The Audi A3 Cabriolet is an interesting vehicle. With its fabric roof up, it’s quiet and comfortable pretty much like the regular A3 sedan but with the roof off; it turns into a classy boulevard cruiser, rolling top down through the bustling streets and reaping attention of onlookers as you crawl through traffic. This is basically what cabriolets do – there’s something quite mystic about driving them but they are not the most practical of cars. The A3 Cabriolet, though, proved to be rather practical (with its neat roof arraignment and proper seating for four) when we first sampled it back in 2015.
Fast forward to today and we have just driven the 2017 A3 Cabriolet which brings everything that was good about the old version, but adds edgier styling, new paint options and a substantially different driving experience. Let’s take a closer look and gauge the improvements that make up the 2017 model.
The A3 Cabriolet is very similar to the A3 sedan on which it is based. So you get the same headlights, tail lights and 17-inch 5-spoke alloy wheels but in spite of that, it looks quite different. That’s because the Audi A3 Cabriolet gets a fabric roof and loses out the two rear doors (the front doors are longer), resulting in an even shorter length than the already short in length A3 sedan. Thus, the A3 Cabriolet is unmistakably an A3 even when you see it from afar because the compact dimensions are an immediate giveaway about the identity of the vehicle.
The Audi A3 Cabriolet does get a brushed silver finish on the frame of the front windscreen which looks quite nice. The car does look short when the roof is up but once you put it down, it does look bigger than it actually is. Roof down motoring is quite a new concept in India so when you drive with the top down, people do stare at the A3 Cabriolet like it’s some supercar. Thus, if you want to turn attention, the A3 Cabriolet will do it for you, something more expensive sedans are unlikely to manage.
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 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.
.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 Audi A3 Cabriolet only comes with a petrol engine and the 40 TFSI motor has got much applaud for its performance. In the A3 sedan, the petrol mill gets overshadowed in lieu of the more frugal oil burner but in the A3 Cab, one can’t help but get addicted to the performance. The 1.8-litre gasoline powerplant outputs 180 HP but what’s crucial is the torque output of 250 Nm, from as low as 1250 RPM, going up all the way to 5000 RPM, that is a massive torque band, more so by petrol car standards. 0-100 km/hr comes up in 7.83 seconds as per our VBOX tests which is half a second slower than the sedan due to the 135 kgs increase in weight over the petrol A3 sedan caused by the roof operating electronics.
This 1.8 TFSI mill also powers a range of Volkswagen Group cars and the more praises showered on it, the less it is. The car idles with super smoothness and is refined at all times. Give it the beans and it spins to its 6500 RPM redline with no effort at all, having a linear pull throughout the rev range. The A3 Cabriolet sounds very exciting and although its twin exhausts emit the same aural bass as the sedan, the shorter length of the car makes them more vocal inside the cabin, more so with the roof down. The vehicle reaches the ton in third gear while at the same speed in top gear, it does 2100 RPM on the tachometer, having a lot of punch for quick overtakes. The top speed is 240 km/hr and the A3 Cabriolet pulls to high speeds in a flash.
Audi has paired the A3’s 1.8 TFSI mill to a 7-speed S-tronic automatic gearbox. This dual-clutch unit offers smooth shifts and shows signs of urgency when you need quick cog changes. The vehicle comes with Audi Drive Select with five modes – Efficiency, Comfort, Dynamic, Auto and Individual. The modes change the way the gearbox goes about doing its job while also altering the engine response. The car is also offered with the option of a sporty 3-spoke steering wheel (the standard wheel is 4-spokes) which brings along paddle shifters too although without this option, one can still take control of things using the tiptronic function on the gear lever, there is also a Sports mode there. The A3 Cabriolet returns a mileage of 9-12 km/l, it benefits from a recuperation system that boosts mileage by up to 3%.
DRIVING DYNAMICS ;
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.
The Audi A3 Cabriolet hasn’t been tested by Euro NCAP but its sedan and hatchback derivatives have received a 5-star rating. The A3 Cabriolet comes with a host of safety features including 5 airbags, rain sensors, light sensors, ABS, EBD, ASR, EDL, ESC and Adaptive brake light. It also gets secondary collision brake assist, rest recommendation system and comes with an electromechanical parking brake. Audi’s dealership network in India is decent and although not the biggest, it is being expanded at a steady pace.
Because it is a CBU import, the Audi A3 Cabriolet costs Rs 44.75 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi), or Rs 12 lakh more than the most expensive locally assembled A3 sedan. Now, with your sensible hat on, you might think paying big luxury sedan money for a compact luxury car with compromised practicality makes no sense. But then, that’s missing the point. This isn’t meant to be your first car; it’s meant to be at least your third. It’s a toy you take out for a drive in town at night (don’t try and squeeze in more than one companion though), or on a blast through the Western Ghats on a chilly weekend morning, as we did. With all the other convertibles on sale in India priced north of Rs 70 lakh, the only car that comes close to being competition for the A3 Cabriolet right now is the cheaper but even less practical Mini Cooper Convertible. Like that car, this one is largely a fashion statement that just so happens to be fun to drive too. The soft-top A3 is undoubtedly an indulgence that comes with a number of compromises, but if it’s roofless motoring you’re after, it’s the most practical option yet.