Audi on Tuesday unveiled a new generation of its A3 compact car, in five-door Sportback guise. An A3 sedan will follow shortly after and there will once again be high-performance RS 3 versions of each. This time around we won't see an A3 Cabriolet, though.
The new A3 Sportback will start sales in Europe later this year but a local launch is unlikely. Instead, Audi fans in the United States can look forward to the A3 sedan arriving in late 2021 as a 2022 model.
The new A3 is more of a heavy update than a true redesign. The car shares its MQB modular platform with the outgoing A3 but features new systems for the all-wheel drive, suspension damping, and speed-sensitive steering.
2021 Audi A3 Sportback
For the all-wheel drive, which will be standard on some models but available on others, the system is able to adjust torque distribution based in information gathered from suspension sensors, road conditions, and driving style. In normal conditions most of the drive torque is sent to the front wheels for maximum efficiency, but when necessary 100 percent of the torque can be sent to the rear wheels. Torque to individual wheels can also be controlled via a brake-based system linked with the vehicle's electronic stability control which also benefits from three levels of control (ESC On, Sport and ESC Off). When cornering hard, the torque distribution system applies the brakes slightly to the two wheels on the inside of the bend, helping to improve turn-in response.
Audi has also developed a new speed-sensitive steering system for the A3 that will be offered in sportier variants. It's still electrically assisted but feel has been improved because of a special shape and toothing of the rack and pinion steering system that results in different gear ratios depending on the steering angle. So when the steering wheel is in the center position, such as driving at higher speeds on the highway, the steering ratio is 14.3:1. At lower speeds, like in a parking lot, the ratio is higher to enable easier manoeuvrability. In addition, as the speed increases, the power assistance is decreased continuously to provide a more assured, weighty feel when the driver heads out onto a highway.
Audi will also offer on its new A3 suspension damping with three levels of control (Comfort, Auto and Dynamic). These rely on information from sensors that measure the vertical acceleration of the body and the relative movement of the individual wheels in relation to it. Audi said the system will be a standard feature of most models in the new A3 range.
2021 Audi A3 Sportback
Depending on the market, the new A3 will launch with a gasoline-powered 1.5-liter turbocharged inline-4 or a diesel-powered 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4. Transmission options will include 6-speed manual and 7-speed dual-clutch units. Specifications for the United States will be announced closer to the market launch.
What we do know is that performance fans can once again look forward to S3 and RS 3 models. The S3 should come with a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 and the RS 3 with a 2.5-liter turbocharged inline-5.
The interior of the new A3 is a very high-tech place to be. There are elements borrowed from Audi's larger models like a 10.1-inch touchscreen for the infotainment system that can recognize letters entered by hand and responds to natural-speak instructions. A digital instrument cluster is also included and a color head-up display is available.