CNET On Cars: The Audi A3 remarkably moves the top tech down-market (CNET On Cars, Episode 43)
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CNET On Cars: The Audi A3 remarkably moves the top tech down-market (CNET On Cars, Episode 43)

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The Audi A3 bucks the trend of tech for the richest, 4G in cars explained, and the latest learnings about teens and driving.

Okay, here we go with the driving impression. Audi's newest A3 brings high tech to a low price. 4G, not in your phone, but in your car. And teen driving is getting safer, just not nearly enough. Time to check the tech We see cars differently. We love them on the road. And under the hood. But also check the techs and are known for telling it like it is. Ugly is included at no extra cost. The good, the bad, the bottom line. This is CNET On Cars. Welcome to CNet on Cars, the show all about high tech cars and modern driving. I'm Brian Cooley. You know, Audi's newest variant of the A3 does something lower end cars never do. It brings in technology into companies higher end cars don't even have yet. So, let's drive the 2015 Audi A3 Sedan today. And check that tech. [MUSIC] Boy, that engine is quick. This is a near-bottom line car with near top of line technology. You know, the A4 grew up and out of its category, so they replaced it with a Sedan now that is definitely smaller, lighter, less expensive. Let's draw the 2015 Audi A3 Sedan and the 2.0T quattro. Now this A3 Sedan is real new especially in the U.S. market. Although the A3 line has been around for quite a while. This is basically taking the place of the old A4, the original A4 which was about these same dimensions. This car is 175 inches long on a 103 inch wheel base. The A4 has grown up quite a bit. It's 10 inches longer on a wheel base that's seven inches more. And that's to give that car more trunk and back seat room. This car remains a little snug in the back seat and the trunk but tidier in the overall package. Now the message on the A3 is small car with big car tech, four things in particular sell you on that. You've got integrated 4G, you've got a full on Audi MMI head unit with a pop-up screen, and the newest controller here with a big touch pad. You've got optional Bang & Olufsen audio if you wanna go really nuts, and you've got Audi drive select which allows you to lay out this quattro drive train in a series of different personalities. The 4G is probably the biggest story in this car. This car has a built in AT&T card. There's a SIM over there in the glove box. And that puts this car on the network by itself without tethering. And better than that pokey 3G nonsense that a lot of other cars use. Now here's where it gets interesting having all this 4G stuff, is your online connection and Audi connect. Audi connect is where you get to put all kinds of services, including your own custom news feeds you'd like, as well as the usual weather and fuel prices. These are of varying usefulness. Facebook and Twitter updates. Of course, that can go back and forth via text to keep it safe. Flight information. Parking information I find interesting. And of course, a 4G connection can finally power a credible WiFi hotspot in the car. German car, no touch. Your control down here is a streamlined MMI controller interface. They've turned the top of the knob here into a larger finger trace writing space. Enter address. And of course you've got generally very good voice command on this car with good prompts on screen. Couple of interesting features in how you find your destination, you can send destinations on-line obviously, you can search on-line through Google, that's not new but again it works so much better with 4G. And, here's an odd one. You can upload pictures that have GPS coordinates to your myAudi account. Those will get uploaded here, or you can bring them in on a SD card, and then you can navigate by looking at a thumbnail of photos. I'm not sure I'll ever need that, but it's cool. Now you'll pay for this car's built in 4G rather oddly after a six month free period. [MUSIC] 5 gigabytes spread across six months is $100 or 30 gigabytes spread across 30 months is $500. They way they've structured it to 5 and 30 month buckets is very odd. Now I'm not too concerned about hitting or exceeding those peaks. And then getting billed above that. Unless you're doing a lot of WiFi hotspot use, nothing I'm seeing in here is gonna be a bandwidth hog. As I mentioned, you're banging [UNKNOWN] audio and the sources that it will bring you are pretty numerous, as well. You've got a hard drive, which I'm dubious on. Two SD card slots next to that SIMs. CD slot is in there as well. And they don't use a lot of USB on these cars. They use these device pigtails in the console, which I have to feel is kind of old school. And then, of course, Bluetooth streaming is in there. And they do a pretty good job of bringing up meta tag information. And notice how they've also upped the processing so the vehicle works as quickly as the 4G connection coming in. And the last thing I mentioned is Audi Drive Select being a premium feature in a car like this. And that's where you've got these settings for the vehicle's behavior, deciding how you want the engine and transmission to ramp up, to accelerate, to make their shifts, as well as how tight you want the steering, or if you want it more leisurely. Now I wanna show you the Owner's Manual, which you would think is this and that is an Owner's Manual but you can wing that because they've got a whole new thing going on, an augmented reality phone app that you can use to look around the car. It will tell you what a button on the dash does. It will tell you about a reading on a gauge and whether there's a problem. And then you go under the hood and it will tell you where to perform simple maintenance, really interesting. Now A3's all have pretty small motors. This is a 2 liter side saddle inline 4. And this is the big engine. The little one is a hamster. It's actually a 1.8. Both of them are turbo charged engines with direct injection. The numbers on this guy are 220 horsepower, 258 foot pounds of torque. Turbos will do that for you. That gets out to all wheel drive, six speed dual clutch transmission only. So it's an automated manual. Interestingly, as I notice the gear ranges, the top three are overdrive. So half that gear box is overdrive. The overall package with a little over 3300 pounds. Yeah, it gets up to 60 and a very respectable 5.8 seconds, while delivering 24 33 mpg. This is a nice, powerful lean, little miser of a motor. [MUSIC] Okay, the first thing I noticed driving this little A3 was the transmission. It is perhaps the most refined BCT I've driven. So big thumbs up on the gear box and in front of that a great engine. It's not a massively powerful car, but it's a really good breathing engine is my sense. It's just amazing a two liter can do this for a car of you know, pretty ordinary weight. I thought this car for some reason was gonna have a little more of an aggressive suspension. It doesn't at least in this trim it is more biased toward comfort than toward flat cornering and road holding. You know, the upside, though, the car translates out the ugly stuff in the road real nicely for a small, short wheel-based car, and when you change your drive select here it does not affect the suspension on this car as you saw in those settings. It's basically power train and steering. Now the nice thing about that pop-up toaster slice display is that it is pretty high. I mean it's actually almost kissing the top of the hood as you sit at least from my seating position. In a nutshell, light, tight, and bright. It's a fun little car to drive. It feels like it's built like a drum. It's got better than it's price point ride quality. Okay, pricing our A3 sedan, this is a 2.0T as I mentioned. It's the bigger engine, not much bigger, but notably. So we're gonna put this guy out at $33,800 delivered to start. Then we're gonna open up with one big trim level upgrade to start going CNet Style, and that would be the Prestige level. That gives you driver assists, Bang & Olufsen, navigation, those Audi connect services, LED headlights. The S-line trim, 18s, aluminum inside, and keyless access. But for more driver assist, we're gonna add the advance technology package for 1,400. That gets us adaptive cruise, active lane departure prevention, and active front collision prevention technology. I don't normally pick up sport packages on most of these cars; but, this one, I would. It's only $550. It gives you shift paddles on a sport wheel, sport seats, and those Audi drive select vehicle profiles. I like all of that. Now if this gas-powered sedan's not your style, know that the A3 is a very broad family. Depending what moment in time and where you live, other options include the S3 sport model, a TDI Turbo diesel-powered model, also a Cabriolet, and soon an e-tron electric. [MUSIC] Check out our full review on that A3 Sedan over on cars.cnet.com. You know, teenagers have always been a big focus of the driving industry. They have a huge passion for cars, but also changing attitudes about them [INAUDIBLE] Some new survey data about their attitudes about safe driving and the need to own a car is of interest to the smarter driver and the smarter parent. State Farm and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia found some encouraging trends around teen drivers in a way you probably don't think of, when teens are passengers. In the last few years, 30% fewer teens were killed in a crash involving a teen driver. Number. 54% of teen passengers report always wearing a seat belt. And 14% fewer teens reported getting into a car driven by a friend who'd been drinking. Still, car crashes remain the number one cause of death for teenagers, approaching the total of the next two largest causes combined. And three times more likely for them than people over 20. Now turning to teens as drivers, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia says there are three hot buttons to focus on to keep reducing the teen death driving trend. First, reduce distraction from other passengers. And technology. A third of teens still admit to texting or emailing while driving. Laurie, watch out! Increase their skills in scanning for hazard detection and speed management. See our recent smarter driver segments on these exact techniques. And increase seat belt use. That 54% always number we mentioned is a good trend, but not a good enough number. Certainly not compared to the 84% of the U.S. population overall. It pays to double check that your teen is getting good habits in the car, regardless of what side of it they're sitting in. Coming up, 4G in your car explained when cnet OnCars rolls on. [MUSIC] Find more from the Xcar team of CNet UK at cnet.com/xcar. Welcome back to CNet on cars coming to you from our home at the Marine Club House of Cars Duidiack, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. Well, we just saw that Audi A3 with built-in 4G wireless connectivity. Very cutting edge stuff. But it's about to become a widespread trend around the auto industry. So I think it's appropriate that we do a car check 101 on the concept of putting 4G into cars separate from your mobile phone. This is gonna be running from Audi to Hyundai to GM and many other car makers in the next few years. Let's find out why it's such a big sea change. So the first question, and it's a fair one is, why 4G? What's the big deal? First of all, the phrase 4G in the car has a lot in it. Let's unpack the phrase, because it tells us much. First of all, 4G. That means greater bandwidth, more speed. 4G provides a faster pipe. So all of a sudden you have the ability to do things, with less lag time for people that are in the car. The experience is just that much better. Yeah, it really is. This 4G was designed with IT in mind. Where as 3G was really designed to support voice services. 4G is really designed to support IT based services, internet applications. The next part of that phase is, in the car. We're talking about an embedded connection that is part of the vehicle as opposed to it being tethered off your phone. You're not looking down potentially on your smartphone which you shouldn't be using to find the address and looking around trying to see the house number. You have the ability to do a search for a destination and actually be able to zoom in and see a full 360 degree panorama of your destination before you even start driving. You have the ability to get data in and out very quickly. IHS Automotive currently forecasts a modest 1.2 million 4G cars on the road by the end of 2015, but spiking globally to 16 million just 2 years later. Now this 2015 Chevy Suburban I'm in right now is going to be among the first of what will be a majority of General Motors cars, starting with the 2015 model year that have or offer built in 4G connectivity. Audi may have gotten there first, but GM looks as though their gonna get there biggest, at least for the forseeable future. And both Audi and General Motors say that the hotspot created in these vehicles by 4G is dramatically better than one created by 3G as in the past. Look at this connection speed on my laptop. On the network, via the 4G hotspot in the Audi A3. And this is just one snapshot, of course, but during a day of usage, I saw connection times that allowed me to focus on the content. And not the connection. Now, speed aside, persistence of connection is a very interesting part of this story. Once you've got a constant connection in the vehicle, you start to change your habits a bit. You learn to rely on things like connected now, streaming media, access to various types of apps. Things that right now are seen as bit of an elective will start to become part and parcel of what driving is. Tantalizingly we may see manufacturers get in the habit of OTA, or over-the-air software updates, thanks to persistent 4G. That means you may wake up one morning and get a confirmation screen that says we've updated the software in your vehicle. Enjoy your new services and your new interface. It's the same delight we get with our smartphones once or twice a year but cars have never done that. Now you can see things fresh over the life time of the car. But also it's immediate freshness. You have the ability to bring materials from the cloud into the car. As we know recalls and having to do reprogram the car's computer systems is a huge expense for the car company. They'll be able to do this over the air without requiring consumers are taking it to the shop. This is gonna be huge. They get a ton of diagnostic data from the car. Before you go to the shop, they'll know what's wrong with it, and the health of the car, and other stats. Of course, the question many of your are already thinking, is wait a minute, who pays for this? I'm gonna have another mobile data plan? [MUSIC] Well, right now, yes it's a typically $14 to $20 a month add on for the very few cars that have come out with 4G built in. In the near future, I suspect you won't have to pay at all, except with your personal driving data. Which is rich and valuable. Your car is going to be collecting information and sending it back, whether it's how you're performing in traffic, if there are potholes, maybe weather conditions. I think we'll see a model where we have a lot more crowd source data where each car basically is a node on that network that's communicating and then data's aggregated in a cloud and brought back to that vehicle as well. Which brings us to security and privacy, something where the stakes get even higher when you're dealing with a big moving object and one that reflects a lot of detail about our daily lives. There are all kinds of things that the industry can do including QNIX to enable a very secure connection between the car and the cloud, over a 4G network. But, you need to follow those steps, to be able to make that as tight as, as it needs to be. So far, car makers are keeping 4G connections sand boxed within infotainment. Making sure that the systems are secure, and that they're isolated from other parts of the car that potentially could pose a threat. Embedded 4G is not a matter of if, but when at this point. And the next two to three model years will reveal the many ways car makers intend to convince you it's worth paying for, one way or the other. [MUSIC] In a moment. Top 5 reasons for 4G in your car. When cnet on Cars continues. [MUSIC] This is an F1 spec simulator. [MUSIC] As I turn through this right hander, in a race car my body would squashed to the left hand side of the car. But without actual G, this simulator exerts pressure onto my left side of the body. There are nine pads all over the car, simultaneously working. And because they are pneumatically controlled, they can sustain the force, therefore, accurately replicating G-force. All of this does a fantastic job of making me feel like I'm actually in a Formula One car. [MUSIC] Buy more from the XCAR team of cnet UK at cnet.com/xcar. Welcome back to cnet On Cars, I'm Brian Cooley. It's time for some email. This one comes in from Daniel J.T. who apparently just finished watching our piece on what should be in your trunk, including jumper cables. And he says, instead of having jumper cables in the car or purchasing one of those separate portable jump starters, wouldn't it be a better idea to have a spare car battery in the trunk? Hm. That's actually a very simple solution. One fresh, one that might be dead. But the problem is batteries are big, as you know Daniel, and heavy. And unless the car maker has built a second battery cradle, it's gonna be sliding around and taking up a lot of space. And car makers aren't going to do that, because they kind of hate batteries. They're big, they're heavy, they take up room, they **** up the weight balance of a performance car. And they haven't changed in something like a century. So that's a non starter. On the other hand, some electric cars, plug-ins, EVs and such. They have two batteries. They have the 12 volt battery, the accessory battery, if you will. They also have the great big, high voltage battery, that lets the car drive around. But if you lose that old fashioned 12 volt battery, it goes dead, you often can't start the car, even with a fully charged motive high-voltage battery. That's because the 12 volt controls things like the instrument panel, the controls, the relays that wake it up, even the door locks So pick your poison. Jumper cables, a battery jumper device like we showed, or an active AAA card. Now we talked a lot about 4G in this episode. So let's wrap with a top five that goes right to the heart of why this is such a c-change in the auto industry. The integration of this kind of connectivity. Here are my top five reasons. Why 4G in cars is a big deal. [MUSIC] Number 5 is data gathering. I put this last, because let's face it. It could range anywhere from car makers doing things that are kind of dumb to massively inappropriate or kind of like magic. You see the data from a built-in 4G connection, will let your car throw off all kinds of information about it and how you use it that could make it far better to own and operate, or it could be just be totally invasive. Number four, better in-car hot-spots. I ranked this fairly law because I believe the need for a hotspot in your car is overblown at best and bait to push you into an overage fee at worst. Need a hotspot? Pull over and get a cup of coffee. But if you do have one powered by 4G at least it'll work better. Number three, over the air updates. I love the idea of these. Having your cars software updated once or twice a year, like when you get a new version of iOS or Android. But what keeps it mid-pack at number three, is that we've never seen a car maker do this. Will they offer a new OS a couple times or three times during car ownership, or just prefer to get you to buy a new car? And if they do give you an update, what if it breaks? Number two, connection speed. Everything's better when faster, but even more so in a car, where having information and services resolve quickly on the screen is essential to the task of driving with minimal distractions. This is very important. Whether its connected nav search, off-board voice recognition, or streaming media, I can't think of a place a fast connection could be more rewarding than in your car. The number one reason that four G is a must have in the near future is a persistent connection. This is a big game changer folks, even if it sounds a little nebulous. You see a built in, always on connection in your car will fundamentally change your expectations of the in car experience. Our online habits, services, and preferences will finally follow us into the car, seamlessly. As opposed to the way it is now where you kind of have to change gears. Adapt to your car's media sources, your car's interface, it's navigation platform, and it's utter ignorance of your life's context. It's time for the car to really be another of our mobile devices and have that not just be a car maker tag line. And built in 4G can get us there. Thanks for watching. Hope you enjoyed this episode. If you wanna know what I'm working on for the next episode, follow me on social media. I'm BrianCooley on Twitter or you can follow us at facebook.com/askCNET or find us on G+. And I'll see you the next time we check the deck. [MUSIC] Okay. If you want to do a close up here.

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