Audi Unveils New A3 Wagon – But US Version Still Under Wraps
Sedan, not wagon, for America, but US will share etron plug-in.
by Paul A. Eisenstein on Mar.07, 2012
The new Audi A3 wagon got its debut in Geneva, but it'll be a while before we see the U.S. sedan.
It required an act of aggression to get anywhere near the new Audi A3 during the opening day of the Geneva Motor Show, considering the size of the crowds at the luxury maker’s stands. But an intrepid effort uncovered a new model significantly updated from the compact luxury car currently in Audi showrooms.
The basic look of the new wagon on display at the PALExpo Convention Center is familiar, with the new Audi A3 sized, overall, about the same as before – though it features a longer wheelbase and more interior space. But the new car has a more refined and elegant feel, no longer looking like the cheap, throwaway member of the family.
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But Americans shouldn’t get too comfortable with the wagon on display. It likely won’t come to the States, a senior Audi official telling TheDetroitBureau.com that the Volkswagen Group brand has developed an entirely different model for the U.S. that won’t reach showrooms until late in 2013.
“We decided not to take it,” considering wagons simply don’t connect with U.S. buyers, noted Johan de Nysschen, CEO of Audi of America. Instead, the model coming to the States is a new sedan that “doesn’t share a single body panel with this car.”
A U.S. fleet test of the plug-in etron gets underway this month.
The South African-born executive is so confident of the alternative model he is predicting Audi of America will boost A3 sales to about 30,000 annually – triple the demand for the current A3 wagon in U.S. showrooms.
That outgoing A3 wagon will remain in production through late next year, the new sedan debuting as a 2014 model.
According to de Nysschen, it took a lot of effort to convince the corporate parent to develop the sedan, what with most other markets happy to stick with a wagon. Now that the design has been locked down, however, he hints that a number of other global markets want the 4-door, as well. “Now, everybody wants this car.
Like the European wagon debuting at the Geneva Motor Show, the American Audi A3 sedan will deliver a much more roomy and lavishly equipped interior than before. And one with a lot more technology, in keeping with Audi’s interest in connected car technology.
That includes the touchpad control system first introduced on the latest A8 flagship, with a big LCD video screen to check everything out on and an optional 17-speak Bang & Olufsen audio system in the option category.
The A3 will also get plenty of practical, high-tech hardware, from an advanced park assist system to active cruise control.
One of the features Audi is particularly proud of is the extensive use of aluminum and other lightweight materials in the new A3. The next-gen wagon weighs in with a 1.4-liter gas engine weighs in at just 2,590 pounds, or 176 pounds less than the outgoing model.
Powertrain choices will be extensive, depending on market, with a range of gas and diesel alternatives. Considering the current A3 TDI won the coveted Green Car of the Year trophy at the Los Angeles Auto Show a couple years back it’s no surprise to hear Audi of America CEO de Nysschen confirm the U.S. A3 sedan will also get battery power.
The American edition will also follow the Europeans in getting a new battery driveline. A fleet test of the so-called etron system is just getting underway in the States, in fact, using the outgoing wagon. (For more on that fleet test, Click Here.)
“It’s planned as part of the product cycle,” noted de Nysschen, “but there is no date behind it” yet.
While Audi is developing several different etron powertrains, including a full battery-electric driveline, “a plug-in is likely because it is more suitable than pure battery power” for the States. De Nysschen cautioned that the price premium for the technology is “likely to be a barrier” to strong demand, but it should be “easier in the luxury segment” to convince buyers to cough up the extra cash, especially the way U.S. fuel prices are trending.