News of the week & Audi A3 Cabriolet 1.8T |#eBizMotoring | Thegandra Naidoo

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BizMotoring

News of the week:

  • VW has launched a facelifted version of the popular Touareg SUV.
  • The new Touareg has been given a significantly sharper look and technical enhancement. Features of the new Touareg generation include a redesigned front and rear, new driver assistance systems such as Automatic Post-Collision Braking System as standard, an optional new generation of the Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) and an improved layout of the suspension.
  • The new Touareg can be vusially differentiated by its redesigned front and rear. Striking features at the front-end are the redesigned bi-xenon headlights, which are now standard across the range.
  • Redesigned interior features include the aluminium switches synonymous with the Touareg class. All buttons and switches are now illuminated in white.
  • The engine line-up remain unchanged with one petrol – 3.6 V6 FSI (206kW) and two diesel engines – 3.0 V6 TDI (180kW) and 4.2 V8 TDI (250kW). All engines come with the standard 8-speed automatic transmission.
  • Similarly to the previous model, the new Touareg will be offered with an optional sporty R-Line package. Included in the ‘R-Line’ exterior package are 20-inch Talladega alloy wheels, bumpers in the ‘R-Line’ design, black gloss air intakes with additional chrome trim, side sill extensions, a black gloss diffuser at the back (also with additional chrome trim), chrome-plated tailpipes and an aerodynamically optimised roof edge spoiler.
  • Priced from R709 000 for the entry-level model, through to R990 000 for the flagship 250kW V8 TDI.
  • It remains a very pricey SUV and while it has exceptional build quality, it is still more expensive than the Porsche Cayenne, which shares the same chassis and underpinnings.
  • Which begs the all-important question, why would you choose a VW over a Porsche?

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Audi A3 Cabriolet 1.8T

Audi is spinning off new derivatives of its compact A3 quicker than you can say “model overload” and following the hatch, Sportback and sedan, the open-topped version was recently added to the range.

The new A3 Cabriolet is based on the sedan and has grown in length and width over the previous model, although the height was reduced to give the four-seater convertible a sportier, hunkered-down appearance.

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These slightly swelled dimensions still don’t make it a family-sized cabrio and rear legroom is tight for anyone but small children. For a compact convertible the boot’s not a bad size, though. It’s been expanded by 60-litres to a 320-litre capacity which is enough for two peoples’ luggage when the roof’s up (less when it’s folded).

The back seats also flop down to expand the cargo area, but the narrow aperture won’t accept very bulky objects.

Audi’s elected for a soft top instead of a folding hard roof but it’s well insulated. A thick foam layer reduces interior noise and with the roof up we found that passengers could converse without raising their voices.

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The electronically-operated soft top takes around 30 seconds to fold down or up, and it can be done on the move at driving speeds of up to 50km/h, which is handy. Also convenient is that there’s a separate one-touch switch to raise or lower all the windows simultaneously.

ELEGANT INSIDE AND OUT

The top is available in three exterior colours – black, grey or brown – and a wind deflector comes standard so you can get a sunburned forehead without messing up your hairdo too much.

An active rollover protection system protects the occupants in case of a rollover accident, along with a full complement of airbags including one for the driver’s knee.

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The A3 Cabriolet’s an elegant looking car with “crease” lines running along the side of the body that prevent it from looking too slab-sided when the roof’s down, as convertibles sometimes do. The windshield frame is made of aluminium – and an aluminium trim runs around the entire car.

The interior trimmings are to Audi’s usual high standard and there’s plenty of bright aluminium to contrast with the dark surfaces, but the minimalist dash design looks almost too spartan. Instead of a barrage of buttons on the fascia, the audio and navigation are operated by the multi-function MMI controller between the front seats, and shown on a full colour LCD screen which glides out of the top of the dash when you switch on the car.

If your left-handed handwriting is neat enough you can scrawl a satnav address onto the touch-sensitive MMI pad.

Shifting our test car along was a 1.8-litre turbo petrol engine. It’s the more powerful of the two motors offered in the A3 Cabriolet, the other being a 92kW 1.4 turbo petrol.

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STRONG, SMOOTH PACE

It generates reasonable pace with great smoothness. There’s some turbo lag at low revs which makes initial pulloff a little pedestrian, but once into its powerband the car cruises contentedly. Performance is never thrilling, but selecting Sport mode in the seven-speed S tronic transmission creates a more responsive feel.

Audi’s claimed performance figures are 0-100kph in 7.8 seconds and a respectable 242kph top speed. Audi claims optimistic 5.8-litres per 100km economy, but our test car averaged around 8-litres.

The test car was fitted with Audi Drive Select (standard in SE models) which at the press of a button shifts between three preselected sport, comfort and economy modes plus one you can customise. This modifies the engine management, power steering, auto transmission, and aircon operation.

An ESC stabilisation control system works in cahoots with an electronic limited-slip differential to improve cornering grip in the front-wheel-drive car. With its sports suspension (standard on this flagship SE model) it’s a neat handler through fast curves, but more impressive is its ride quality and there’s almost no discernable scuttle shake to reveal the absence of a hard roof. Even on a bumpy road the car felt solid and judder-free.

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The standard R465 000 price of the Audi A3 Cabriolet 1.8T S-tronic SE includes a reasonable amount of bells and whistles, including Bluetooth with voice control and audio streaming, light and rain sensors, and sport seats among others. The warranty is one-year unlimited mileage and there’s a five-year/100 000km freeway plan.

There’s a large goodie bag of optional extras to spec-up the car including LED headlights, MMI navigation plus, S line exterior package, Alcantara/leather seats, Park assist, a storage package, and a premium Bang & Olufsen sound system. None of them are cheap.

VERDICT

With its style and substance, Audi’s A3 has built up a good reputation over the years, including its predecessor winning SA’s Car of the Year title, and the latest version being selected as a finalist for last year’s competition.

The open-sky derivative, while quite pricey, continues the theme without any notable compromises to the A3’s exemplary ride quality or handling.

Those who prefer an even more powerful hair dryer should stick around for the S3 Cabriolet being launched next month.

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FACTS

Audi A3 Cabriolet 1.8T S tronic SE

Engine: 1.8L, four-cylinder turbo petrol

Gearbox: Seven-speed S-tronic

Power: 132kW @ 5100-6200rpm

Torque: 250Nm @ 1250-5000rpm

0-100km/h (claimed): 7.8 seconds

Top speed (claimed): 242kph

Consumption (claimed): 5.8 litres per 100km

Price: R482 500

Warranty: One-year/unlimited km

Maintenance plan: Five-year/100 000km

BizMotoring

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Thegandra Naidoo in conversation with eBizRadio’s Nick Snow

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eBizRadio is a live multi- platformed social media service providing an online forum to the business community for holding conversations on the key issues related to specific businesses as well as availing a space for cross-business collaboration in response to key issues affecting the world of business. The place to go if you want to know about business and lifestyle

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