The 2008 Audi A3 is essentially the same car Audi introduced back in the 2006 model year. The smallest wagon in its lineup, the A3 Audi is derived from the Volkswagen Rabbit but sports tighter styling, a big Audi four-ringed grille up front, and a sleeker roofline.
The A3 shares its whistling, powerful 200-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged direct-injection in-line-four engine with the A4 sedan. It drives the front wheels via either a six-speed manual transmission or S-line automatic, which uses two clutches to speed up gear changes without using an actual clutch pedal. It's a brilliant innovation that is becoming more widely available from other brands. A strong 3.2-liter, 250-hp V-6 is optional and offered with Audi's quattro all-wheel-drive system and the S-line gearbox; it'll accelerate to 60 mph in about 5.9 seconds. Seventeen-inch wheels and tires are standard, with 18-inch rims optional.
With either front-wheel drive or optional all-wheel drive in V-6 versions, the Audi A3 is a competent machine on the road. The ride can be somewhat stiff, and the electric power steering doesn't wind into a corner like a traditional hydraulic power steering system would. But the A3 feels like a true Audi in most every sense: light, direct, and refined.
Not really good-looking in a conventional sense, the Audi A3 is striking enough to make you do a wide-eyed double take if you saw one on the street. Inside you'll find the best interior that Audi currently makes, excluding the one found in the TT. It's dark and austere, as you expect from an Audi, but also ergonomically flawless and exquisitely made.
The standard leather buckets lack the side support needed in such a car and can also cause backaches on longer journeys. Rear seat accommodation is acceptable for a car of this size, allowing you to squeeze a pair of adults in there--provided the front seat passengers don't mind scooting forward an inch or two. The trunk is very large.
On the safety front, the Audi A3 is complete with stability control, as well as front-seat side-impact and head-curtain airbags. Options include Bluetooth, a navigation system, Sirius Satellite Radio, and an iPod integration kit.
The Bottom Line:
The 2008 Audi A3 is more than an upscale Volkswagen Rabbit, thanks to its fabulous interior, S-tronic transmission, and V-6 bark.