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2015 Audi A3 Long-Term Update 4: A3 TDI

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 9/12/2015 Motor Trend Staff, Chris Walton
2015 Audi A3 Long-Term Update 4: A3 TDI 2015-Audi-A3-TDI-front-three-quarters-in-motion-02© Provided by MotorTrend 2015-Audi-A3-TDI-front-three-quarters-in-motion-02

As you might already know, our plan is to sample all three versions of the 2015 Audi A3 across the span of a year. With the Phase One 1.8T Premium Plus having recently been returned, next up is the $33,495 A3 TDI Premium. This Florett Silver ($550) A3 sedan is equipped with MMI Navigation Plus ($2,600) and the Premium Plus specification ($2,550), which includes 18-inch alloy wheels, heated front seats and exterior mirrors, keyless entry/ignition, and aluminum window and interior trim for a total price of $39,195. As with our previous A3, this one also arrived "well-loved" with just under 7,500 miles on its odometer.
The nearly identically equipped front-drive TDI is a dead ringer for the 1.8T with the exception, of course, of the badging indicating the turbodiesel engine. A mere 150 hp is all that's on tap from the oil burner, but plenty of torque (236 ft-lb at 1,700 rpm) means it doesn't need to rev much to move the car down the road while shifting gears with its six-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission—more on this combination in a bit. We've already put more than 3,500 miles on the A3 TDI (it's calling for an oil change already), and a couple long-haul tanks helped it earn a darned respectable 35.9-mpg average. We even recorded a 474-mile tankful. Our real-world fuel economy essentially confirms the EPA's estimated 36 mpg combined figure.

At the test track, the less powerful A3 TDI is predictably slower than the 1.8T, with a sprint to 60 mph requiring 8.2 seconds (to the 1.8T's 7.1 seconds), and the quarter mile passes by at 16.3 seconds at 85 mph (versus 15.5 seconds at 89.2 mph). Grip and agility are nearly indistinguishable between the two A3s, with the TDI stopping in 108 feet (versus 112 feet) and circling the skidpad with average lateral acceleration of 0.88 g (versus 0.88 g). Finally, on our unique figure-eight test, the TDI was able to lap the course in 26.6 seconds at an average g-load of 0.65 to the 1.8T's 26.7 sec at 0.67g best.

Back to that engine/transmission combination: I scoured Christian Seabaugh's entries looking for a hint of criticism (or praise) regarding the A3 1.8T's driveline, but there wasn't one mention of it. I asked around the office, and nobody had a strong opinion of it in either direction. The engine/transmission combination in the A3 TDI, however, draws unanimous ire from the staff, especially those who are forced to endure bumper-to-bumper traffic. Why? Two reasons: The engine doesn't deliver power in a predictable, linear fashion, and the transmission's programming is not optimized for this trait. Low-speed starts are prone to bog, then sprint. Abruptly lifting off the throttle sometimes results in the transmission holding the gear tightly, which produces sufficient engine braking. Other times, doing exactly the same results in the transmission upshifting, which causes a free-fall feeling, as if it were in neutral with the bumper of the car in front approaching quickly. Multiply this unpredictable behavior a couple hundred times on a particularly crowded drive home, and we're ready to park the A3, perhaps permanently.
For now, we're impressed with the car's fuel economy, regardless of how it's driven, but for a commuter car, it isn't an ideal choice. Think of it this way: The A3 TDI, with its more than 400-mile range, would be an ideal car for a regional sales representative whose clients reside in the cities scattered about Kansas City, where it's flat and traffic-free for hundreds of miles in any direction.
We'll get that oil changed soon and update you on more details next time.

2015 Audi A3 TDI FWD S tronic
VEHICLE LAYOUTFront-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan
ENGINE2.0L/150-hp/236-lb-ft turbodiesel DOHC 16-valve I-4
TRANSMISSION6-speed twin-clutch auto
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)3,256 lb (61/39%)
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT175.4 x 70.0 x 55.7 in
0-60 MPH8.2 sec
QUARTER MILE16.3 sec @ 85.0 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH108 ft
MT FIGURE EIGHT26.6 sec @ 0.65 g (avg)
ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY122/88 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB0.63 lb/mile


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