2015 Audi A3 TDI Diesel Sedan

2015 Audi A3 TDI Diesel Sedan 2015 Audi A3 TDI Diesel Sedan
First Drive Review

Third. We finished third. To launch the TDI version of its new A3 sedan, Audi arranged a fuel-mileage challenge. The goal? Albuquerque, New Mexico, to Coronado, California, on one tank of diesel. That’s a distance of 834 miles. We mollified ourselves with the age-old “well, at least we’re on the podium” chestnut. But technical editor Eric Tingwall chided us via Twitter, “Let me channel Sherman here: If you didn’t win, you lost. Sherman would’ve won.” If the mild-mannered, affable Tingwall is publicly wagging a finger of shame at you, it’s bad. And he’s right. Tech director Don Sherman would’ve won.

We’d suffered 759 miles across New Mexico, Arizona, and most of the width of California. So when the nice man from Audi suggested that we wouldn’t make it—having hit zero fuel about halfway up the summit on Interstate 8—we stupidly believed him. That belief cost us what might’ve been a win. Perhaps in the interest of preserving their fuel-injection pumps, Ingolstadt’s representatives had informed us that the A3 TDI had only half a gallon of fuel left once the fuel-range readout hit 0 miles. This proved not to be the case: More foolhardy souls pressed on and covered the remaining distance to the coast, having hit zero on the gauge at about the same time we did.

On the other hand, flush with diesel and free from the constraints of competition, we took the opportunity to finally open the taps on the torquey diesel sedan, the latest variant of the MQB-boned A3 to hit our shores. We also turned on the air conditioning. The car still equipped with our apparently ineffective—but hopefully intimidating—Walmart-issue cardboard-box rear-fender fairings, we launched our small front-drive Audi down some San Diego County back roads.

The TDI’s gas-fired Quattro counterpart recently aced a comparison test in which it was pitted against Mercedes-Benz’s CLA250 4MATIC and the BMW 2-series, and if the FWD diesel car—all-wheel drive isn’t available—doesn’t offer the revvy tenacity of the Quattro model, it at least offers some visceral pleasures of its own. Equipped with the same 150-hp, 236-lb-ft variant of the EA288 diesel found in the new Volkswagen Golf TDI, the Audi is hardly a slouch, especially when it comes to midrange power delivery.

Audi’s standard six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission offers smooth, quick, and reliable gearchanges. It seems to default to lower gears even in manual mode, which was a problem when we were gunning for efficiency above all else—that may be the first time we’ve complained about a transmission for wanting to hold a lower gear—but we found ourselves without a gripe during the mountain-road blasts.

When cornering, the front end turns in and plants itself with authority, offering plenty of grip. We know this to be the full truth because, during the mpg-focused portion of our drive, we avoided using the accelerator and brakes to set up for corners in the interest of energy conservation. Maximum efficiency demands kinetic dynamism, so we followed a steer-and-pray strategy. The sticky Continental tires held our chosen lines with an admirable doggedness.

Inside, we found the A3 to be typically Audi-pleasant, although the vast swath of soft-touch material spanning the dash needs to be of a higher grade to successfully execute the bold, sparse look the automaker has pursued with this car. The seats were comfortable for the long haul, and although some have complained about the B-pillars’ intrusion into peripheral sightlines, we didn’t find it to be an issue during a journey with plenty of furtive side glances to check for faster-moving traffic.

As for the efficiency competition, it was calculated that we achieved 60.1 mpg over 759 miles. This was in utter hair-shirt mode, using twitchy-foot throttle techniques while monitoring the immediate returns on the in-dash efficiency display, running far under the speed limit, utilizing the aerodynamic largesse of big-rig wakes, cursing every rise in the road, and generally suffering for every mile. Without engaging in any of that occasionally ill-advised folderol, you’d easily find yourself returning figures somewhere in the low-to-mid 40s on the highway. And if you wanted to thrash a canyon at the end of the day? The A3 TDI would be perfectly happy to oblige.