The Audi A3 Cabriolet is an interesting vehicle. With its fabric roof up, it’s quiet and comfortable pretty much like the regular A3 sedan but with the roof off; it turns into a classy boulevard cruiser, rolling top down through the bustling streets and reaping attention of onlookers as you crawl through traffic. This is basically what cabriolets do – there’s something quite mystic about driving them but they are not the most practical of cars. The A3 Cabriolet, though, proved to be rather practical (with its neat roof arraignment and proper seating for four) when we first sampled it back in 2015.
Fast forward to today and we have just driven the 2017 A3 Cabriolet which brings everything that was good about the old version, but adds edgier styling, new paint options and a substantially different driving experience. Let’s take a closer look and gauge the improvements that make up the 2017 model.
Take a look at the exterior from any angle, and it’s hard to believe that the base of this design has been around for several years now. The 2017 model is essentially a facelift and in typical Audi fashion, the styling upgrades are limited but substantial nonetheless. The updates, in fact, include a new single frame grille and LED headlights featuring the same kink as the new A4. The taillights, too, have different detailing to them and feature dynamic turn indicators.
All in all, the 2017 model, especially in this fiery yellow paint, makes a statement irrespective of whether it’s stationary or on the move. The side profile looks well balanced even with the fabric roof on which can be had in black, grey or red. As for the operability, the roof takes 18 seconds to go up and down and can be operated at speeds of up to 50kmph.
The cabin design may appear slightly dull but there is no denying that it’s beautifully made and finished to the standard you would expect of a high-end Audi. Positives inhere include dark black textures, plush leather and good quality materials such as the circular air vents and switchgear on the centre console. Audi has also retained the all-black wraparound dash design with horizontal lines which heighten the sense of width.
Despite the shortened wheelbase, comfort levels up front are on par with the rest of the A3 range. There is more than enough shoulder support and good cushioning. The under thigh support, too, is commendable. What’s definitely better though is the view out when the roof is down - the thin A-pillar, low-set door mounted wing mirrors and the absence of B-pillar all add up to provide brilliant visibility all round. Being a 2+2, you wouldn’t really expect it to accommodate two full-size adults at the back and in truth, it’s barely acceptable for short drives. Still, headroom and legroom is decent and it’s best to keep the rear reserved for kids. That being said, the pair of seats are heavily contoured and as a result, very supportive for those small enough to fit into them. Speaking of squeezing stuff, the boot space has been reduced from the standard A3’s 425-litres to 320-litres to accommodate the roof mechanism. Now although its opening is wide, filling it with large suitcases is plain impossible because of the enclosure’s lack of height and depth.
The 2017 A3 Cabriolet gets wireless phone charging function and full LED headlights as all-new features. It also gets dual-zone climate control, leather upholstery, front and rear parking sensors and a 7-inch retractable screen for the MMI infotainment system. What it doesn’t get though are features like start/stop button, keyless entry and electric adjustment for the seats.
The biggest change on the new A3 Cabriolet can be found as soon as you peek under the hood. Gone is the old 1.8-litre 177bhp motor and in its place is a smaller albeit gutsy 1.4-litre unit with 150bhp and 250Nm of torque between 1,500 and 3,000rpm. Twisting out similar torque figure as the 1.8, this 1.4 motor is particularly interesting because it has cylinder-on-demand tech, which shuts down two of the four cylinders when you are just toddling around. Then, as you floor it, all four cylinders fire up for maximum go.
The 1.4-litre motor is a cracker, with a raspy note that muscles up as the revs rise. The same engine – that is relatively quiet under the A3 sedan’s hood – morphs into bit of a screamer when the roof is put down.
Around town, the motor is surprisingly brisk, providing strong pulling power from around 2,000rpm. It makes as much torque as the 1.8-litre unit and is fairly lively too, towards the top-end. When strapped to our timing gear, the car posted a 0-100kmph sprint time of 9.65 seconds, hitting 150kmph in 22.39 seconds before reaching its top speed of 220kmph. Where this 1.4 cannot match the bigger motor though is during in-gear acceleration – it doesn’t pull as hard as the older car despite the engine’s strong mid-range and top-end. Where the 1.8-litre motor pushed you back in your seat, the 1.4-litre motor feels more linear and laidback in the way it goes about its work. To put it in figures, the 2017 model does 20-80kmph and 40-100kmph (in kick-down) in-gear sprints in 5.36 and 6.69 seconds respectively.
The 7-speed S-tronic gearbox has two modes: D and S, and as you would expect, shifting to S results in it holding on to higher rpm and shifting up near the redline at about 6,000rpm. This gearbox continues to impress us with its ferocity and responsiveness and is buttery smooth on the move. In stop/start traffic, however, it tends to get confused and jerky especially. We also felt some delay in the gearbox transferring torque to the front wheels under hard launches.
The new A3 sedan impressed us as far as dynamics are concerned and the same holds true to the Cabriolet. What became instantly clear after getting behind the wheel is that it’s a very tight and well executed drop top. Even on bad roads, there is no squeaking, rattle or shimmy to be heard or felt with the fabric roof up. Drop the top and there’s no nasty scuttle shake or juddering to contend with either. The ride quality of this Audi impresses even more. Riding on fairly high profile tyres, it’s suspension ably deals with rough roads, and the whole car remains well planted – something not every convertible vehicle can claim. Driving over some pretty sharp-edged road joints and pot holes, we noticed it failed to disrupt the car’s poise with little in terms of vertical movement and harshness. At high speeds, however, there is some wind noise coming from around the rear quarter glass when driving with the roof up.
As for the steering feel, it’s light around town and overall, surprisingly direct and offers a nice level of feel and feedback. Although there is some body roll when you want to clear your head with some spirited driving, the A3 stays composed and never feels unnerving even near the limit of grip.
|Max. Power (bhp@rpm)||150bhp @5100RPM|
|Max. torque (Nm@rpm)||250Nm @1250RPM|
|Fuel Capacity (in litres)||50|
|MMI infotainment system||Yes|
|Wireless mobile charging||Yes|
|Full LED headlights||Yes|
Competition All Specs
|Variant||Convertible S||35 TFSI|
|Max. Power (bhp@rpm)||189bhp @ 5000 RPM||150bhp @5100RPM|
|Max. torque (Nm@rpm)||280Nm @ 1250 RPM||250Nm @1250RPM|
|Fuel Capacity (in litres)||44||50|
Even though it’s based on their entry-level sedan, the A3 Cabriolet is far off Audi India’s mainstream offerings. At Rs 47.98 lakh ex-showroom, it’s a niche product, one that hardly has any competition to face. Price wise, the closest 2-door convertible comes from Mini Cooper which costs a lot less at Rs 34.90 lakh but the fact remains that it’s nowhere as practical or well put together as the A3.
Indeed for its willing powertrain, quality cabin and the neat roof, the A3 Cabriolet should muscle its way towards the top of the list for those looking for the unmatchable thrill of driving under the sun, with infinite headroom and the ‘wind rush’. We wish the 2017 model had more equipment, but when it looks this good and attracts as many eyeballs as it does, it’s safe to say that Audi has delivered on something that should appeal to the target buyer in a manner precisely as intended.