glovebox is ample and flock-lined, with three compartments. The front passenger seat gets a downsized version. Only the front doors receive side pockets, with no such luck in the rear. It’s the mesh mode for additional stuff, in the front passenger footwell, and the front seatbacks. The centre console top lid reveals a flock-lined compartment, with phone rough-in. The entire compartment can articulate at different comfort angles for the driver’s elbow, or be tucked out of the way completely for spirited cornering. When tucked, the lighter and additional 12-volt powerpoint are revealed, which can also be concealed with a roll-top door.

The front cupholder uses three bladder-style cinchers for the front, and a pressure fit for the rear. You can only use one receptacle effectively in the real driving world. The rear cupholder slides out from the centre armrest when lowered, which also contains a low-depth cubby compartment. The cinchers are C-clamp style. The Fatherland is still tobacco-friendly, with dedicated ashbins front and rear.

The overhead

The A3 offers a dual-pane sunroof with fixed rear glass
The driver's seat gets full power articulation, as well as four-way power lumbar
This ingenious spring-loaded bag clip is attached to the belly-side of the cargo cover
The A3 offers a dual-pane sunroof with fixed rear glass (top); The driver’s seat gets full power articulation, as well as four-way power lumbar; This ingenious spring-loaded bag clip is attached to the belly-side of the cargo cover. Click image to enlarge

The A3 gets impressive overhead lighting, and simple sunroof controls. The tester was equipped with the Open Sky system, with an oversized front pane and Vista Cruiser-style fixed rear glass. The wind deflector is a mesh material, great for catching juicy bugs. Keeping the bugs out of the interior are retractable screens, which allow for fresh airflow. The problem is that these screens are the only barrier between the interior and the sunroof glass. This makes the Open Sky A3 toastier inside than vehicles equipped with traditional sunroof blocker panels.

Seat treat

The driver’s seat gets full power articulation, as well as four-way power lumbar. The front passenger has to fiddle with manual height control and an annoying side-twist dial for recline.

Cargo embargo

The rear seats fold relatively flat for cargo conundrums. There are plenty of cargo tiedown points, a ski/lumber/long things pass-through, plus an ingenious spring-loaded bag clip attached to the belly-side of the cargo cover. A 12-volt powerpoint is located on the wall of the cargo area.

Spare care

The cargo floor needs to be removed completely for spare tire and tool access. Audi will change the tire for you, during the first four years of ownership, with no mileage caveat.

The mill

The brake master cylinder reservoir is under that connector, somewhere
The brake master cylinder reservoir is under that connector, somewhere. Click image to enlarge

The 250-horsepower 3.2-litre six is the definition of tight fit, as the strange curve of the oil dipstick tube suggests. Think 2.0-litre Turbo for the long haul of service accessibility. The fluid foible of note is the master cylinder reservoir. It’s under that connector, somewhere.

The Verdict

I have to be looking at the A3 at just the right angle to enjoy its styling, though the real enjoyment factor here is the practical magic, in a package that begs to be flung about on the turnpike. You and your significant other will most likely engage in spats over corner store dashes. With all that, plus a sensible price spread, the A3 earns five Inside Story stars.

Next week; 2008 Ford Focus

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