2015 Audi A3: Right Size and Speed for the Road to Wine Country
August 26, 2015
My mini-vacation mission was simple: drive up north on Pacific Coast Highway, visit wine country, see as much as possible, and hopefully do it in a company car.
Well, luck was on my side as I, a lowly video producer, somehow scored our long-term 2015 Audi A3. At first glance, it's hard to differentiate the A3 to the A4. It's only when you get in that you can see and feel how the interior space is more condensed. But besides the size difference, the other thing that struck me is the interior's minimalist design. Other than the slick-looking screen that slides in and out of the dash, the only other real focal points are the jet turbine-looking air vents.
While I thought the interior visually appealed, my girlfriend thought it was a bit too sparse.
We started off in Santa Monica and even though this is a smaller car, when presented with an opportunity, speed or passing was not an issue. With its all-wheel drive, it's a confident car that can overtake or keep up with anyone on the road. After escaping the normal city congestion on U.S. 101 and stopping for coffee in Santa Barbara, we finally made it over the hill into wine country, eventually stopping in Solvang (made famous from the movie "Sideways") for a tasting and some pastries (and no, we didn't have any #$%@ing Merlot).
The next morning we picked up our San Luis Obispo pals and headed to Morro Bay for kayaking and dune hiking. On the ride there, yes, the back was slightly cramped for two average-size adults, but for me, week-in week-out, I generally don't have to haul that many people around. If I do, they're not going long distances with me. It's not like I'm driving for Uber, so the smaller size doesn't really bother or affect me on a normal-living basis.
After lunch and saying our good-byes to friends, we continued up PCH making stops in San Simeon to watch the elephant seals chest bump and bark (it was like being home for the holidays in Ohio with my relatives) and Big Sur to take in the views at Nepenthe (side note on Morro Bay: try the Bayside Café for the best fish and chips you'll eat).
While PCH was littered with construction and patches of suspect road surface conditions, the A3's ride was always smooth and comfortable, while nimbly zipping in and around the seemingly never-ending twists and turns of Highway 1.
While navigating our course, I wondered why cars even have integrated nav systems anymore. The tech just can't keep up. I hope that one day they'll have a mirroring option, much like a MacBook to an Apple TV. Waze and Google Maps are far superior to the map tech and the disc control makes putting in addresses and destinations a pain in the bum.
We eventually went to Santa Cruz, made our way back down the 101 to Paso Robles, where we Airbnb'ed it at a vineyard for the night (highly recommended for wine lovers and for amazing stargazing).
For me, I was sold. I would buy an A3 instead of an A4. It's a car that fits my lifestyle (no kids and minimal person hauling). To me, the smaller size is a virtue, you also don't miss out on speed with all-wheel drive, and it gets pretty good gas mileage. I would even add that I think the A3 has a slightly cooler design edge over the A4. Everything fits and flows. It's sleek and a bit more rounded without over- or underdoing it.
Rich Kuras, Video Producer