NEW YORK--Audi showed off the cabin tech for the new A3 model at 2012 CES, setting the first milestone for what looked like a highly anticipated update. And while Audi put the updated A3 in sedan and Sportback form on the stage in Geneva and Paris last year, it is only now that we get to see the U.S. version of the car.
However, shown as a 2015 model at the New York International Auto Show, the A3 will not hit showrooms until next year.
The new A3 will come out in far different form than what most Americans are used to. The sedan looks to be Audi's main model, offered with both turbocharged gasoline and diesel engines. The Sportback version, more closely resembling the current A3 model, will come out as a plug-in hybrid, likely using a similar drivetrain configuration to the new Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid. And will also offer an S3 sedan version with a high-output 2-liter engine.
Similar to what was shown at CES, the A3 uses a new take on Audi's MMI controller, keeping the dial and four-button arrangement but embedding a circular touch pad on top of the dial. Drivers will be able to trace letters on the touch pad for alphanumeric input to the infotainment system.
The car's LCD, which motors up from the dashboard, is only a half-inch thick.
The A3 will get an always-on 4G LTE connection to power Google Earth integration with its navigation system. The current A6, A7, and A8 models use a 3G connection for their navigation systems, which show spectacular satellite imagery for the terrain through which the cars drive.
As in the bigger Audis, the A3 will also let the driver use Google local search to find businesses, and show Google Street View imagery for destination locations. An innovative new feature lets drivers send photos with embedded GPS coordinates to the navigation system, and set those coordinates as a destination.
One of the most exciting features in the new A3 is app integration, something that Audi has been lacking. With a phone connected to the car's Wi-Fi, drivers will be able to access certain apps, such as social media, through voice command. Expect that feature to roll out in updates to other Audi models, as well.
For audiophiles, Audi will offer a Bang & Olufsen sound system for the A3.
LED headlights will be available, as well as driver assistance features, such as a blind-spot monitor and adaptive cruise control.
Although the new A3 is still about a year away, it looks like a car worth waiting for. The high-tech features in Audi's larger cars have been extremely impressive, and now Audi brings the same technology and more to a compact car. Don't expect the A3 to be cheap. Audi already is positioned as a premium brand. There will be base models, but fully loaded the A3 will probably hit around $50,000.