If you like the redesigned Audi A3, the trouble may be deciding which version to buy. You could spend all day test-driving the variants of the compact luxury sedan: two turbocharged gasoline models, a diesel, a convertible, even in a plug-in hybrid.
The A3 army rolled into the Los Angeles Auto Show on Wednesday for their North American debut, following their global unveiling at this year’s Frankfurt Auto Show. Audi aims to dominate the compact luxury segment, where it compares against such cars as the recently launched Mercedes-Benz CLA. The A3 and CLA both start at about $30,000.
The A3 and CLA slot just below the luxury sport sedan segment, populated by formerly compact sports sedans such as the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class, which have moved up in size and price.
Audi apparently plans to flood the zone with variants to appeal to every conceivable buyer, from efficiency mongers to speed freaks to sun worshippers. Among them are three body types: sedan, hatchback and two-door convertible.
The introduction of a global platform, called MQB, for Audi and parent company Volkswagen allows for a wider variety of engine options, said VW Chief Executive Jonathon Browning.
“MQB allows us to plug and play powertrains -- regular gas, deisel, hybrid, electric -- and allows us to respond to shifts in consumer demand, regulation and taxation,” he said.
The A3 lineup is crucial to growing the brand by attracting entry-level luxury buyers, Browning said.
“It seems in the U.S. that buyers are more willing to trade size for a more mature, sophisticated, tech-rich vehicles in the compact segment,” he said. “We see the segment continuing to grow over time, in both mainstream offerings, and luxury and premium as well.”
In November, Audi posted its 35th consecutive month of record sales, said Scott Keogh, president of Audi of America, at the company’s news conference on the auto show floor.
“We are here to launch an entire new family of vehicles,” he said. “Audi isn’t just dipping a toe into this market. We are absolutely diving in.”
The biggest change in the lineup: Most U.S.-spec A3s will be offered as sedans. That’s more to the taste of American buyers than the previous hatchback-only A3, a layout shared with the A3’s downmarket corporate cousin, the Volkswagen Golf. (The A3 e-tron plug-in hybrid is the exception, offered only as a hatchback.)
The sedan’s dimensions are indeed compact, with overall length at 175.5 inches, four inches shorter than a Honda Civic and just three inches longer than a BMW 1 Series, a two-door coupe.
The basic A3, starting at $29,900, comes equipped with 1.8-liter turbocharged power plant making a modest-but-respectable 170 horsepower. The turbo-diesel, also a 2.0-liter, makes 150 horsepower.
A 2.0-liter gasoline turbo will be available in low- and high-output versions. The hopped-up 2.0-liter will land in the performance-tuned S3; the low-output engine -- still likely to make more power than the base 1.8-liter -- will land in the four-wheel-drive A3 Quattro. Audi has not announced horsepower for either engine. All engines will be mated to a six-speed S-tronic dual-clutch gearbox.
The most exotic dish on the A3 menu will be the e-tron, a plug-in hybrid that will offer an electric-only range (Audi has not specified the number of miles) before reverting to gas-electric hybrid power. Speaking of power, the e-tron will make an impressive 201 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque in hybrid mode -- enough to turn zero-to-60 mph in 7.5 seconds, Audi says, despite the extra battery weight.
The e-tron will offer four driving modes: EV (battery only); hybrid; hold (which maintains the battery charge); and charge, which operates the car in hybrid mode while recharging the battery, which Audi says takes less than 20 minutes.
Rounding out the A3 lineup will be the Cabriolet, a two-door soft-top version offered for the first time in the U.S. The droptop will come with either a 1.8-liter or a 2.0-liter engine, according to Audi.
The A3 sedan will go on sale next spring; the diesel, Cabriolet and performance-oriented S3 will follow in the fall. The A3 e-tron will go on sale in the spring of 2015.
-- Times staff writer Soumya Karlamangla contributed to this report.