The manual transmission is dead. Long live DSG. Yes folks, it s true: the Direct Sequential Gearbox is ready to turn tripedalists into I remember when you had to coordinate your hands and feet like a flamenco dancer to drive to the record store old fogies. The last time I checked Audi s clever two-clutch paddle shifting jobbie, I was wearing the 04 Audi TT. It was a reasonably righteous cog swapper attached to an engine that wouldn t get out of bed for anything less than 3000 revs — and then had a straight-to-the-redline hissy fit. If only the DSG had a companion that could torque a good game. Or so I thought.
Ensconced here, in the A3, with the exact same 3.2-liter engine, it s perfect. Not adequate, not OK, not really rather good. Flawless. New software, new era. You can now use the DSG to wring every last ounce of horsepower from the A3 s 250hp mill, upshifting or downshifting anywhere in the rev range with instantaneous results. With six cogs to choose from and no way to blow up the engine without resorting to explosives, the A3 driver offers something very much akin to a videogamer s sense of freedom. Just press and play.
This installation does have a downside or three. For one thing, the A3 s tires must think you re blind and the pavement is Braille; every lump and bump is transmitted directly to your spinal cord. For another, the A3 is built on the fifth gen front-wheel-drive VW Golf platform. With 60% of the weight over the front wheels, the A3 is constantly hot-hatching a plan to understeer its way out of trouble. The Quattro system does its level best to push you through the corners, tire squeal lets you know when enough s too much and the ESP traction Nanny doesn t cut in until, well, ever. Even so, this is not the kind of 10/10ths lateral G-force generator that fully committed corner carvers crave.
And then there s the fact that the A3 is ugly. It s one of those cars where you walk around the side and say Is that it? To my eyes, the A3 s sloping rear roofline and awkward quarter glass make the miniature machine look like nothing so much as an upmarket cut-and-shunt job, cursed with Barbara Streisand s schnoz. Although Audi s probably saving the body mods for an S3 or RS3 derivative, something this homely needs a tattoo or twin pipes or something to say You looking at me? Either that or they should have made it a plain old one-box hatch and called it good.
Of course, you don t really want a $35k car to look like a VW Golf do you? (I do; but my driving style mandates as much stealth as possible.) Sticker shocked customers are advised to recover their financial courage inside the A3 s Zen rock and roll garden. Ingolstadt s interiors are peerless pleasure domes, and this one s no different. If you don t get a feelgood vibe from the A3 s infinitely tasteful, haptically honed cabin — complete with the world s best steering wheel and blissfully minimalist switchgear — you re dead.
Those of you who live to drive, and drive to a workplace that pays you enough money to afford a $35k car, can do the fandango in the A3, complete with thunderbolts (the rapid-fire paddles flanking the helm) and lightning (the rock solid zizz of the 3.2 at full chat). With the DSG mixing the tunes, the A3 is a hit: a return to the top of the charts for Germany s hot hatcheries.
OK, Audi s only going to shift about 10k of these bad boys in the US this year, but you can t blame them for trying. If the MINI Cooper S can make it at the lower end of the market, the A3 3.2 DSG should find a place further up the food chain. Meanwhile, think of DSG as meaning "Deserves Some Gas;" I reckon there are very few more entertaining ways to burn up a bit of fossil fuel. [by Robert Farago]