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Road trip to Pacific Beach in the 2015 Audi A3

Audi has created a great compact luxury sports sedan with the 2015 Audi A3. They really have packed the technology, build quality and performance of their larger sedans into a small package.
Audi has created a great compact luxury sports sedan with the 2015 Audi A3. They really have packed the technology, build quality and performance of their larger sedans into a small package.
Freddy Sherman

The 2015 Audi A3 proves that sometimes smaller really is better. Audi has successfully packed all the build quality, technology, fun and performance of their larger sedans into a smaller package. I got my hands on a new 2015 A3 2.0T quattro S tronic version finished in Scuba Blue and took this great little car on a roadtrip to Pacific Beach.

Pacific Beach This cool little city is just north of San Diego near Mission Beach and La Jolla. With miles of wide beaches, a long boardwalk constantly teeming with runners, bikers, skaters and walkers, it's a fun place to visit for a weekend. The area is also home to a whole lot of good restaurants and bars and is also known for its party atmosphere. I stayed at the ultra-cool Surfer Beach Hotel (711 Pacific Beach Drive), which sits right on the boardwalk.

World Famous Right on-site at the Surfer Beach is World Famous (711 Pacific Beach Drive) one of the area's best, and most beloved, restaurants. The menu is a great mix of hearty American food, seafood specialties and chef's specials. The prices are amazingly low, given the fine food, beachfront location and great service.

Woody's For a local's breakfast, head out in front of the hotel to Woody's Breakfast and Burgers (4111 Ocean Blvd.), another local institution. Pull up a bar stool along the dining area, for a front row view of the boardwalk and the beach and ocean beyond.

The drive Before heading to Pacific Beach, I drove the A3 around DTLA and found it nimble and quick yet comfortable. I didn't feel like I was riding in a small car, a feeling made stronger by the 12-way adjustable driver's seat with lumbar adjustment and all the Audi technology guiding me. On the freeway drive to Pacific Beach (about two and a half hours) it had good power for passing and freeway ramps, and had a nice solid feel while cruising at high (yet legal) speeds. Coming back after my weekend getaway, I got caught in traffic on the freeway and was quite happy to explore the radio and Audi connect news and information system.

The A3 As someone who has spent a lot of time in a lot of Audi models, especially the A7, A8, S8 and R8, I felt right at home in the A3 and found the same responsive, convenient controls. The car was equipped with the Audi MMI Navigation plus package which uses Google Maps and Earth to provide an amazing experience. The MMI includes a small touch pad where you can simply spell out letters to find a destination. Mine was the Surfer Beach Hotel in Pacific Beach, so I started writing in S-U-R-F-E-R B-E and then it showed the hotel, allowing me to select it as my navigation destination. There is also a voice control mode that is equally resposive and accurate, I used it to locate a gas station in La Jolla and then guide me there, which it did smoothly.

Performance With Audi's 2.0 TFSI engine putting out 220 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, it's enough to move this small, lightweight car quite quickly (5.8 seconds 0-60). The car features Audi's typically tight, solid suspension, but it's forgiving and creates a good balance between sporty and comfortable. The six-speed S tronic transmission, complete with paddle shifters, is responsive and also offers a good mix of sporty or comfort, depending on the setting. In other words, the sport setting is very sporty, with high revving and high shift points, while the comfort mode is quite docile and comfortable. With the tight space, firm handling, Formula 1-inspired steering wheel and driver-centric controls, there are also comparisons to be made to Audi's mighty R8 supercar.

Economy The base A3 starts just under $30,000 but buyers will need to spend just under $40,000 to get a properly equipped, 2.0T model with the larger engine. The 2.0T offers 27 MPG (combined highway / city) which I feel can be manipulated five points up or down depending on driving style.

Convenience With rear seats that fold down flat, in addition to having a pass-thru, this small car offers a lot of accessible space. A trip to a hardware store to pick up an eight-foot long piece of wood molding was no problem, as the wood fit inside the car. We put the rear seats down and the wood rested on the front arm rest. The rear trunk / rear seat area with the 60/40 rear seats folded down is a big area, offering hatchback-like space.

Read more about the author's roadtrips on his travel blog luxuryfred.com.