First impressions

The new Audi A3 Sportback hits the road ahead of its world premiere at the Geneva Motor Show.

Heavily camouflaged, but offering a tantalising idea of the new car’s design, the new Audi A3 Sportback hit the road on São Miguel Island to give journalists a first taste of what’s to come. 

10 February, 2020

Even with its black and white camouflage livery, there is no mistaking the outline of the new Audi A3 Sportback, this fourth generation model preparing to hit the stage in Geneva next month, giving the world’s motoring press a first taste of just what’s in store with the new model.

Here on São Miguel Island in the Azores archipelago where the spectacular Azores Rallye takes place, the latest incarnation of this compact luxury model is up against some challenging roads, but the latest evolution of Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive is more than up to the task. An electro-hydraulic multi-plate clutch that is managed by a precisely tuned all-wheel software forms its core of the system, providing the A3 with a maximum level of stability, grip, and driving pleasure, while demonstrating its extraordinary efficiency in the process.

Working in tandem with the adaptive suspension and the progressive steering, the system delivers sporty performance that impresses on the tight winding roads and varied conditions on the mountain and valley stretches. 

The new quattro represents the continued refinement of the quattro system that Audi developed some 40 years ago. In this latest iteration, the clutch is located at the end of the prop shaft, in front of the rear axle differential – a position that benefits the axle load distribution in particular. Inside is a package of plates that operate in an oil bath. Its metal friction rings are arranged behind one another in pairs – one ring of each pair is rigidly meshed with the clutch housing, which rotates with the prop shaft. The other ring is meshed with the short output shaft to the rear axle differential. 

Here on São Miguel Island where the spectacular Azores Rallye takes place, the latest incarnation of this compact luxury model taking on some very challenging roads

Then there’s the wheel-selective torque control, a software function of the Electronic Stabilisation Control (ESC) that further enhances 'spirited driving'

Audi tailored the electronic torque distribution control specifically to suit the new A3 and integrated it in the Audi drive select dynamic handling system. It takes the data of the suspension sensors into account and detects not only the driving condition and road properties but also the driving style. The control unit uses this data as a basis to calculate a torque distribution that provides optimum efficiency and passes the value on to the clutch. 

The all-wheel drive distributes the torque with full variability between the front and rear axles – favouring the front wheels in normal driving, but when driving off or when the front axle has little traction, the clutch diverts the torque with lightning speed, diverting up to 100 percent of drive to the rear axle if required.

Then there’s the wheel-selective torque control, a software function of the Electronic Stabilisation Control (ESC), that is the icing on the cake when it comes to spirited driving. It works by applying the brakes slightly to the two wheels on the inside when the new Audi A3 drives through a curve at high speed. The difference in drive forces on both axles turns the car into the bend, allowing it to follow the steering angle precisely. This makes the handling even more agile, fluid, and safe. 

Add further to this performance package with the presence of electromechanical progressive steering which varies the gear ratios depending on the steering angle. 

The new A3 Sportback also offers minute adjustment to the suspension, with its adaptive damper control. Here, three damper characteristics ensure that the driver can experience the spread of the driving characteristics and make full use of the agile handling. The system uses sensors to measure the vertical acceleration of the body structure and the relative movement of the individual wheels in relation to it. The control unit processes its signal in a matter of milliseconds and adapts each damper to the condition of the road, the driving situation, and the driver’s requests in an individual and ongoing. 

The dampers include electromagnetically actuated valves that can be regulated extremely quickly and in a highly energy-efficient way. Depending on their position, they allow the hydraulic fluid to flow faster or slower, which changes the characteristics of the dampers between soft and hard. Then of course there is the Audi drive select system, which is the interface between the regulated suspension and drive systems and the driver. It boasts five modes – comfort, auto, dynamic, efficiency, and individual – controlled with a physical button located near the gear selector lever. If the driver selects the ‘individual’ setting, the system allows them to freely specify their personal preferences and driving style. 

It’s an impressive package that is sure to make an impact on the roads of São Miguel Island and next month at Geneva and continue the tremendous success story of the Audi A3 in all of its three previous incarnations.

Audi drive select system features an ‘individual’ setting, that allows the driver to adjust systems to suit their personal preferences and driving style