Audi keeps the hits rolling
German automaker pulls the wraps off the new A3 in Geneva.
Audi is putting on a big show at the 2012 Geneva Motor Show. The whole management board, a clutch of celebrities and what seemed like a thousand journalists were there to see the unveiling of the new A3. It seemed just a little predictable, but Audi knows what its buyers want.
The A3 might have been the star of the show, but it wasn't alone. A host of other new models were on display, including a limited-edition A1 quattro, an achingly seductive 450-horsepower RS4 Avant and a capable A6 Allroad.
What is it? Want a VW Golf-sized hatchback with Audi kudos? The A3 is the car for you. First up will be the 3-door versions, but the 5-door Sportback won't be far behind, and then all hell will break loose with the convertible, saloon and quick quattros.
What's hot? It's the first showing of the VW Group's all-new MQV chassis, plus all-new gas and diesel engines. Lots of high-tech development in the interior, too, that trickles down from last year's new A6.
What's not? You could argue that Audi needs to shake itself out of its generic design. On the other hand, it knows its buyers better than most — just look at the sales figures.
How much and when? Prices will start at just under $30,000 when the new A3 goes on sale in September.
Anything else I need to know? Lighter than its predecessor, the new A3 offers class-leading performance and economy. Engines range from 1.4 TSI with 122 horsepower producing zero to 62 in 9.3 seconds, to a superefficient 1.6 TDI that can return 74.3 mpg and output just 99 grams per kilometre of carbon dioxide. There are, inevitably, lots more engines too.
Audi A1 Quattro
What is it? The most extreme version of the A1 so far, powered by a version of the Golf GTI engine mated to 4-wheel-drive. A true pocket rocket, if ever there was one.
What's hot? Performance promises to be awesome: zero to 62 mph in 5.7 seconds. The A1 quattro stands out, though subtly. White is the only color, and that comes with a glossy black roof and tiny, tell-tale "quattro" badges.
What's not? Audi is making just 333 of them, all left-hand-drive, and each one has already been snapped up by an Audi worshipper.
How much and when? At $64,000, the A1 quattro is mighty expensive. You could instead buy an RS3 and have dinner at the Ritz with the change. The first cars will be delivered later in 2012.
Anything else I need to know? The 2.0-liter turbo engine is uprated to 252 horsepower, a massive amount of power for a supermini. As well as reaching 62 mph in 5.7 seconds, it hammers on to a top speed of 152 mph. It also offers a combined fuel economy of 33.2 mpg.
Audi RS4 Avant
What is it? The Audi RS4 Avant is one MSN's favorites, and now there's an all-new version of the V8 super estate. With a hand-built engine, quattro 4-wheel drive and the most sophisticated chassis management system imaginable, the RS4 is bang on target.
What's hot? The 4.2-liter V8 engine now punches out 450 horsepower, compared with 420 horses in the previous version, and is now allied to a 7-speed S tronic transmission rather than a manual box. Chiseled sill extensions and flared wheel arches give the RS4 Avant a formidable physique.
What's not? No matter which way you cut it, the Audi RS4 Avant has to suffer in the weight department. That V8 and the quattro drive pile on the pounds, so the dynamics will be more drive-by-wire than seat of the pants.
How much and when? Cars arrive in the U.K. in September; no word on North America. Prices aren't available yet.
Anything else I need to know? The 450-horsepower V8 in the RS is a hearty beast that will take you to 62 mph in 4.7 seconds; there's launch control to get you off the line efficiently. Economy is said to be 25.7 mpg, though we take that with a pinch of salt.
Audi A6 Allroad
What is it? The A6 Allroad is a pumped-up version of the A6 Avant quattro, with taller suspension and lots of macho underbody protection — perfect for those who need to make the occasional off-road sortie in luxury.
What's hot? The Allroad formula is well-tried and finds a small but enthusiastic audience. Engines are all V6 with plenty of power. Interiors are luxurious.
What's not? The new A6 Allroad doesn't really move the game on much, and despite the sheer sophistication of the chassis, with its air suspension, there are plenty of tasty SUV rivals.
How much and when? The Audi A6 Allroad starts at $68,000 and will arrive late this summer.
Anything else I need to know? Every A6 Allroad engine is a 3.0-liter V6. The gas-powered TFSI makes 306 horsepower and propels the vehicle to 62 mph in 5.9 seconds. Fuel economy is 31.7 mpg.