Audi A3 FSI Cabriolet S Line 2008 Review

Audi A3 FSI Cabriolet S Line 2008 Review


Summer arrived the day after I picked up the Audi A3 FSI Cabriolet S Line. A perfect weekend, the Saturday spent playing a gig at Ponsonby Market Day and dancing with a transvestite (we’ll leave that story to another day┬Žunless incriminating pictures appear in other media), and the Sunday spent lazing in the garden before a mid-afternoon jaunt to Orewa, cruising along the waterfront. It was the ideal car both for the Ponsonby Road set, and the beachfront cruise.

However, my lack of opportunities to dance with transvestites, and my usual shunning of the sun due to my inherent inability to tan left me wondering whether I would plump for the cabriolet when the hard top Sportback is a better car both dynamically and practically.

But I’ve got the cabriolet, so it’s best that I give you an honest appraisal of that.

The new A3 was launched at Pukekohe Park Raceway in June at the same time as the quite remarkable TT-S quattro (read the review of the TT-S here). I drove most of the variants except (from memory) the 3.2 quattro at the time around the back roads of the Franklin District, and the improvements over the outgoing A3 (which was a bit tired) were very welcome.

The new A3 features the 118kW/250Nm 1.8-litre turbo mill from parent Volkswagen Group’s range, mated to the fast-changing, six-speed S tronic (DSG) dual-clutch gearbox. This will get you from zero to a messed-up hairstyle in just eight seconds if you leave it to do its thing, or you can control the gears using either the gearstick or the paddles behind the steering wheel.

The A3 is a good-looking car with the soft-top folded down (a process that takes a stupendously quick nine seconds to open and only eleven seconds to close.) The hood will operate at up to 30kph.

This S Line variant has some additional body trim such as 18-inch wheels with 225/45R18 tyres (the standard car gets 17-inch wheels with 205/55R17), S Line badging, sports suspension and sports seating. The remainder of the car is the same, including the performance, with the fuel consumption a sensible 7.6l/100km combined, and 180g/km of CO2.

The usual Audi safety features are present, including ABS, electronic brake force distribution, electronic brake assist, traction control (ASR), electronic differential lock, electronic stability program (ESP), and hill start assist which holds the brakes on for a short while as you engage a gear to stop you rolling back on a hill.

With convertibles there is often a compromise, and it’s usually the boot space and additional road noise. The A3 doesn’t seem to suffer that much from road noise because the roof has noise insulation, but I have a slight change to one of the Bible’s more famous quotes: it’s easier for a camel to go through eye of a needle than it is to get a bulky load into the A3 Cabriolet’s boot. Because of the roof folding mechanism, the boot aperture is impractically small to the point of being annoying because it is not even a foot high. This isn’t a problem for your groceries, but you’ll be using the back seats for more than passengers on some occasions. One consolation is that the rear seats fold forwards so larger (but not taller) loads can be accommodated. The boot lid also requires more of a solid push than you’d expect to get it to close properly.

But you’ll undoubtedly give up a smidge of practicality in return for the joys of roofless motoring. Driving at motorway speeds with the roof down gives a small amount of buffeting — nothing major, as it’s actually better than having the front windows open with the roof up, which gives a noticeable fluttering and more apparent wind noise!

Audi’s speed-dependent power-assisted steering is standard, making for easier manoeuvring at lower speeds. Parking radar is included for the rear, which is an absolute necessity because the rollover protection hoops and rear seat headrests block much of the view through the back window. The Audi A3’s rear seats have a more generous amount of legroom than many cars of this size have in convertible guise — I am a gnat’s kneecap under six-foot and I can sit in the back with enough legroom even when the driver’s seat is also set up for me.

So, four people can be transported in atmospheric admiration, whisked along by the smooth engine, confident in the car’s abilities and safety features. I could go on about how it handles well, how it’s got a good dollop of overtaking power, and how the S tronic gearbox is fabulous as ever. But I think that will fall on uninterested ears. I’ll guarantee that 99.9% of people who buy an A3 Cabriolet won’t care because they won’t be the type of people who like to push a car to the limit.

This is a car aimed at the image-conscious — the type of people who don’t care that a Fiat 500’s suspension is hideous or that the new Mercedes-Benz CLC 200 is based on a seven-year old platform. Nope, they just want an optically pleasant car to cruise the beachfronts, and perhaps return to Ponsonby Road to sip a latte and watch fools like me dance with a transvestite.

Click through to the next page to read the full specifications on the Audi A3 Cabriolet S line.

Price: from $68,900 (S Line), or from $59,500 for the base Cabriolet

What we like

  • Rear seats are functional with plenty of legroom as opposed to token
  • Rear seats fold down to increase load space

What we don’t like

  • Boot aperture isn’t friendly
  • Rearward visibility very restricted
Audi A3 Cabriolet 1.8 TFSI
Engine / electrics
Engine type Inline four-cylinder spark-ignition engine with petrol direct injection, exhaust
turbo-charger with intercooler, 4 valves per cylinder, double overhead camshafts
Valve gear / number of valves per cylinder

Chain drive / roller cam followers / 4

Displacement in cc / bore x stroke in mm / compression

1798 / 82.5 x 84.1 / 9.6

Max. power output in kW (bhp) / at rpm

118 (160) / 5000 – 6200

Max. torque in Nm / at rpm

250 / 1500 – 4200

Mixture preparation

Direct injection/fully electronic with drive-by-wire throttle control,
Bosch MED17

Exhaust emission control

Close-coupled ceramic primary catalytic converter and ceramic underfloor catalytic converter with catalyst heating function via homogeneous split dual injection

Emissions class

EU 4

Alternator in A / battery in A/Ah

140 / 280 / 60

Drive / transmission
Drive type

Front-wheel drive


Two electro-hydraulically controlled multi-plate clutches in an oil bath

Gearbox type

6-speed S tronic dual-clutch gearbox with electro-hydraulic control

Gear ratio in 1st gear / 2nd gear

3.462 / 2.050

Gear ratio in 3rd gear / 4th gear

1.300 / 0.902

Gear ratio in 5th gear / 6th gear

0.914 / 0.756

Gear ratio in reverse gear


Final drive ratio

Final drive ratio in 1st – 4th gear / 5th, 6th and reverse gear

4.375 / 3.333

Suspension / steering / brakes
Front suspension

McPherson struts with lower wishbones, aluminium subframe, tubular anti-roll bar, track-stabilising steering roll radius

Rear suspension

Four-link rear suspension with separate spring/shock absorber arrangement, subframe, tubular anti-roll bar

Steering / steering ratio / turning circle in m (D102)

Electromechanical steering with speed-dependent
power assistance / 16.2 / approx. 10.7

Brake system, front/rear

Dual-circuit brake system with diagonal split. ESP with electronic
brake-force distribution EBD, ABS; hydraulic brake assist; brake servo
with dual-rate function, electronic differential lock EDL, front: ventilated discs, rear: 15″ discs


205/55 R17 tyres

Performance / consumption / acoustics
Top speed in km/h


Acceleration, 0-100 km/h in sec


Fuel type

Super unleaded, 95 RON

Fuel consumption: urban / extra-urban / combined, l/100 km

10.6 / 5.8 / 7.6

CO2 mass emission, g/km


Standing / drive-past exterior noise level in dB (A)

80 / 73

Servicing / guarantee
Oil Change

15,000kms or 12 months

Audi Cover/ Vehicle/paint/rust perforation guarantee

3 years / 3 years with unlimited mileage / 3 years / 12 years

Weights / loads
Unladen weight in kg


Axle load limit at front / rear in kg


Trailer load limit on 8%/12% gradient, braked/unbraked in kg


Roof load limit in kg / permissible nose weight in kg

– /75

Cooling system capacity (incl. heating) in l


Engine oil capacity (incl. filter) in l


Fuel tank capacity in l


Body / dimensions
Body type

Unitary steel body

Number of doors / seats

2 doors with additional side protection / 4 seats

Drag coefficient Cd / frontal area A in m2

0.33 / 2.12

Length (L103)/ width excl. mirrors (W103)/ height (H100), mm

4238 / 1765 / 1424

Wheelbase (L101) / track at front/rear (W101/W102), mm

2578 / 1534 / 1507

Height of loading lip in mm (H195)


Luggage capacity in l, acc. to VDA block method (V210)


1) depending on driving style and operating conditions

A3 Cabrio Specification and Option Sheet
Electro – mechanical power steering – speed dependent
Exhaust Catalyst
Audi Cover Assistance – 3 Year Cost Free Motoring
Galvanised Body – 12 Year Anti-Corrosion Warranty

Safety and Security

ABS with EBD (Electronic Brake Pressure Distribution) and Electronic Brake Assist
Active Front Head Restraints
ASR with EDL (Electronic Differential Lock) and ESP (Electronic Stabilisation Program)
Front Driver & Passenger Airbags with Side Airbags in the in the Front Seats & Sideguard Head Airbag
Front Passenger Airbag Deactivation
Front Ventilated Disc Brakes
Hill Start Assist
ISOFIX Child Seat Anchorages Front & Rear
Rear Disc Brakes
Anti Theft Alarm With Interior Surveillance and Vehicle Immobiliser


Alloy Wheels: 18″ 7-twin spoke design
Tyres: 225/45 18
Automatic Hood, Fully Automatic With Acoustic Insulation, Activated Up To 30km/h
Auto Headlight with Rain Sensor, Coming-Home and Daytime Driving Mode
Body Coloured, Electrically Adjustable Exterior Mirrors
Front Fog Lights
Headlights with Headlight Range Adjustment: Halogen
Metallic Paint Surcharge: no-cost option
Rear Parking Aid
Spare Wheel: Space Saver
Sports Suspension: S line
S line Door Trim Strips in Body Colour
S line Rear Spoiler Integrated into Boot Lid
Sports Front and Rear Bumper Design
Sports Front Grille with S line Badging


Active Speakers
Air Conditioning: Automatic
Audi Factory Audio System: Concert
Auto-Dimming Interior Mirror
CD Player
Centre Armrest
Cruise Control
Dashboard Inserts: Aluminium
Driver information system
Height Adjustable Front Seats
Height And Reach Adjustable Steering Columnl
Interior Trim: Alcantara /Leateher
Leather Multifunction Steering Wheel: 3-spoke S line with paddle shift
Outside Temperature gauge
Seating: Sports
Split Folding Rear Seat
Windscreen with Grey tinted strip

Words and photos Darren Cottingham

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