Cold starts and mixed blessings.
First published in the July 2015 issue of Wheels magazine, Australia’s most experienced and most trusted car magazine since 1953.
DESPITE our image differences, the long-term Audi cabrio and I do have one thing in common. You see, I’m not a morning person. It takes time and a strong cup of tea before I can function. Similarly, the Audi A3 often stumbles and clunks through the shift into second just after it has been cold-started. You have to go easy on it until it warms up, which takes about half a minute. I need about half an hour.
The Audi is otherwise switched-on when it’s fully awake (though I can make no guarantees about its driver), and I’ve been impressed by the driver interface lately. I’m particularly taken by its ability to take a letter of the alphabet scrawled on the centre console MMI dial and look up a name in a paired phone’s address book. It’s cool and, most importantly, it works. My four-year-old daughter Grace, who is learning to write, loves the feature, too.
The MMI interface’s ability to read out text messages hasn’t been handy yet – I only just discovered it – but even the cabrio knows it’s not an “Ordi”.
The minimum specified fuel RON in the spec sheet and inside the fuel flap is regular 91-octane, so that’s what I filled the A3 with initially. Over those first few tanks I began to form the opinion that the 1.8-litre turbo four was little more than adequate. I thought that maybe the cabrio’s extra weight compared with the Audi A3 sedan or sportback versions was taking the sparkle off.
Then I put 95-octane in the other day and it was a revelation. The cabrio isn’t necessarily a whole lot quicker, but it is noticeably more eager at low revs, and more flexible; it just feels (and even sounds) like a happier engine.
The lower ambient air temperatures of Sydney’s first cold autumn days made this yet another flawed experiment (see last issue’s update about changing two variables at once). Is the donk’s newfound responsiveness due to the octane boost or the air temperature drop? It’s probably a bit of both.
Either way, now I’m looking forward to trying 98-octane premium, and to even colder weather. If there’s one good thing about the colder months, it’s the power boost it brings in turbo cars. That’s probably the only good thing about winter actually because otherwise I hate the cold, especially first thing.
Da doo RON RON
THE inside of the fuel flap indicates that 91-octane can be used, but the spec sheet says 95 is the minimum recommended fuel. The owner’s manual holds the explanation: “The use of premium petrol (95 RON) is recommended. If that type of fuel is not available, regular petrol (91 RON) can be used with a slight loss of power.” I’ll try 98-octane in the cabrio’s successor, an A3 1.4 TFSI sedan, though given it’s 180kg lighter with an identical 250Nm torque figure, it should go okay anyway.
Read part 2 of our Audi A3 Cabriolet long-term car review.
AUDI A3 1.8 TFSI CABRIOLET
Price as tested: $51,900
Part 3: 1335km @ 8.4L/100km
Overall: 3847km @ 8.0L/100km
Date acquired: January 2015