Sunday, May 9, 2010

Road Test: 2010 Audi A3 TDI

. Sunday, May 9, 2010

Last Monday, our first official test car was delivered to HQ and for the past week, I've been able to call this 2010 Audi A3 TDI "my ride." Considering this blog is named, you may think that a review of a car that's power is sent to the front wheels only, may seem out of place. Well, yes and no. Despite the lack of quattro all-wheel drive and an "R" or "S" placed before it's numerical model designation, this A3 TDI put a smile on my face from the first turn of the key.

Considering the overall ignorance towards diesel power in the United States, we almost felt obligated to not only drive this car, but spread the word to anyone who would listen that "no, it doesn't smoke - no, it's not loud - and yes, it's actually cool." Truly, not a day passed without having a conversation about this car with someone. From "what does TDI stand for?" to "what kind of gas mileage does that thing get?" or even the occasional "hey, that's the car from the Super Bowl commercial!" Honestly, I never imagined this car would garner such attention.

Part of the attention brought to this particular A3 TDI is how the car looks. Words such as "sinister" and "mean" were usually used at first glance. These adjectives seemed like quite a dichotomy. Sure it looks fast, but it's really not. A 9.1 second 0-60 mph time is something few people would brag about. Also, a car wearing a shade of crude oil black with "clean diesel" badging, doesn't really make sense. But, these attributes actually do represent what the A3 TDI is all about. This is not your typical tree-hugging hippie-mobile. Maybe the best statement would be, the A3 TDI gives trees a nonchalant "fist-pound," rather than a big sappy hug.

Bringing me to the environmentally-friendly side of the A3 TDI. Following Audi's "Green Police" Super Bowl commercial, the words Audi and "green" were finally uttered in the same sentence (whether or not people actually knew what it meant). Most folks assume that a hybrid is the go-to vehicle when one wants to do their part to save fuel and the environment. Sure, that statement is not entirely false, however there are other alternatives - with an EPA estimated 42 mpg/hwy and low emissions - a clean diesel Audi A3 TDI is certainly one.

As for the "sinister," bad-ass side of this A3 TDI, much of the credit goes to our test car's optional Titanium Sport Package. For an additional $2,000 the Titanium pack adds 18" titanium-optic wheels (with hi-performance tires), sport suspension, sport front seats in s-line leather/alcantara, piano black interior inlays, black headliner and black grille surround. Coupled with the standard S-line exterior in Brilliant black and you have one "mean" A3 TDI.

Overall, I was quite pleased with how the car performed in various driving conditions. As you can imagine, standard highway and around-town trips were very docile. If you're watching the MPG readout, thrifty gas mileage can be made without "feeling slow." However, this A3 TDI wasn't shy when I approached the twisty back roads of the Pocono Mountains. It would be hard to define the A3 TDI as a performance car, although, the optional 18" wheels and sport handling package allowed for a more "spirited" drive. Not too mention, with 236 ft/lbs of torque on tap from 1,750rpm to 2,500rpm, there's plenty of room for smile-inducing moments. Lastly, the US-spec A3 TDI is available in 6-speed, dual-clutch, S-tronic transmission form only. Though many of our readers are partial to three pedals, the S-tronic truly suits the A3 TDI and still offers plenty of "driving feel" if you opt for paddle shifting.

The only thing that would keep me from actually buying an A3 TDI is the lack of quattro for American consumers. Living in the Northeastern United States, quattro is a must-have option during the winter. That said, I leave you with one Jerry Maguire-sized call to Audi: "show me the quattro!"

The numbers:

2.0-liter TDI clean diesel with S tronic and front wheel drive
140 horsepower / 236 lb-ft torque
30 MPG/City - 42 MPG/HWY (EPA estimates)

Base price = $29,950
-Briliant Black = included
-Black S-line interior = included
-6-speed auto s-tronic transmission = included
-Audi navigation system plus = $2,050
-Titanium sport package = $2,000
-Premium plus model = $2,000
-Open sky sunroof = $1,100
-Convenience package = $1,000
-Cold weather package = $500
- Destination charge = $825

Price as tested = $39,425

Written by Adam Bush
Photos by the author