Short Term Drive: Audi A3 TDI

Yesterday, I dropped my car off for it’s 6-year scheduled maintenance and for it to be detailed (it’s been too long since I’ve had a chance to do the full treatment inside and out), and was able to get a loaner car. I was given the choice of two types of vehicles to choose from, an Audi A3 TDI and an Audi Q7 TDI. You can probably guess, I did not choose the ogre that is the Q7 TDI, not to mention, I was thrilled to be able to get a TDI as a loaner.

The loaner A3 TDI is Ice Silver Metallic with the all black interior of the included S-Line package. It’s drivetrain includes a turbocharged 2.0-litre that makes 140HP at 4200 RPM and 236 lb-ft of torque from 1750-2500 RPM, and is mated to a dual-clutch transmission (which is also known as DSG or S-Tronic in VW/Audi parlance).

Knowing that the A3 TDI can get around 40 MPG on the highway and 30 MPG in the city, I was still surprised that I was able to get around 26 MPG in stop-and-go traffic when I drove it from the dealership to work the first morning. This morning, my morning commute was clear of any slowdowns and using the shifting paddles and/or keeping it in S-mode, I was able to get around 35 MPG. I am pretty impressed with that number, since I’m a heavy guy and I was driving a bit more aggressive than usual.

Speaking of shifting and the dual-clutch transmission, it isn’t quite as butter smooth as a regular automatic transmission, but shifts were lightening fast and the paddles just clicked (short travel, good tactile stop). Being a front-wheel drive vehicle, I was expecting a bit of torque steer, but I haven’t run across any, even when I put the shifter into S-mode. I did get the tires to spin a couple of times when pressing the go pedal about two-thirds the way down from a stand still. The 0-60 time of 8.9 seconds is a bit deceiving, as there is a lovely amount of torque up front (sometimes with a slight hesitation when I press the accelerator pedal), then after a couple of seconds, it starts to calm down to a pace akin to a naturally aspirated four-banger in many compact cars.

It being diesel,the engine is a bit noisier than the Audi petrol engines that I’ve driven, but the noise isn’t a problem for me. In fact, I really like the sound of the diesel engine as it revs up, in addition to the whine of the turbocharger. After a quick sprint in the car, I couldn’t discern any of the stereotypical diesel smell from the rear when it was idling.

As far as ride quality is concerned, it is a bit stiff, thanks to the S-line’s suspension and tires, but it is not as tooth-rattling as other sports cars that I’ve been in. The seats have enough bolster and support that keeps me from being tossed around too much. Unfortunately, the seats do not go low enough for my large body, so my head is within a millimeter or two from the headliner and dangerously close to wide open glass roof.

I didn’t get a chance to test out the ultimate sound quality of the audio system, as I kept on forgetting the Aux cable for my iPod. Listening to a couple of local FM and a couple of Sirius/XM stations didn’t give me enough data to lean either way.

I like the A3 TDI, it has a good amount of get up and go (can you say torque?), pretty good ergonomics and the interior is the typical, high-end look and feel found in all modern Audis. It is a bit too small for me, which is why I would really like to see Audi replace the current 2.0TFSI-powered A4 Avant with a TDI. That would provide the perfect utility vehicle, without the bloat and lumbering characteristics of most SUVs or crossovers.

To sum it all up: we need more TDI vehicles in the United States, Audi!