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2014 Audi A3 Sportback

Posted Dec 5th 2012 11:57AM

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Just When It Gets Really Good, We Don't Get It

2014 Audi A3 Sportback

The (final) final decision on whether or not Canada will get the second-generation Audi A3 Sportback has been confirmed by Audi Canada and it is not coming. But that doesn't mean we can't head to the roads of the Monte Carlo Rally in this car's most powerful and accoutered trim three months before European customers take deliveries in late February 2013. Our ride for the day? The A3 Sportback 2.0 TDI Quattro S-line with the beefy six-speed S-tronic, a car good for 181 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque between 1,750 and 3,000 rpm.

Generally, when we get the shot at driving on these utterly spectacular roads, the assumption would be that the car is an RS trim with a chassis set up for our usual abuses. Such was not the case this time, however, as our car did not even benefit from the optional Audi Magnetic Ride dampers that are now available on the A3 as supplied by BWI Group. Audi Drive Select is standard at this engine and on the Euro "Ambition" trim, and this does provide for the recalibration of several dynamic bits between the modes of Efficiency, Comfort, Auto, Dynamic and Individual. With the six-speed S-tronic gearbox, ADS takes care of shift responses, as well.

Although this A3 Sportback was not like an RS3 by a longshot on our route, we simply toned down our rate of drive to match what might be the driving attitude of a typical owner. Taken as such, this top tune of the 2.0 TDI engine, plus all the premium touches inside, made for a thoroughly satisfying experience on roads any enthusiastic driver would never want to leave. Conditions were ideal and there was literally zero traffic to disturb our exploration of this latest Sportback.

2014 Audi A3 Sportback side view2014 Audi A3 Sportback front view2014 Audi A3 Sportback rear view

The everyday drive sensation while simply cruising along a highway at 112 to 137 kilometres per hour is, as we've experienced recently on the latest Volkswagen Golf and Seat Leon hatchbacks that share a chassis with the A3, is more like the drive of a well-dressed Audi A4. Riding here on optional top-level S-line 18-inch wheels and tires on this trim's standard dynamic suspension with newly engineered rear multi-link axle, this Sportback body comes off even more capable and sophisticated than the others we've tested using Volkswagen Group's new MQB modular architecture.

A chief reason for the even greater maturity of the ride on this A3 Sportback is that one of the benefits of the new architecture is the ease with which it can be elongated or shortened to fit the purpose. While the overall length of the Sportback body adds just 18mm (.7 of an inch) over the three-door A3 we tested earlier this year, the rear wheels on their axle are simply shifted back 36mm (1.4 inches), thereby creating a larger footprint to the road and giving both rear passengers and cargo more space to occupy. The new Sportback wheelbase is a full 58mm (2.3 inches) longer than that of the outgoing model, which is darn near a lightyear in compact car terms.

2014 Audi A3 Sportback headlight2014 Audi A3 Sportback wheel2014 Audi A3 Sportback taillight2014 Audi A3 Sportback exhaust tips

It's a pity that Audi seems to be leaning toward not admitting this new A3 Sportback through immigration. According to A3 marketing guru Patrick Rismont, the A3 Sportback in its first generation has barely managed to exceed the company's humble expectations of the model in North America, and that lack of a boffo hit has thrown the A3 Sportback's North American future into question. The feeling in the air is that Audi wants to pummel us rather with the A3 sedan and ragtop convertible, the former in its production trim being unveiled publicly at the Shanghai Motor Show next April. We know that this is probably the easiest and most practical move, but we at Autoblog are fans of Audi's sportbacks, so hope springs eternal they'll keep us supplied with five-doors – especially since this latest edition is so much better than the first one.

Perhaps due to the sheer physics of size and weight, the electro-mechanical steering of the A3 Sportback feels spot-on, and putting it into Dynamic mode tightens things up quite nicely when the road gets twisty. It is eerily smooth, of course, and feedback from the asphalt is not immediate, but we'll hold off whining on that note until the new S3 and RS3 models bless us with their presence. In this trim the steering feel is exactly as it should be.

2014 Audi A3 Sportback engine

We tried our best to shove the A3 Sportback around for cornering photographs and whatnot, stability control all the way off and all, but whatever natural lateral give there might be is less like oversteer and more like purposeful sideways squish. This redone A3 model weighs between 45 and 75 kilograms (100 and 165 pounds) less than last generation, which is still on sale in Canada, and because of that, this aforementioned dynamic squishing can be let to run its natural course through the curve, even allowing us to stay judiciously on throttle. We're not talking body roll here, just a forceful and not altogether unpleasant scooching to the side while holding the good steering rack steady and eyeing down the road ahead. Such is the world of your typical Quattro chassis, only now lighter.

This new A3 Sportback, along with the TT, A4 and A5, is the sweet zone in our eyes for the Audi's most recent styling language. The five-door body of the A3 looks far more interesting now than does the three-door. As on all MQB-based models, too, practically all things you can opt for on larger Audis are now available on the A3 family. There is Audi pre-sense for avoiding lower speed accidents, Audi side assist, lane assist, traffic sign recognition, adaptive cruise control, and several other usual suspects.

2014 Audi A3 Sportback interior2014 Audi A3 Sportback front 3/4 view2014 Audi A3 Sportback rear seats2014 Audi A3 Sportback rear cargo area

The latest MMI Navigation Plus with touch pad also makes its Sportback debut, and when you add the Connect feature set you're connectivity to the world takes you and your car to places never before known to this vehicle segment. An added compact-class first – shared with all MQB hatches launched so far, but with the most sophisticated treatment saved for Audi – is the full LED lighting front and rear, the front being of the adaptive sort.

Diesel engine family EA288 has been completely redesigned to suit the MQB architecture and be more efficient. Way down low in the rev range, there is certainly some turbo lag before the diesel freight train effect takes hold. But hit the sweet area starting at 1,750 in second or third gear coming out of curves and the urgency is felt quite clearly. Plus, the noise it makes through the pair of exhaust pipes is pretty nice for a little diesel. Acceleration to 100 km/h (62 mph) is estimated at 7.1 seconds, but based on the spirit with which we were dicing up the hills, we figure it's got to have a 6.8-second run in it. As far as economy goes, highway mileage in the US would peak somewhere around 5.2 L/100km (45 mpg).

2014 Audi A3 Sportback rear 3/4 view

As ever, we'd love to have a six-speed manual in this application, but Audi isn't planning to offer such a gearbox in the Quattro-equipped A3 at this top diesel power rating. The existing S-tronic dual-clutch gearbox is heavy and it behaves heavily at times. Here's hoping that the latest S-tronic design, as seen on the new R8, can somehow trickle down the lineup, because that quicker and more compact tranny really does work as promised... finally.

Equally important while shoving around any family car is a good set of brakes since, aside from the famous curvy roads we drove, there are several spots in the vicinity where huge trucks have inexplicably been allowed inland from the seaside, and there is hardly enough room for their side-view mirrors to pass the local bar without nicking it. Luckily, the A3 Sportback's discs hauled us down from speed pretty well all day long, and with a bare minimum of nose dive and consequent passenger discomfort in the process.

We do hope Audi sees fit to keep one of its hatchback bodies in Canada. If not, the lineup of cars from Audi would soon be nearly free of wagons and hatchbacks. And that's not good – because this new Sportback certainly is.

Image Credit: Tobias Sagmeister, Copyright 2012 / AOL

Category: Audi, Hatchback, Car Buying, Reviews, New-Car-Guide

Tags: 2014 audi a3 sportback, a3, a3 sportback, audi, featured, first drive, FirstDrive

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