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Racing Teatray

Audi S3 / CLA45 AMG

This was all a bit surprising.

I had lined up test-drives of the Audi S3 (largely to get an idea of what the upcoming RS3 was like and whether the "lite" version would suffice (short answer: no)) and the CLA45 AMG Shooting Brake at the two big west London dealerships in Brentford as they are conveniently side-by-side.

First up was the Audi. It was quite a limited drive around the 'burbs and the A4, so not much scope for Queefery on the cards, but enough to deduce that the example I drove, which was a 3dr with the normal 18" alloys but without Audi's expensive magnetic dampers, had a noticeably stiffer ride than my car. Definitely less forgiving over speed-humps and scarred surfaces, but on the flip side it felt very planted and stable. It goes like the clappers though – this one had the DSG box and if it's slower than the M135i, then it certainly doesn't feel like it. In fact it felt altogether a bit more urgent than the M135i, which felt a rather more grown-up and relaxed car by comparison. Part of that is the gearbox of course but it is definitely quick. It also makes a half-decently sporty noise but I didn't care much for the loud braap/crack it gives on upshifts under full power – that just sounded a bit juvenile if I'm honest (clearly I am getting old).

But what was really interesting, given that Audis have frequently majored on static appeal and interior design/quality, was the decided lack of "want one" factor and the interior which I really didn't like very much. I mean, the interior was well designed and yes beautifully made and had clever touches like the retracting nav screen, but I just didn't much like it. It was too Spartan and uninviting-looking, and almost a bit low rent-looking even if it wasn't at all cheap-feeling. It sounds odd but it didn't look particularly grown-up or particularly like it belonged in what is a relatively expensive car. Not at all what I expected from having seen photos and from Audi's general reputation. And then from the outside it really just looks like an A3 with four exhausts and some not especially attractive wheels. I'm all for Q-ness but this was just a trifle too dull, especially in recession-white paintwork.

I have to say that I got back in my car and, notwithstanding that it is more familiar, it just instantly felt a more upmarket and inviting place to be, even if the basic design is not sporty or particularly interestingly styled – of course the contrasting leather and the wood trim in mine help, but Audi doesn't offer either option – your choices are restricted to black or paedo leather (unless you go nuts and spend several grand on an "individual" colour), and aluminium or black trim. All rather too austere all-told.

So the RS3, which I otherwise really like the external look of, and sound of, will have to be really quite epic to overcome that. Disappointing. Plus I didn't care for the Audi "we don't do discounts/deposit contributions" approach.

And so it was on to M-B. Irritatingly, the Brentford dealership had rung in the morning to say that someone had nabbed the CLA45 SB I had booked a test-drive in so could we re-arrange. Er, no, not happening! So, I decided to go to M-B Chelsea instead since it is walking distance from my house to look at the one I had clocked they had in the showroom when cycling past on my way to work of a morning.

And so, to continue the afternoon's surprises, notwithstanding that this particular CLA45 SB was also painted white and had black wheels (yuk and yuk) and was parked next to the most staggeringly stunning AMG GT S in a deep electric blue from which I could barely tear myself away, it instantly had so much more appeal than the Audi. It's way, way better-looking in the metal than in photographs. It's a great size, having more rear seat space and boot space than my car, and…to my surprise…a much more appealing and special-feeling interior than the Audi. I could pass on some of the red detailing which is a bit MG Metro, but overall it is just much more stylish and attractive than the Audi's and even the silly stuck-on nav screen didn't bother as much as I thought it would. Overall, it had all the static showroom appeal the Audi so surprisingly lacked. I could see it being absolutely ideal.

So I am going to go back and try it sometime next month to see what the drive is like. It might be moot as the wife took one look at the brochure and said she didn't like it at all, but I'd still like to try it.

Such are life's small surprises.

I didn't photograph the S3 but this was the CLA:



gonnabuildabuggy

I thought you were off to Brazil?

I'm guessing this means the pitter/patter of tiny feet is approaching?

Also why did you have to test drive the S3 around another Audi, I hope this was limited to the A4 and they didn't make you drive around an A5, A6, A7 and A8 in some kind of dealership slalom?
JohnC

That CLA45 AMG does look very smart even though the colour scheme isn't quite to my liking. I do like the shape.

A guy who works for me was out at the weekend looking at the A3 and 1 Series (cooking versions) and said that he was similarly disappointed by the Audi which didn't feel as premium as the 1 Series. Maybe the Audi quality is slipping.
Racing Teatray

Hahahahahaha....obviously I meant the road, not the mid-sized Audi...

I was off to Brazil but then the Brazilian economy nose-dived so I am now staying put in London where there is actually work to do.
Michael

My feeling with the A3 isn't so much the quality of the materials but the design. It feels a bit junior, lacking in details that make it feel like a grown up, expensive car. The interior would be ok in an A1, but it feels like an A1. I've got to say at the other end of the spectrum the Q7 interior on first impressions seems to be a masterpiece.
gonnabuildabuggy

My thoughts too on A3 interior, it's now more of a grown up A1, than downsized A4.

The bigger the car the better the materials, a 6GC is nicer than a 3, is nicer than a 1, etc. The 1 does at least share a similar dash design unlike the Audi's (and Merc?).

CLA45 would be a good small family car.
Humphrey The Pug

I didn't even know that they did a Shooting Break CLA, looks pretty tatsy.

I followed in an A45 AMG to work this morning, it looked absolutely stunning.
Racing Teatray

Michael wrote:
My feeling with the A3 isn't so much the quality of the materials but the design. It feels a bit junior, lacking in details that make it feel like a grown up, expensive car. The interior would be ok in an A1, but it feels like an A1.


^^ This is exactly what I mean - just more eloquently put.

Humphrey The Pug wrote:
I didn't even know that they did a Shooting Break CLA, looks pretty tatsy.

I followed in an A45 AMG to work this morning, it looked absolutely stunning.


"tatsy"...
Martin

I'm not surprised you liked the interior of the A Class, when I went to MB World a while back, I thought it was their best effort and it was the only one I was comfortable in.  (this was before the current C was launched.  I'm also not surprised about your thoughts on the A3, while Audi material quality is good, it's not great and most of the range have dull / disappointing interiors (compared to what you're led to believe by the mags).

Interesting write up, but you said in the other thread that you're thinking about trading up and I don't see either of these as a trade up from the M135i.
Humphrey The Pug

Interesting that the general view of the A Class interior is favourable as initialy there were grumblings about the way the sat nav is positioned.
Alf McQueef

Interesting - mirrors my thoughts a lot after my recent time at Brooklands re: the CLA, which in both shapes - but especially SB - looks great and just has a lovely, special feeling, and high quality interior. The coupe seems to be selling well too, around here...

Audi are paying the price for making all their cars look like the "S" models used to with big wheels, body kit, sports seats etc. Silly.
Martin

Over £40,000 for an CLA45 is ridiculous, never mind the £50,000 it would cost for the spec I'd want (which is similar to Racings M135i).
JohnC

Humphrey The Pug wrote:
Interesting that the general view of the A Class interior is favourable as initialy there were grumblings about the way the sat nav is positioned.


There was a "scoop" photo recently of a redesigned dashboard for the new C Class, in which the screen had been repositioned in the dash. Perhaps the same upgrade will be made to the A Class when the time comes.

Strangely though the CLS went from having an integrated screen to a separate one in the recent upgrade.
Martin

I don't like the tablet style screens, a properly integrated unit is much better, as long as it isn't low in the dash.
Alf McQueef

Martin wrote:
I don't like the tablet style screens, a properly integrated unit is much better, as long as it isn't low in the dash.


It seems annoying, but sit in a CLA and the overall feel is good. I'm sure it will end up integrated...
PG

JohnC wrote:
There was a "scoop" photo recently of a redesigned dashboard for the new C Class, in which the screen had been repositioned in the dash. Perhaps the same upgrade will be made to the A Class when the time comes.


The C interior looked like they were going to go down the "mini S class" route.
Mark

I am really surprised in the thoughts of the 1 Series interior feeling more upmarket than the Audi - in my experience, the new 1 Series interior is fairly mediocre quality-wise (similar with the 3 Series). Although, I haven't had a poke around a smaller Audi in a long time, so maybe things have really changed.
PR

Interesting. I've not sat inside a current A3 but the bit of the interior I just can't believe is the slab of plastic between the dashboard and centre console, which has the cigarette lighter seemingly plonked haphazardly in it. It looks atrocious!

We had a good poke around a CLA SB at Brooklands a few weeks ago and I quite liked the look of it - the estatey back end balances out the gigantic front overhang in a way the ungainly saloon doesn't. I can't be doing with the iPad knock-off stuck to the dash though.
Nice Guy Eddie

From my experience the 1 series kicks sand in the face of the A3 and Aclass.

If I was in your shoes id probably be looking at an m3. There must be some big ass discounts and once on pcp are the sums that far out?
Martin

You can get a brand new M5 on PCP for slightly less than an M3, thanks to a decent discount and 0% finance.
Racing Teatray

I didn't mean "trade-up" in the sense of getting something fancier, I merely meant something new as opposed to keeping the M135i. The budget doesn't stretch to anything costing much more than the M135i costs currently so it's all in the correlation between purchase price, discount and GFV ultimately as to whether anything is viable.

Her ladyship has declared that she doesn't like the M135i, RS3 Sportback or CLA SB ...or in fact any form of 5dr hatch or estate. Apparently saloons and coupes are more elegant-looking and this is, it seems, A Big Deal.

What she has declared a like for are the Jaguar XE, the Audi A5 Sportback and the 4-series Gran Coupe. The latter is the likeliest in 435i/440i flavour if I can make the maths work.
Giant

I would guess being Italian, Mrs Teatray knows about style and elegance...

..and I would agree entirely about the CLASB, there is absolutely nothing elegant about it! It's too short to pull off the lines that work on the CLSSB, it just looks bent, saggy and fat.
gonnabuildabuggy

I'd be tempted to keep the M135i but I suspect the maths doesn't work off the PCP.

Not very "you" I'm sure but stonking deals on the Golf R make it hard to ignore.

I can see the appeal of the looks of the XE, A5, 4GC as more rounded designs. Indeed if I had to buy a new car then I'd probably buy a 4GC today (or 6GC/A7).

Have you considered an A5 Coupe if you're going that route? You can still get a V8 in those.
Martin

You haven't been able to be a V8 S5 for a few years.  The 4 GC is very nice and reasonable discounts are available now, but it's still 20% more expensive than the saloon.  The gap is narrower when you equalise the spec and the PCP interest rates are the same, but it will still be more expensive per month.

Mrs Teatray is right about the CLA and the A5 SB/4 GC do look better than the saloons, but whatever BMW and Audi tell us, they are hatchbacks not coupes!  Easier boot access for baby stuff than a saloon though!

I assume the 500 was Mrs T's choice and you were happy for her to have what she wanted, shouldn't that work the other way?  

It's a shame about the A3 interior, as that could have been ideal.   A neighbour has just got a red S3 saloon and it looks really smart
Racing Teatray

Mrs RT dismissed the Golf out of hand.

The S3 saloon is quite smart but also £2k more than the Sportback and has a very shallow and awkwardly-shaped boot.

I am not sure that a 4GC is materially more expensive than a 3-series saloon, particularly on the bigger-engined variants. My desired spec on a 335i saloon runs to some £6.5k's worth of options whereas on the 4GC, it's only £3.5k's worth. Then once you factor in better discounts on the 3 but better residuals on the 4, it comes to much of a muchness I think.

But we shall see - I have asked for some example quotes, mainly to get a sense of the GFV.

Interestingly on the Audi front, the GFV on £38k's worth of specced-up S3 Sportback is £18k and on £45k's worth of specced-up RS3 Sportback is £24k. So the RS3 has noticeably better expected residuals than its little brother, which makes the affordability gap smaller than expected.
PG

Racing Teatray wrote:
Her ladyship has declared that she doesn't like the M135i, RS3 Sportback or CLA SB ...or in fact any form of 5dr hatch or estate. Apparently saloons and coupes are more elegant-looking and this is, it seems, A Big Deal.

What she has declared a like for are the Jaguar XE, the Audi A5 Sportback and the 4-series Gran Coupe. The latter is the likeliest in 435i/440i flavour if I can make the maths work.


Assuming an XE can't be made to work, I'd be tempted by the 4 series. I had a passenger ride in a friend of ours 420 at the weekend (yes, she bought a 420 petrol, yay) and I was pleasantly impressed with the interior quality, with the exception of the slab of silver on the dash centre. But as you're a wood and leather man, that would look a whole lot better in some dark wood or dark metal.

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