Though Americans' conception of the Audi A3 has always been that of an upscale four-door hatch, Europe has long enjoyed a much broader offering of Audi's compact model, including a cabriolet model. At the 2013 Frankfurt Motor Show, the wraps are coming off the 2015 A3 Cabriolet, giving Audi's entry-level drop top sharper yet still restrained styling consistent with the brand's larger offerings, as well as a healthy helping of technology.
Based on the Volkswagen Group's new MQB modular transverse architecture, the 2015 A3 Cabriolet is slightly larger than its predecessor, but also 110 pounds lighter, coming in at just above 3000 pounds for the base model, Audi claims. The biggest dimensional change is length, with an increase from 166.9 to 174.0 inches, or just over two inches longer than the current-generation BMW 1 Series convertible. The wheelbase increases just under an inch from its predecessor from 101.5 inches to 102.4 in. Width also increases slightly from 69.7 inches to 70.4 inches, making it wider than the 68.8-inch wide 1 Series convertible. Height decreases by just over a half-inch to give it a more aggressive look. But that added length was not just for aesthetic purposes. Cargo capacity increases by 2.12 cubic feet.
Following the pattern of other recent Audi models, the A3 Cabriolet’s front end employs Audi's so-called "Singleframe" modified hexagonal grille opening, flanked by two tapered headlight clusters giving the front end a sharp, purposeful appearance. The taillights echo the theme, tapering to a pointed edge toward the middle of the trunklid's vertical plane. Naturally for an Audi, the A3 Cabriolet offers optional full-LED headlights, with segment-exclusive variable headlight leveling control.
Three trim levels will be offered in Europe, Attraction, Ambition and Ambiente. The Ambition trim also offers an available S line sport package with an all-black interior. The generously sized wheel wells can house up to 19-inch wheels and tires, with the largest size being the 235/35-19s offered on the top-of-the-line S3 performance model.
Like the exterior, the A3 Cabriolet’s interior is characterized by Audi's simplicity and attention to detail. The dashboard has a center power-retractable seven-inch flat-screen display that punctuates the minimalist dashboard. But just because the interior is clutter-free doesn’t mean it's devoid of features. In addition to the MMI display, the center console houses the MMI controller that can sense character input by fingertip on the top of the knob, a technology first used in the Audi A8 flagship sedan. Lending legitimacy to Audi's high-tech reputation is an available built-in LTE hotspot, and Google Earth and Street View functions in the navigation system, as well as Facebook and Twitter updates. European customers will also get parking space availability information, a key feature in Europe's densely populated urban centers. For audiophiles, a Bang & Olufsen sound system is optional.
Other driver safety and convenience features available on the A3 Cabriolet include adaptive cruise control, active lane assist, traffic sign recognition, park assist, and Audi's pre sense safety system.
As with the larger A5 Cabriolet, the A3 is a soft-top. The standard color is black, but black, gray, or brown top colors will also be available on the optional acoustic top featuring additional sound-deadening insulation. Even with the top fully retracted – a process that takes 18 seconds and can be done at speeds up to 31 mph – the A3 Cabriolet still offers a relatively generous 10 cubic feet of cargo volume, which can be further extended by the folding rear seats.
Performance levels in the A3 Cabriolet range from mild to habañero hot, but all engines have stop-start technology. The base engine is Audi's 140-hp 1.4-liter gasoline turbo, with a 180-hp 1.8-liter TFSI available. A 2.0-liter TDI turbodiesel balances economy and performance with 163 hp. For those looking for maximum excitement, the S3 model will have a 300-hp, 280-lb-ft turbocharged 2.0-liter I-4, with a projected 0-62 time of 5.4 seconds. The base 1.4-liter TFSI should complete the task in a respectable, if not scorching 9.1 seconds. The 1.4-liter and TDI will both be offered exclusively with a six-speed manual. The 1.8-liter TFSI gets a seven-speed dual-clutch, while the S3 gets a beefier six-speed dual-clutch transmission. For the first time, the A3 Cabriolet will be offered with optional all-wheel-drive.
The A3 Cabriolet will be built in Audi's Gyor, Hungary plant, and will be available for order in Germany in fall 2013, with sales starting in the first quarter of 2014. While the 2015 Audi A3 will be introduced in the U.S. in the new sedan body style, it’s not clear whether we’ll ever see the A3 Cabriolet in this market.