2015 Audi A3: Luxury Is a Matter of Perspective
July 29, 2015
I'm new to the whole auto journalist gig. I haven't had the opportunity to drive as many cars as my co-workers and most of the cars I have driven belonged to friends or family, with the occasional rental, taxi or dealership test drive thrown in. That was the only way I could get behind the wheel of something new or different until now.
I recently moved to Santa Monica, near the Edmunds headquarters. I grabbed the key fob to our long-term 2015 Audi A3 and decided to drive around my new city. Sitting in traffic - something I'm growing accustomed to - gave me plenty of time to explore the Audi's cabin.
I'd say it's certainly nicer than my friend's BMW 135i, maybe even better than my mother's second-generation Cadillac CTS. All the major touch points feature high-quality materials, soft or not.
While I'm not a fan of the brown interior, the leather feels soft, without that shine that cheaper-quality leather can have. The seats were comfortable, bolstered well and featured more adjustment than anything I was used to. Aside from a very squeaky center console, the whole interior of the car felt very solid and quiet.
The tech was also very impressive. Much has been written about Audi's MMI and how well it works. I really liked the layout of all the controls, and the dash and console had enough buttons for the most common functions without looking busy. On this occasion I didn't have time to pair my phone, but I had no trouble navigating around the radio, navigation or source controls.
When I got back to the office, I asked if anyone else noticed the squeaky console. That led to a conversation about the interior of the car as a whole, when terms like "bare" and "Spartan" were tossed out. While there was no disagreement about whether or not the A3 is a luxury vehicle, it became obvious that we have different definitions of luxury.
To me, the Audi A3 ticks all my boxes for a luxury sedan. For them, maybe not so much.
With the Audi, or any luxury car, there is a certain solid sound that the doors make when they close. There is a quiet isolation from any road noise. The handling is firm but never punishing. The A3's air vents feel better designed than those in most cars.
It's all about perspective. My co-workers drive all sorts of vehicles. They expect a luxury vehicle to have certain things. Heated seats, a rear-view camera and HID lighting are all features they mention. Maybe one day my standards will align more closely with theirs, but right now I think I'm just the type of buyer Audi is going after with the A3. Mercedes-Benz is doing the same thing with the CLA250.
These cars aim for someone young who wants a step up from the A3's Volkswagen platform mates or any midlevel sedan, but without the expectations that come from driving higher-spec Audis and Mercedes. A midsize sedan at the same price as the A3 might come with more features, but it won't have the same cachet or feel. The A3 may not be as feature-rich as an A4 or an A6, but I'm impressed with what it has.
Reese Counts, Editorial Intern