Since attending the A3 press lead in Los Angeles, where Audi's diminutive sport hatch made its North American debut with the brilliant new 2.0T FSI engine and front-wheel drive, we've been looking forward to driving a Quattro version. When this one showed up at the office, equipped with all-wheel drive and the more powerful 3.2-liter V6 engine, we held all e-mails, turned off the mobile phones and drove straight to the mountains.
The 3.2 S-line Quattro takes all that is good about the 2.0T and kicks it up another couple notches: fifty more horsepower and considerably more grip. After a spin up and down our local hill, I came away wondering who, exactly, was still pining for a new GTI when this car was available six weeks ahead and ready to rock. The guy with the VW logo tattooed on his arm, I guess, because he'd just look dumb driving an Audi. He probably should have inked himself with a set of quad rings instead.
We did notice a bit of gear chatter that became evident when the car was loaded up and heading downhill. The exact source of this noise was a little unclear during our brief test run; at first, it sounded like something might be wrong with one of our tires or something in the steering. Shifting gears, though, revealed it did in fact seem to be related to the transmission or a front or center differential. Nothing broke and the noise disappeared when the ground leveled beneath us. Probably not a big deal.
Aside from that, the 3.2-liter A3 offered a pretty sublime driving experience. It's got more than enough power on tap, it's tight, comfortable, and the DSG transmission, as always, rocks. As entry-level models go-and I'm hesitant to call this car an entry-level model, because really it's not precisely what the 3.2 A3 is when you consider other cars in its segment-this could be the best one out there. The only thing that could deter its supreme domination is the MSRP. Thirty-four grand may seem a lot to ask for a compact car, but if you have the will and the means I doubt you'll do better.
2006 Audi A3 3.2 Quattro DSG6
Price as Tested: $38,735
Transverse front engine, all-wheel drive
3.2-liter V6, dohc, four valves per cylinder
Peak Power: 250 bhp @ 6300 rpm
Peak Torque: 236 lb-ft @ 2800 rpm
0-60 mph: 5.9 sec.
Top Speed: 130 mph (electronically limited)
Fuel Economy: 21 city/ 27 hwy