2017 Audi A3 Cabriolet Road Test

 Copyright: Canadian Auto Press Inc.

Stunning new styling and more for Audi's compact convertible 

There's no better time to contemplate a new convertible than springtime, with the warmth of summer just around the corner. Fortunately, Audi Downtown Vancouver has the ideal answer to your newfound dilemma of which drop-top to buy.

Take a look at the recently updated 2017 Audi A3 Cabriolet, a refreshed version of the entry-level luxury convertible that's made a comfortable home for itself just below the TT Roadster and A5 Cabriolet since it debuted for the 2015 model year.

The stylish drop-top received a new chiseled edginess to its design in the form of new sharply scalloped standard HID and as-tested optional full LED headlamp clusters bookending a broader more angular grille frame, this latter item visually floating above a variety of reshaped lower fascias; the differing fascia designs dependent on whether the $1,800 S Line sport package is added or not (my loaner has it). New lenses and a revised array of standard LEDs update the look of the already stunning blade-shaped tail lamps, whereas the bumper below gets a few tweaks to make it new.


On that note, the just mentioned S Line package not only enhances the front fascia, but also provides rocker extensions down each side and a new bumper cap with intricately fashioned diffuser-style details for the rear lower fascia, this latter addition worth the price of admission alone.

As always with a mid-cycle update, Audi added new standard and optional wheel choices to the mix, while new exterior paint finishes are also on the menu. All in all the updates modernize the A3 Cabriolet's look and aligns it more fully with the rest of Audi's lineup, but I must say the outgoing version didn't need many changes to bring it up to speed.


The A3 Cabriolet's interior is second to none 

Where Audi often wins against rivals is interior design and execution. Tasteful minimalism continues, as do high quality surface treatments that include plenty of soft synthetics, genuine aluminum inlays and accents, plus rich leathers.

As for all-important electronic interfaces, the A3's infotainment system continues to power up out of the dash upon startup, which is a bonus for those who'd rather stow it away during night driving. The display is controlled by a beautifully finished rotating aluminum dial with classy knurled edges. It's situated on the lower console, making it easy to perform handwriting gestures, as well as pinch, swipe and tap inputs on the knob's matte black circular top. The Audi MMI system's brains get filled with much of the latest tech, such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus various apps like Spotify and WhatsApp, and more when upgraded to the $600 Audi Smartphone interface (which is standard in $46,900 second-tier Progressiv and $51,300 top-line Technik trims), while its new iPhone-inspired graphics and more intelligent interface make it easier to figure out.


Epic "Virtual Cockpit" is a must-have option 

Even more impressive is Audi's fully configurable "Virtual Cockpit" TFT gauge cluster, new for the A3 this year and totally worth the upgrade to Technik trim. It's a 12.3-inch digital display that completely replaces the base and mid-range models' traditional dual-dial analogue gauge package, and in the process offers a number of driver selectable configurations. The most interesting is a steering wheel-mounted "VIEW" button that reduces the size of the digital tachometer and speedometer before placing them to each side, at which point the centre-mounted colour multi-information display grows to epic proportions. When navigation is chosen, an eye-arresting array of colourful maps takes over most of the primary cluster. By scrolling through the steering wheel controls you can use this feature for enhanced readability of other functions as well, and then when needing to check up on vital driving info you can simply press the view button again.

I could go on talking about the Virtual Cockpit ad nauseam, or for that matter the A3 Cabriolet cabin's improved switchgear, much of which now utilizes white backlighting for a bright, modern look, or we could all just celebrate that a USB port is now standard across the A3 line, but we really need to get into the nitty-gritty of performance. 


Performance remains strong yet wonderfully smooth and efficient 

Just like earlier models, the 2017 A3 Cabriolet automatically upgrades the engine from the A3 Sedan's base front-drive layout to standard Quattro AWD, which means the drop-top model misses out on the four-door's all-new 186 horsepower 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder (which replaced the old 170 horsepower 1.8-litre turbo mill), the engine now making 236 lb-ft of torque and improved fuel economy thanks to a new combustion process, auto start/stop, and a new seven-speed dual-clutch "S tronic" automatic, but the A3 Cabriolet's carryover 2.0-litre four is still very competitive thanks to 220 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, as is its quick-shifting six-speed twin-clutch automated transmission, the difference from last year being a new auto start/stop system just like on the lesser drivetrain.

Like with the sedan's base engine, auto start/stop reduces emissions and fuel consumption, the 2017 A3 Cab's claimed five-cycle economy being a very reasonable 10.8 L/100km city, 8.0 highway and 9.5  combined. Some might scoff at the importance of fuel economy to those who purchase a sporty premium convertible, but not everyone who buys Audi's entry-level drop-top does so to win stoplight wars or carve up canyon corners.

For those that choose performance over pragmatism the A3 Cab scoots to 100km/h in just 6.3 seconds and on to a 209-km/h top speed, more than enough to get you in serious trouble with the law. My tester was upgraded with a gorgeous set of 19-inch machine-finished five-spoke alloys shod in 235/35 Continental ContiSportContact summer performance tires, providing a nice balance of comfort with superb at-the-limit cornering capability.


Handling and ride quality have always been A3 Cabriolet hallmarks 

While suitable for slicing up the tight switchbacks of a serpentine two-lane mountain road, the A3 Cab is a particularly agile handler around town too, while I've always found Quattro all-wheel drive comes in especially handy when a dry spell ends and rain or snow descends.

The A3 Cab's four-cylinder spools up power quickly while making the most of the six-speed gearbox it's mated too, a set of quick reacting paddles at the back of the steering wheel providing a high level of driver engagement.

This is joined by Audi's optional Drive Select, providing Comfort, Auto and a Dynamic modes, the latter for enhancing the already nicely set up MacPherson strut front and four-link rear suspension system, with the result being sharper steering and a tauter ride, while snappier gear changes occur when pushing the shift lever to the right for "S" sport manual mode.

To be totally truthful, I found myself driving slower than usual with the A3 Cabriolet. There's something about dropping the top on a sunny day that makes me want to take in Vancouver's stunning surrounding scenery, and the car's easygoing stride (when not in Dynamic mode), compliant ride (surprisingly so considering its big footprint), and overall comfortable demeanor leant itself to laid back motoring.


Fast and convenient convertible top opens up to the skies in seconds 

The top fully retracts in less than 20 seconds (or alternatively it takes about 30 seconds to deploy), and can be lowered (or vice versa) while driving at speeds up to 50 km/h, so you don't need to worry about doing so while waiting at a stoplight. All four windows can be powered up or down buy a single button too, a convenient feature found just aft of the four individual power window switches on the driver's door. When upright, the three-layer soft top gets a nicely finished fabric liner that hides plenty of insulation for year-round warmth and coupe-like silence, plus it provides good rear visibility for a convertible thanks to large rear quarter windows and a sizeable piece of glass at the back (all of which are also heat-insulating).

It's best to take in the interior with top down on a sunny day, a quick walk-around revealing stunning satin-finish aluminum trim around the rear of the passenger compartment, butting up against thinner strips of the same material running along the lower edge of each side window, before meeting up with the pièce de résistance, a set of aluminum capped A-pillars.


The interior is so good we can't help but go into more detail 

Open the door and slide into the leather-upholstered driver's seat and the same satin-silver aluminum joins additional metal textures throughout the cabin. I know it sounds like aluminum overkill, yet the way it all comes together is hardly overdone. As is the case with all Audis, premium detailing combines with sporting overtones in equal amounts, the German brand finding the ideal balance of luxury and performance in styling and chosen materials too.

Those powered front seats are very adjustable, wonderfully comfortable and supportive overall, and as-tested even incorporate four-way powered lumbar at back and extendable squabs up front, if you'd like more support under your thighs. Of course, they're three-way heatable too.

As already noted the Virtual Cockpit slays all competitors when it comes to wow factor and real-world functionality, but the dual-zone auto HVAC interface is beautiful bit of user-friendly eye-candy too, while the previously noted infotainment system's display delivers ultra-sharp resolution with depth of colour that's beautifully rich, and the graphics are as attractive as the system is intuitive to use. What's more, the backup camera is extremely clear and supplies dynamic guidelines for easing your way into a chosen parking spot, while the navigation system provided extremely accurate guidance. Additionally, the stock Audi stereo is very good, but the optional 13-speaker, 625-watt Bang and Olufsen system fitted to my tester makes a massive difference in sound quality.


S Line package adds some serious sport for very little money 

Directly in front of the driver is a sensational leather-wrapped flat-bottomed multifunction steering wheel with paddle shifters and heatable elements, this part of the aforementioned S Line upgrade package that also enhances exterior styling with a sportier front and rear fascias, side sill extensions, and the previously fawned over brushed aluminum trim, a 15-mm lower sport suspension, unique S line badged metal doorsills, front sport seats, a black headliner, Audi drive select, and (normally) 18-inch alloys on 225/40 all-seasons (mine upgraded as noted).

I should mention a handful of Technik features not yet named, which include auto on/off LED headlights with heated washer nozzles, dynamic cornering and auto high beams, LED daytime running lights, LED taillights with dynamic indicators, heated power-adjustable side mirrors with ultra-slim integrated LED turn signals and driver's side auto-dimming, proximity-sensing keyless access with pushbutton ignition, an electromechanical parking brake, LED interior lighting, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, rain-sensing wipers, cruise control, Bluetooth with audio streaming, satellite radio, front and rear parking sensors, electronic immobilization, an alarm system, and an attachable rear-seat wind blocker.


Safety is a key Audi trademark in convertibles too 

The A3 Cabriolet Technik includes all the expected active and passive safety features too, such as Audi pre sense basic, which instantly prepares the car for an impending impact by synching up the seatbelts, closing the side windows, and if required, deploying the rear roll bars (the windshield cross-member acts as a front roll bar); Audi side assist with cross traffic assist, which monitors both sides as well as the backside of the car for approaching vehicles and then flashes a warning signal from the side mirror, or alternatively warns from passing traffic when backing out of a driveway or parking spot.

The only A3 Cabriolet Technik options include the aforementioned S Line sport package, the big 19-inch rims and rubber, various $800 metallic paint hues, no-cost Black or Chestnut Brown interior motifs, and a $1,400 Technology package that making long trips less arduous thanks to adaptive cruise control with stop and go capability, whereas active lane keep assist forces you back into your lane if you try to change lanes while a vehicle is in your blindspot or if you veer off the road.

If the A3 Cab has a set of nicely appointed rear seats, especially handy if you have kids, plus a 279-litre trunk that's amply sized for a weekend getaway even if golf clubs are required, much thanks to 50/50 split-folding rear seatbacks that can be lowered by levers on the cargo walls. Alternatively, if you don't mind traveling with the soft top up, a partition in the trunk can be lifted to expand its usefulness to 320 litres.


A3 Cabriolet is packed with value no matter the trim  

In the end, the updated 2017 A3 Cabriolet is a fun to drive, fuel-efficient, comfortable four-season convertible filled with impressive luxury details and state-of-the-art tech. What's more, Audi delivers the price advantage over its competitors in $43,800 base or top-line trim, making it a particularly good value.

Make sure to spend some quality time in a new 2017 A3 Cabriolet this spring, so you can enjoy it every sunny summer day.


Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press 
Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press 
Copyright: Canadian Auto Press Inc.
// //