Track Tested: 2009 Audi A3 2.0T vs. 2009 Audi A4 2.0T Quattro


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We've all heard it a million times. Americans don't dig hatchbacks. The Euros can't get enough of them, but bring one to the States and it instantly becomes some kind of niche vehicle with a cult following. A very small cult following.

Audi knew all this when it introduced the A3 back in 2006, but it plowed ahead anyway. It was hoping that the A3's more reasonable price, potent 2.0-liter engine and useful configuration would finally win over some buyers who couldn't quite step up to an A4 Avant.

So how much are you giving up by choosing the A3 over the all-new A4 these days? The balance of power has shifted a bit, as the A4 now uses an upgraded 2.0T that delivers 211 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. The A3's similar size four-cylinder continues with 200 hp and 207 lb-ft.

In this case, our A3 tester was helped out by the presence of a six-speed manual transmission and front-wheel drive to save some weight. The more powerful A4 uses a traditional six-speed automatic funneled through a Quattro all-wheel-drive system. Care to guess which one was the better track car? Full details after the jump.

Vehicle: 2009 Audi A3 2.0T

Odometer: 6,421
Date: 05/19/09
Driver: Chris Walton
Price: $34,520

Specifications:
Drive Type: Front-wheel drive
Transmission Type: 6-speed manual
Engine Type: Inline-4
Displacement (cc / cu-in): 1,984cc (121 cu-in)
Redline (rpm): 6,500
Horsepower (hp @ rpm): 200 @ 5,100
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm): 207 @ 1,800
Brake Type (front): Ventilated disc
Brake Type (rear): Disc
Steering System: Electric speed-proportional power steering
Suspension Type (front): Independent, MacPherson struts
Suspension Type (rear): Independent, multilink
Tire Size (front): 225/40R18 92Y
Tire Size (rear): 225/40R18 92Y
Tire Brand: Bridgestone
Tire Model: Potenza RE050A
Tire Type: Summer
Wheel Size: 18-by-7.5 inches
Wheel Material (front/rear): Alloy
As tested Curb Weight (lb): 3,288

Test Results:
0 - 30 (sec): 2.7
0 - 45 (sec): 4.7
0 - 60 (sec): 7.2
0 - 75 (sec): 10.1
1/4 Mile (sec @ mph): 15.2 @ 92.6
0-60 with 1-ft Rollout (sec): 6.9
30 - 0 (ft): 27
60 - 0 (ft): 107
Braking Rating: Excellent
Slalom (mph): 68.3
Skid Pad Lateral acceleration (g): 0.90
Handling Rating: Excellent
Db @ Idle: 44.3
Db @ Full Throttle: 74.6
Db @ 70 mph Cruise: 69.5

Acceleration Comments: Crazy wheel hop almost makes my vision blurry. Even with a gentle clutch-intensive launch, going to WOT spins the tires. Lots of torque available. That said, the clutch pedal is very soft (too soft) and shifter is equally feathery. Good gear spacing keeps it in the power. (Forgot to make a run with TC on)

Braking Comments: Powerful and consistent. No fade detected in five-plus stops. Moderate pedal effort.

Handling Comments: Skid pad: First attempt in 3rd gear proved difficult due to lagging throttle response. Better results in 2nd gear with higher rpm, but then coated the intake with oil slosh, producing a big cloud of smoke. Otherwise, the steering feels a little strange and springy. ESP breathes off the throttle before going to brakes. Slalom: Neutral up to a point, then oversteers on the limit. A bit roly-poly but it manages to hang on and remain controllable. Again, steering is precise/quick, but doesn't "feel" natural. Felt like it had an LSD because the exit was easy at wide-open throttle.

Vehicle: 2009 Audi A4 2.0T Quattro
Odometer: 4,732
Date: 12/30/08
Driver: Chris Walton
Price: $46,675

Specifications:
Drive Type: All-wheel drive
Transmission Type: 6-speed automatic
Engine Type: Inline-4
Displacement (cc/cu-in): 1,984cc (121 cu-in)
Redline (rpm): 6,800
Horsepower (hp @ rpm): 211 @ 5,500
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm): 258 @ 1,500
Brake Type (front): Ventilated disc
Brake Type (rear): Disc
Steering System: Electric speed-proportional power steering
Suspension Type (front): Independent, multilink
Suspension Type (rear): Independent, multilink
Tire Size (front): 245/40R18 93H
Tire Size (rear): 245/40R18 93H
Tire Brand: Pirelli
Tire Model: P6 Four seasons
Tire Type: All-season
Wheel Size: 18-by-8 inches
Wheel Material (front/rear): Alloy
As tested Curb Weight (lb): 3,770

Test Results:
0 - 30 (sec): 2.3
0 - 45 (sec): 4.0
0 - 60 (sec): 6.5
0 - 75 (sec): 9.6
1/4 Mile (sec @ mph): 14.7 @ 91.9
0-60 with 1-ft Rollout (sec): 6.2
30 - 0 (ft): 32
60 - 0 (ft): 123
Braking Rating: Average
Slalom (mph): 65.9
Skid Pad Lateral acceleration (g): 0.83
Handling Rating: Very Good
Db @ Idle: n/a
Db @ Full Throttle: n/a
Db @ 70 mph Cruise: n/a

Acceleration Comments: Like our long-term A4 Avant, this A4 doesn't like pedal overlap and stumbles off the line if there's too much of it. That said, I tried every combo of "Dynamic" ESP off, and D, S or M shift modes, and I cannot explain why this sedan is marginally slower than the Avant. It's still remarkably quick and still upshifts -- very hard -- about 500-1,000 rpm shy of redline at WOT.

Braking Comments: While the brake system feels up to the task, the all-season tires don't have the same bite as our Avant's summer tires. Decent pedal feel and fade resistance.

Handling Comments: Skid pad: Again with the tires, this A4 feels just as neutral and balanced as our Avant, but the grip just isn't there. Still, 0.83g ain't too shabby -- especially from an Audi with AWD. With ESP on, it steers from the front, and with ESP off it allows some rear slip that makes it steer more from the rear. Steering, though light, offers some feel, too. Slalom: Through the cones this A4 required diligent throttle control -- too much in/out made it under-/oversteer. Best to tiptoe in with maintenance throttle and go wide open for the exit to use the AWD. Again, light but precise steering was welcome. Very subtle corrections with ESP on -- not a total buzzkill.

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