Cabernet Franc is a black grape grown just to make Cabernet Sauvignon wine from it. The wine one of the most widely preferred one and it is a hybrid of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. Making wine is complicated, and so is designing a cabriolet. Because a cabriolet also has a fixed hard top version and both the designs need to be impressive. A cabriolet buyer looks at a car differently from a normal car buyer. We have got our hands on Audi’s new A3 Cabriolet which is certainly the most affordable luxury cabriolet in India. Read further as we take down the top
EXTERIOR AND DESIGN ;
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.
INTERIOR AND SPACE ;
There are four seats in the cabin, but let’s call it a 2+2 rather than a four-seater, because the two rear seats are narrow and only useable if the front seats are set a fair bit forward, and even then it’s a squeeze. That said, the front half of the cabin is pretty much identical to a top-spec A3 sedan. It’s upholstered in the sportier black leather trim, fit and finish are top notch, and it’s loaded up with equipment, including dual-zone climate control, a touchpad for the MMI system, and the optional Bang & Olufsen audio and satellite navigation on our test car. One thing that is missing, however, are powered front seats, which is a glaring omission on such an expensive car.
The other big problem with convertibles is, of course, that the boot space is compromised by the folding roof. That’s the case here too, but considering how compact this car is, 320 litres of storage is not too bad. And though the load area is not very tall, it is just as wide and long as in the sedan, so while large suitcases will be a problem, you can easily get a few soft bags in there without issue.
ENGINE AND PERFORMANCE ;
The Audi A3 Cabriolet only comes with a petrol engine and the 40 TFSI motor has got much applaud for its performance. In the A3 sedan, the petrol mill gets overshadowed in lieu of the more frugal oil burner but in the A3 Cab, one can’t help but get addicted to the performance. The 1.8-litre gasoline powerplant outputs 180 HP but what’s crucial is the torque output of 250 Nm, from as low as 1250 RPM, going up all the way to 5000 RPM, that is a massive torque band, more so by petrol car standards. 0-100 km/hr comes up in 7.83 seconds as per our VBOX tests which is half a second slower than the sedan due to the 135 kgs increase in weight over the petrol A3 sedan caused by the roof operating electronics.
This 1.8 TFSI mill also powers a range of Volkswagen Group cars and the more praises showered on it, the less it is. The car idles with super smoothness and is refined at all times. Give it the beans and it spins to its 6500 RPM redline with no effort at all, having a linear pull throughout the rev range. The A3 Cabriolet sounds very exciting and although its twin exhausts emit the same aural bass as the sedan, the shorter length of the car makes them more vocal inside the cabin, more so with the roof down. The vehicle reaches the ton in third gear while at the same speed in top gear, it does 2100 RPM on the tachometer, having a lot of punch for quick overtakes. The top speed is 240 km/hr and the A3 Cabriolet pulls to high speeds in a flash.
Audi has paired the A3’s 1.8 TFSI mill to a 7-speed S-tronic automatic gearbox. This dual-clutch unit offers smooth shifts and shows signs of urgency when you need quick cog changes. The vehicle comes with Audi Drive Select with five modes – Efficiency, Comfort, Dynamic, Auto and Individual. The modes change the way the gearbox goes about doing its job while also altering the engine response. The car is also offered with the option of a sporty 3-spoke steering wheel (the standard wheel is 4-spokes) which brings along paddle shifters too although without this option, one can still take control of things using the tiptronic function on the gear lever, there is also a Sports mode there. The A3 Cabriolet returns a mileage of 9-12 km/l, it benefits from a recuperation system that boosts mileage by up to 3%.
RIDE AND HANDLING ;
As we have always maintained, the Audi A3 is quite a comfortable car and this holds true with the convertible variant too. In fact, the A3 convertible lacks the typical uneasiness that comes the lack of a roof. We also were pleasantly surprised at how the Audi A3 is high enough to traverse some pretty unforgiving terrain and not bottom out even once! Coming back to the ride quality though, although the A3 does ride really well, with the roof up we did find the constant creaking and rattling of the roof frame to be rather annoying especially while traversing over rougher roads.
If there was ever a car though where visibility wasn’t an issue though, it would be the A3 convertible. The new windscreen though might be a bit of a hassle to people who are over 6 feet tall as it has been inclined inwards and lowered as compared as the one you find on the sedan.
Now most cars that often start out as sedans and then make their way to the convertible body style often get a little soft when it comes to the way they handle as they loose most of their rigidity. The A3 cabriolet though feels almost similar to its four-door cousin in the way it handles. This only holds true till a certain limit of course. At higher speeds, the A3 convertible does feel a little uncomfortable, especially around long swooping corners with randomly placed undulation like the found a dime a dozen on India’s highways.
And in any case, the A3 convertible was never meant to be a sports car but more of a boulevard cruiser. A car you take to your holiday home at the nearest hill station or something you take out at night for a relaxing drive with a buddy or two.
SAFETY AND SECURITY ;
Every version of the Cabriolet comes with stability control and front, side and curtain airbags. You have to pay extra for Audi’s Pre-sense system, though, which automatically primes the safety kit if it senses a collision is inevitable.
It’s quite expensive but the optional Driver assistance package bundles up some impressive driver aids including adaptive cruise control, active lane assist and Audi parking system. Far cheaper is optional Audi side assist, which monitors the car’s rear blindspots and alerts the driver if another vehicle is present or approaching at speed. Adaptive cruise control with Pre-sense front is also a good value-for-money package featuring valuable safety aids.
The A3 Cabriolet hasn’t been crash tested by Euro NCAP, but the A3 hatch on which it’s based has. It was awarded an impressive five-star rating, and a particularly strong score for adult crash protection. Its child protection rating was only reasonable – slightly worse than a VW Golf’s.
Deadlocks and an alarm with immobiliser are fitted as standard, and the A3 Cabriolet received the maximum five stars from security body Thatcham for its resistance to being stolen. It also scored four out of five for its resistance to being broken into.
Billed as a lifestyle product, the A3 cabriolet definitely has quite a bit going on for it. The engine is punchy, it looks pretty decent and thanks to some good German engineering is a lot of fun to drive. I have to admit that it is not a perfect package and comes with its own set of flaws like the hard ride, lack of certain features and compromise on space. However, these are mostly minor and in the case of the feature list it is not like what is already available is anything low-rent.
What you do get in plenty if you buy and drive an A3 cabriolet is obviously the top-down experience (one with Mother Nature). More importantly, it provides you with a fun experience both if you’re behind the wheel or even sitting as a passenger, which is essentially the very idea behind the existence of a budget convertible. You also enjoy a fair bit of attention due to the rarity of the vehicle and obviously the convertible nature of the car.