Hot News: 2012 Audi A3

We like the current Audi A3; it's sporty, compact, and stylish. But its fiercest competitor is a close relative, the VW Golf, a car that makes it hard to justify the big price of the little Audi. Since the debut of the current, sixth-generation Golf—essentially a highly successful face lift of the Golf MkV, a.k.a. Rabbit—the A3 looks somewhat dated. The current A3, after all, was launched seven years ago, just like the Golf V. A few minor freshenings have kept the Audi ahead of the now-gone Golf V in terms of style, but the Golf VI is so well executed that Audi needs a new car to keep up.

The next A3, to be launched in 2012, will make a leap forward. It is based on VW’s new “Modularer Querbaukasten” (MQB) architecture, meaning “modular transverse matrix.” As the name suggests, it's the Volkswagen Group's new modular transverse-engine platform, which is slightly longer and wider than the current A3 platform and designed to take further cost out of the many variations offered by Volkswagen and its Audi, SEAT, and ┼ákoda subsidiaries.

Audi will continue to offer the A3 with front-wheel drive and Quattro all-wheel drive. Power will come from a number of direct-injection, turbocharged engines out of the VW Group's vast parts bin. Europe will even get a tiny, entry-level, turbocharged 1.2-liter gasoline engine; there will also be more-powerful 1.4-liter and 2.0-liter TSI engines, as well as several TDI oil-burners. The overly complex turbo- and supercharged 1.4-liter twincharger engine of Euro Golf fame is unlikely to be offered in the A3; on the other hand, we believe that the A3 lineup will be topped by an RS3, powered by the phenomenal 2.5-liter, turbocharged inline-five which makes 340 hp in the TT RS. Even the current A3 could still get an RS3 version, giving it a final and honorable send-off.

Before the new, MQB-based RS3 arrives in 2014 or 2015, there will be an S3 model, powered by a version of the 2.0-liter EA888 engine making close to 300 hp. (Engine-code geeks will note that this engine replaces the current S3's EA113 unit.) The most powerful A3 versions are likely to get dual-clutch (S tronic) transmissions as standard; a six-speed manual will be the standard box for the regular A3, with S tronic as an available option. Europe may still get entry-level versions with a five-speed manual. The smooth but thirsty 3.2-liter VR6, by the way, is history.

Thanks to: Car and Driver

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