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A3 TDI: Miser in King's Clothing - DrivingScene

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A3 TDI: Miser in King’s Clothing

Posted on 12 November 2012 by Adam Kaslikowski

Webster’s dictionary defines the worst way to start any piece of writing as quoting Webster’s dictionary. What’s the best way? Science has yet to tell us. Just one more thing those pompous scientists have failed us on. Others include decent pop music, microwave meals that don’t suck, and a way to get great gas mileage without having to be inside a Prius.

The lab coats at the Volkswagen Group are actually coming along on that last one. The TDI engine has owned the diesel passenger car market here in the states for years now, mostly being led by the TDI Jetta – which has been killing the sales charts. But what if the lovely VW is not enough for your bourgeoisie tastes? How will you know if Audi’s entry into diesel locomotion can satisfy you? That’s why I’m here friend.

The A3 TDI takes all that diesel goodness – great fuel economy, buckets of torque – and wraps it in the svelte A3 silhouette. The A3 has always been a handsome car, and having an oil burner upfront does nothing to change that. The long hood and short rump hint at a sporting character that is not altogether absent. The large chrome grill is well suited for mowing down bugs and the proletariat alike. The LED running lights may no longer be unique, but I still think Audi has some of the best executed.

Inside the cabin you’re greeted by a sea of black leather. I hope monochrome and drab are two of your style points, because the A3 interior is not what anyone would call adventuresome. Despite it’s one-note appearance, because it’s an Audi you know everything is screwed and bolted together with a ruthless efficiency. Don’t expect any squeaks or rattles out of this cabin for sometime to come.

The gauges are bright and modern; I especially enjoyed watching the thin needles sweeping across the digits when illuminated at night. The HVAC controls are logically laid out, and the stereo had no problem destroying my eardrums. Despite the car’s small exterior footprint, it capably handled large and oddly shaped loads (there’s a porn joke in there somewhere everywhere), including  my bicycle. I’m glad it’s good at hauling cargo, because it is less well suited for handling passengers. The rear seats offer only enough room to accommodate short trips or gawky teenagers. Despite the four doors, I used this car as more of a two-door wagon.

And what of driving the A3 TDI you ask? Well that depends on how well socially adjusted you are. If you vote, pay your taxes, and don’t have homicidal thoughts at grocery checkout lines, then the A3 TDI will probably do you just fine. If none of those things are true – and thus you are like me – you will find the turbo lag utterly infuriating. Not just infuriating, but also dangerous. 0 – 2500 RPM produces nothing – I mean nothing  – in terms of forward progress. This makes jetting from light to light an awkward process, and jumping out into oncoming traffic a treacherous one. You might get used to the lag and be able to time your maneuvers out correctly, but over my week with the car I was never able to get used to it.

Drive the A3 like a spinster librarian and it is quite good. Get the TDI up and moving and it is quite good. It is just from 0 to 30 mph when the trouble lies. Is it enough to ruin his car? Maybe, maybe not. Look at your driving style now and ask yourself how often you got your right foot planted into the carpet when the lights turn green.

In the end this is a compromise car. Luxury inside and out, huge cargo capacity, and a pretty decent canyon carver. Day-to-day driving is a little worse off. Depending on how you drive, you’ll either feel ensconced in luxury and smugness from your MPG numbers, or trapped inside a post modern German prison. For your sake, I hope you drive more rationally than me.

– Adam Kaslikowski