Morning sickness

Cold starts and mixed blessings

JAMES WHITBOURN

DESPITE our image differences, the longterm Audi cabrio and I do have one thing in common. You see, Iím not a morning person. It takes time and a strong cup of tea before I can function. Similarly, the A3 often stumbles and clunks through the shift into second just after it has been cold-started.

You have to go easy on it until it warms up, which takes about half a minute. I need about half an hour.

The Audi is otherwise switched-on when itís fully awake (though I can make no guarantees about its driver), and Iíve been impressed by the driver interface lately.

Iím particularly taken by its ability to take a letter of the alphabet scrawled on the centre console MMI dial and look up a name in a paired phoneís address book. Itís cool and, most importantly, it works. My four-year-old daughter Grace, who is learning to write, loves the feature, too.

The MMI interfaceís ability to read out text messages hasnít been handy yet Ė I only just discovered it Ė but even the cabrio knows itís not an ďOrdiĒ.

The minimum specified fuel RON in the spec sheet and inside the fuel flap is regular 91-octane, so thatís what I filled the A3 with initially. Over those first few tanks I began to form the opinion that the 1.8-litre turbo four was little more than adequate. I thought that maybe the cabrioís extra weight compared with the sedan or sportback versions was taking the sparkle off.

Then I put 95-octane in the other day and it was a revelation. The cabrio isnít necessarily a whole lot quicker, but it is noticeably more eager at but it is noticeably more eager at low revs, and more flexible; it just feels (and even sounds) like a happier engine.

The lower ambient air temperatures of Sydneyís first cold autumn days made this yet another flawed experiment (see last issueís update about changing two variables at once). Is the donkís newfound responsiveness due to the octane boost or the air temperature drop? Itís probably a bit of both.

Either way, now Iím looking i b forward to trying 98-octane premium, at low forward to trying 98-octane premium, and to even colder weather. If thereís one good thing about the colder months, itís the power boost it brings in turbo cars. Thatís probably the only good thing about winter actually because otherwise I hate the cold, especially first thing.

FAREWELL OF SORTS

Jimmyís cabriolet is set to depart, with an A3 sedan taking its place for another three months

Da doo RON RON

THE inside of the fuel flap indicates that 91-octane can be used, but the spec sheet says 95 is the minimum recommended fuel.

The ownerís manual holds the explanation: ďThe use of premium petrol (95 RON) is recommended. If that type of fuel is not available, regular petrol (91 RON) can be used with a slight loss of power.Ē Iíll try 98-octane in the cabrioís successor, an A3 1.4 TFSI sedan, though given itís 180kg lighter with an identical 250Nm torque figure, it should go okay anyway.

AUDI A3 1.8 TFSI CABRIOLET

Date acquired: January 2015 Price as tested: $51,900 This month: 1335km @ 8.4L/100km Overall: 3847km @ 8.0L/100km