It's only a matter of time before the new Audi A3 convertible hits the US market, but Europe will start seeing the top-down compact as early as this summer.Prices in the UK are confirmed for three models -Standard, Sport and S line from 20750-27060 ($41533 - 54163 US). First deliveries begin in May '08.
The guiding principle behind the latest Audi soft-top was the achievement of the best possible balance between the essential fun factor of a roadster and the refinement and day-to-day usability of a fixed roof premium class car. As a result, the A3 Cabriolet not only converts to topless mode and back extraordinarily rapidly, but also genuinely accommodates four passengers without ruling out impressive luggage capacity that is expandable thanks to the standard split/fold rear seat.
The majority of the strong and responsive TFSI petrol and TDI diesel engines powering the A3 and A3 Sportback are carried over to the new Cabriolet, including the 158hp 1.8 TFSI, the 197hp 2.0 TFSI, the 140hp 1.9 TDI and the 2.0 TDI with common rail piezo fuel injection, developing 138hp. These are combined with either a five or six-speed manual gearbox, depending on version, or the option, for all models bar the 1.9 TDI, of the acclaimed S tronic twin-clutch transmission.
Standard versions of the A3 Cabriolet will boast a generous equipment list that includes 16" alloy wheels, air conditioning, powered windows and mirrors, a Chorus radio with single CD drive and semi-automatic hood operation - the hood is attached to and released from the windscreen rail manually but retracts and raises at the touch of a button.
On top of this, the Sport specification combines features such as larger 17" alloy wheels, sports suspension and sports seats with fully automatic hood operation, which adds automated `hands-free' detachment from, and attachment to, the windscreen rail, plus a wind deflector. The hood also incorporates additional acoustic insulation, maximizing the potential for enjoyment of the upgraded Concert radio.
True to the formula that elsewhere in the Audi range already appeals to more UK customers than any other, the new S line specification for the A3 Cabriolet supplements the Sport equipment list externally with larger 18" 7 twin-spoke alloy wheels and S line body styling including exclusive front and rear bumper design. Inside, it adds extras such as leather and Sprint cloth combination upholstery embossed with the S line insignia, an S line multifunction sports steering wheel with paddle shift controls (where automatic transmission is specified), a perforated leather gear knob and matt brushed aluminum inlays. S line specification carries a premium of 1,550 over the price of a Sport model.
The hood incorporates a large, heated glass rear window, and in Sport and S line versions with fully automatic operation, can be lowered in just 9 seconds or raised in 11 seconds at speeds of up to 19mph. At 85mph, the A3 Cabriolet Sport and A3 Cabriolet S line with their extra acoustic insulation run their fixed-roof, A3 three-door counterparts impressively close for cabin refinement, registering an increase in cabin noise of just 1dB (A).When lowered, the hood is folded up into a Z-pattern which takes up a minimum amount of space. The header - a rigid section at the roof's front edge - comes to rest on top, flush with the body. The folded hood is set down in a compact sheet steel compartment that is separate from the boot and therefore doesn't impair luggage capacity.Because the luggage space is unaffected by the retracted hood, it has not been necessary to move the rear bench seat further forward. This leaves ample legroom at the rear, thanks in part to the generous wheelbase of 2,578mm. The split/folding rear seat back - a standard feature across the range - boosts load capacity from an already usefully accommodating 260 liters to a maximum of 674 liters.The relatively light roof also ensures that the A3 Cabriolet handles with the same impressive agility that has been a key factor in the consistent popularity of the A3 range since its `03 launch. Sophisticated McPherson strut front and four-link rear suspension and electromechanical power steering guarantee excellent response and a compliant ride in standard models, while Sports suspension lowered by 15mm is reserved exclusively for Sport and S line versions, giving an even greater degree of tautness and precisi