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Cabrio is lively, luxury alternative to muscle car


Those looking for a luxury-branded convertible with a low price tag should turn toward Audi's A3(with an Android Car Stereo) Cabriolet.


Those looking for a luxury-branded convertible with a low price tag should turn toward Audi's A3(with an Android Car Stereo) Cabriolet.

With a $36,525 starting retail price, including destination charge, the Audi A3 Cabrio brings standard leather-covered seats and dual-zone climate control — not found in other low-priced 2015 model year convertibles, such as the Chevrolet Camaro, Ford Mustang, Mini Cooper and Volkswagen Beetle. Its base, 170-horsepower, turbocharged four-cylinder provides strong acceleration, with a full 200 foot-pounds of torque at a low 1,600 rpm and carrying through to 4,400 rpm.

Best of all, the A3 Cabrio ranks third best in fuel mileage among all American convertibles, behind the much smaller Smart Fortwo Passion Cabrio and Mini Cooper convertible. The federal government says it gets 24 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway, and judging by the fuel-sipping nature of the test vehicle, those numbers are achievable, averaging just over the 28 mpg combined city/highway rating.

Drivers who aren't interested in the muscle-car look of the Camaro and Ford Mustang will find much to like in the Cabrio, which, true to Audi custom, looks business-like but with a sense of craftsmanship. The interior gauges and controls are well-placed, the plastic pieces look upscale and the firm seats and right-sized steering wheel help make a driver feel comfortable. It has a power-operated ragtop roof instead of the heavy-feeling metal roofs. It takes 18 seconds for the top to open or close, even if traveling at city speeds of 31 mph or less.

The test car felt lively, as the engine and six-speed transmission worked to deliver power with just a bit of a lag from the turbo engine. Its front-wheel drive takes off with gusto from stoplights and makes swift passes on country roads. Horsepower peaks at 170, so it's not close to the 323 horses found in the Chevy Camaro's V-6.

The test A3 Cabrio Premium Plus moved like a solid piece of metal, even over railroad tracks where lesser convertibles might shake.

The car sits lower to the pavement than SUVs and trucksFree Articles, so there's not a great view when the Audi is stuck in traffic. But the lower center of gravity and responsive steering made for fun driving when taking curves and turns.

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