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Two decades, three generations

The brand with the four rings is celebrating the anniversary of the Audi A3. This successful Audi model had its motor show premiere 20 years ago in Paris. Today the premium compact is available in a choice of four body styles, four drive systems and three trim lines.

Audi presented the Audi A3 at the Paris Motor Show in 1996. The car was developed from the ground up on the basis of the Golf IV platform, which followed in 1997. From the very first generation, the Audi A3 has boasted innovations and quality features from higher classes, making it the founder of the premium compact class.

The A3 initially was available exclusively as a three-door hatchback in three trim lines and with four different petrol and diesel engines. In September 1998, Audi brought quattro permanent all-wheel drive to the compact segment for the first time in the A3. A five-door variant joined the model series in March 1999.

And the brand reached a milestone with the first generation of the particularly sporty Audi S3 in the spring of that same year: the 1.8-litre, inline four-cylinder engine with turbocharging and five valves per cylinder produced 154kW (210hp).

The split grille still used in the second-generation Audi A3 was replaced in 2005 by the Singleframe, which went on to become the brand’s defining design element. Audi also expanded the A3 family to include its first open-topped variant: The A3 Cabriolet launched in 2008 with a classic cloth top.

Now in the third generation, the Audi A3 is available for the first time as a notchback sedan. This version of the A3 celebrated its premiere at the 2012 Geneva Motor Show. In 2016, each and every variant in the entire model series received a technology update.

The Audi RS 3 Sportback is the sporty spearhead of the model series. The first generation was launched in 2011 with a 250kW (340hp), five-cylinder engine. The second edition of the RS 3 Sportback with 270kW (367hp) followed in 2015.

It enabled sporty driving thanks to lightning-fast gear changes

At this year’s Paris Motor Show, Audi presented the RS 3 Sedan – the first compact notchback Audi with an RS badge. The RS 3 sedan is powered by a 2.5 TFSI engine with 294kW (400hp), the most powerful five-cylinder engine on the market.

The first and second generation of the Audi A3 rolled off the assembly line with an analogue speedometer and tachometer. The current A3 is available with the optional Audi virtual cockpit. The all-digital cockpit depicts the most important driving-relevant information in high resolution on a TFT screen with a 12.3-inch diagonal.

The A3 is also the forerunner in the Audi model portfolio when it comes to drive system variants. Besides eight conventional gasoline and diesel engines, the A3 model series has also been available with two alternative drive systems since the launch of the third generation: a natural gas-powered model and a plug-in hybrid.

The Audi A3 e-tron is the brand’s first plug-in hybrid. It pairs a 1.4 TFSI with an electric motor. The combustion engine produces 110kW (150hp) and delivers 250Nm (184.4lb-ft) of torque; these figures for the electric motor are 75kW and 330Nm (243.4 lb-ft). The system power of 150kW (204hp) enables sporty driving performance. When connected to a 380 volt three-phase outlet, it takes just over two hours to fully recharge the lithium-ion battery (8.8kWh).

The model series offers another alternative drive system with the A3 Sportback g-tron: the compact five-door model can also use Audi e-gas, whose production is virtually climate neutral, as an alternative to fossil natural gas. Equipped with a 1.4 TFSI engine producing 81kW (110hp), the A3 Sportback g-tron sets standards for efficiency and economy. Fuel costs to the customer are roughly four euros per 100 kilometres (62.1 mi). Thanks to the four-cylinder engine’s configuration for bivalent fuels, its range is over 400 kilometres (248.5 mi) in the NEDC cycle with natural gas fuel. When powered by gasoline, the driving range is extended by as much as an additional 900 kilometres (559.2 mi).

The racing-inspired electrohydraulic dual-clutch transmission made its debut in an Audi volume production model with the second-generation A3. It enabled sporty driving thanks to lightning-fast gear changes with no break in propulsive power. Today the S tronic dual-clutch transmission is firmly established and is available in nearly every model family.

The A3 reflects the development of lighting technology over the last 20 years. The first Audi A3 was equipped with halogen lights. Today the premium compact comes standard with xenon headlights. The numerous driver assistance systems in the A3 also exemplify Audi’s rapid pace of development in electrical systems and electronics. The current model generation offers such systems as Audi active lane assist or Audi pre sense front including predictive pedestrian protection.

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