Audi all set for

spring

Audi A3 Cabriolet, side
Audi A3 Cabriolet, side, roof down
Audi A3 Cabriolet, front
Audi A3 Cabriolet, side, roof up
Audi A3 Cabriolet, rear
Audi A3 Cabriolet, seats
Audi A3 Cabriolet, interior
Audi A3 Cabriolet, boot
Audi S3 Saloon, front
Audi S3 Saloon, rear
Audi S3 Saloon, side
Audi S3 Saloon, interior

HEADING into winter we may be but Audi has just revealed its cracking all-new A3 Cabriolet which will be with us in the spring, alongside a new high-performance S3 Saloon.

The latest open-topper, based on the A3 hatch, is slightly longer, wider and lower than the previous cabriolet which gives it added sporting looks, and it is lighter, which improves driving dynamics.

Audi has stuck to the use of a quick-folding fabric roof with heated glass rear window which at the touch of a button folds down in around 18 seconds and at speeds up to 31mph and still leaves 287 litres of storage space in the boot.

I was very impressed with the sound deafening with the roof up. On Sport and S line versions a triple layered roof is standard and is available as an optional extra on the SE.

Engines at launch in April include the highly efficient 140bhp 1.4 TFSI petrol which comes with a slick six-speed manual transmission.

The performance is brisk with the soft-top capable of 0-62mph in just 9.1 seconds and yet it is claimed it can achieve 56.5mpg overall.

Next up is the 1.8-litre which will appeal to those looking for a more thrilling ride. It gives the A3 cabriolet a top speed of 150mph and a sprint time of 7.8 seconds and comes with a seven-speed S tronic twin-clutch auto box.

Diesel fans can opt for the frugal 2.0 TDI with 150bhp of power which it is claimed will give fuel consumption of 67.3mpg and top speed of 139mph. CO2 emissions are a creditable 110g/km. Top speed in the oil-burner is 139mph.

Early next year there will be an extended choice of engines, including a 300bhp all-wheel-drive quattro.

I drove the 1.4 petrol and 2-litre TDI in the South of France on a demanding route in the mountains above Nice.

Both performed well on the twisty route with very little shake over rough surfaces, which you can get with soft tops, and corners were taken with minimal body roll.

Braking is powerful and progressive and I always felt secure even on steep downhill hairpin bends.

The petrol version is extremely quiet around town and at idle but, as you'd expect, there is a bit of diesel clatter on the oil-burner but it's not too intrusive.

Although a four-seater the space in the back is a bit restrictive, but this is the type of motor which will probably be used by a couple. It's not a family car.

Build quality is up the Audi's usual high standard with firm supportive sports seating and interior panels and the new A3 cabriolet comes with a load of useful equipment as standard and as options, including cruise control, stop-start function, lane assist, navigation touch screen, parking assist, climate control, electric parking brake, xenon headlights, tyre pressure monitor, and adaptive suspension.

Prices start at £25,790 for the 1.4 TFSI SE and up to £30,615 for the 2.0 TDI S line.

I also had a short blast in the super-quick S3 saloon which goes on sale in February.

It is powered by a totally new two-litre 300bhp TFSI engine with turbocharging and direct injection which gives it a blistering acceleration time of 0 to 62mph in just 4.9 seconds and top speed of 155mph.

Despite its impressive power Audi claim you can get 40.9mpg with it kitted out with S tronic transmission.

Fitted with quattro all-wheel-drive the S3 offers stunning road holding and sporting quality and with a slightly longer wheelbase than the standard A3 saloon it handles demanding roads with ease.

It also offers Audi Drive Select as standard. You choose which throttle response and suspension settings you prefer from comfort, auto, dynamic or efficiency.

This super-fast Audi will set you back from £33,240 and orders for both new models can be placed now.

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