New Audi A3, S3 Sedans Debut Ahead of 2013 New York Auto Show | Edmunds

New Audi A3, S3 Sedans Debut Ahead of 2013 New York Auto Show

2013 New York Auto Show

2013 New York Auto Show

Just the Facts:
  • Audi unveiled its new A3 sedan at a private event before the opening of the New York auto show.
  • It will go on sale in Europe this summer.
  • The most powerful model, the Audi S3, will get a 296-horsepower 2.0-liter engine.

NEW YORK — Just weeks after a rival revealed a new entry-level sedan in Geneva, Audi has taken the wraps off its all-new A3 sedan at a private preview just prior to the 2013 New York Auto Show. The official public unveil is scheduled for the Shanghai auto show later this month.

The hottest version, the S3 will have a 296-horsepower version of Audi's 2.0-liter TFSI four-cylinder engine. A choice of either a dual-clutch automatic or a manual gearbox will be offered.

It's both faster and more economical with the dual-clutch unit fitted, posting a 0-62-mph time of 4.9 seconds. Top speed will be limited to 155 mph.

The A3 has an overall length of 175.6 inches and a surprisingly light curb weight of 2,657 pounds. It builds on a concept car Audi showed at the Shanghai auto show nearly two years ago.

Audi will sell the car first in Europe this summer, but a firm U.S. sales date has not been announced. The A3 sedan was largely conceived as a new entry-level car for the U.S. and Chinese markets, which favor sedans over hatchbacks.

Pricing is difficult to judge, too, with the sedan being pitched at €25,000 in Germany, which is just above the A3 Sportback five-door hatch, with which it shares its 103.9-inch wheelbase.

The longest Audi yet off the MQB compact architecture, the A3 sedan is still 6.7 inches shorter than the Mercedes-Benz CLA, though the Mercedes overhangs are 4.3 inches longer. At 70.0 inches, the A3 sedan is 0.43-inch wider than the A3 Sportback. It's sleeker though and, at 55.9 inches high, is 0.35-inch lower than the hatch version, too.

The sedan's design carries over the Shanghai concept's C-pillar virtually unchanged, with Audi design boss Wolfgang Egger admitting at this year's Geneva auto show that it was a piece of design "too crisp and too good to leave off it."

It carries over the front end from the A3 Sportback, though the roof line appears far lower and the trunk lid contains an integrated spoiler. Besides the way it looks, the tech-rich MQB architecture allows Audi to deliver everything from in-car Wi-Fi to full LED headlights as an option.

Egger insists the car is a combination of a classic three-box sedan design and a coupe philosophy, which sounds a like a much easier sell than Mercedes' second four-door "coupe."

One area in which the A3 sedan has the CLA demonstrably beaten is in its weight. Audi has attached aluminum wherever possible to deliver a base car that is 419 pounds lighter than the equivalent CLA, despite broadly similar footprints. At 2,656 pounds, the A3 sedan weighs just 22 pounds more than the five-door A3 hatchback.

While Audi is spending the New York show pushing the all-wheel-drive S3 as the hero version of its new sedan family, it won't be available even in Europe until the fourth quarter of this year, which probably means mid-2014 for the U.S.

The most economical engine available will be the 2.0-liter TDI, but not by the margin over the gasoline engines that you might think.

The 2.0-liter TDI and the 1.4-liter TFSI gasoline four-cylinder engines both post 8.4-second sprints to 62 mph and both share the same 132.35 mph top speed, but they arrive there in very different ways.

The diesel has more power and torque, with 150 horsepower and 236 pound-feet. The 1.4-liter TFSI counters its less impressive 140 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque by being lighter. These two engines will be matched with front-wheel drive, as will the strongest of the starting A3 sedans, with the 1.8-liter TFSI gasoline engine.

Curiously, the larger engine delivers the same 184 lb-ft of torque as the 1.4-liter TFSI, but its 180 hp makes it the fastest of the three standard models to 62 mph. Its 7.3-second sprint to 62 mph is matched with a stronger 144 mph top speed.

No word yet on which of these impressive engines will be offered in U.S.-bound versions of the A3. Expect to hear more specific plans later this summer.

Edmunds says: With the right combination of engine choices and a lightweight chassis, the sharp-looking A3 should do well if the price is right when it finally makes it to the U.S.

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