2020 Audi A3 Premium 45 TFSI Quattro

Last week, we compared the Mercedes-Benz A220 to the Toyota Camry XLE V6, and most of you thought I’d lost my mind. I (pre-) explained why I hadn’t, but of course the social media reaction was predictably short on folks who had read beyond the headline. So, for those of you who do manage to actually read an article before forming an opinion about it, I offer up an even more affordable take on making the step from a premium mainstream car to a mainstream premium car in the form of the 2020 Audi A3 Premium 45 TFSI quattro S-tronic. For those of you reacting on social media without having read even this far: Yawn. Uninformed opinions are so 2016.

You know the drill: To the specs!

2020 Toyota Camry XLE V6 Specifications

2020 Audi A3 Premium 45 TFSI quattro

PRICE: $36,125/$36,125 (base/as configured) PRICE: $37,495/$37,495 (base/as configured)
POWER: 301 hp POWER: 228 hp
TORQUE: 267 lb-ft TORQUE: 258 lb-ft
WEIGHT: 3,549 lb WEIGHT: 3,417 lb
0-60 MPH: 5.8 sec 0-60 MPH: 5.4 sec
L x W x H: 192.7 x 72.4 x 56.9 in L x W x H: 175.7 x 70.7 x 55.7 in
EPA MILEAGE: 22/33 mpg (city/hwy) EPA MILEAGE: 22/30 mpg (city/hwy)

Camry XSE V6 vs. Audi A3 Premium 45 TFSI: Where the Audi Comes Up Short

The first thing you’ll probably notice is that there are no extra options added to either car’s base price for their respective trim levels. In the case of the 2020 Toyota Camry, the XSE V6 already has a lot of optional-for-lower-tier-models equipment as standard; ticking the available options boxes would have increased the price well above that of the A3, and we’re trying to keep things at less than $40,000. In the 2020 A3‘s case, the upgrade to the 45 TFSI trim level, which brings with it quattro all-wheel drive, put the price just about on par with the top-level Camry’s, so I decided to keep it even-steven and just go with each vehicle’s standard specification.

As with the Mercedes A220, the Camry seems to handily trounce the A3 if you’re only looking at power figures, but this time the Audi out-scoots the Toyota thanks to its combination of turbo torque and quattro all-wheel drive, as well as its slightly lighter curb weight, hitting 60 mph from rest in just 5.4 seconds, 0.4-second quicker than the Camry’s 5.8-second time.

The Audi is more expensive, but it’s only 3.8 percent more expensive. Otherwise, the Camry’s only real advantage over the A3 on the spec sheet is its size—and again, the Audi A3 is closer to the Camry than the Mercedes A220 was, both in terms of interior space and trunk space. The Camry XSE V6 packs 42.1 inches of front and 38.0 inches of rear leg room into its 111.2-inch wheelbase, compared to the Audi A3 Premium’s 41.2/35.1 inches of front/rear leg room on a 103.8-inch wheelbase. The A3’s trunk offers a relatively generous 10.0-cubic-feet of storage, 16 percent more than the A220, but still only about two-thirds the volume of the Camry’s capacious 15.1-cubic-foot trunk.

It’s clear the A3 is a smaller car, but aside from rear-seat leg room and a bit of trunk space, you’re really not giving up that much to the Camry in terms of daily space unless you regularly have two or more other people in your car. If you do regularly have several occupants, it’s worth keeping in mind the fact the Camry scores five stars across the board in NHTSA crash testing, while the 2020 A3 scores a five-star overall rating, but with four-star frontal-offset and rollover-crash results.

Camry XSE V6 vs. Audi A3 Premium 45 TFSI Spec Sheet Quick Facts

  • The Camry is roomier than the A3, especially in the rear seat
  • The Camry can hold more stuff than the A3
  • The Camry is slightly less expensive than the A3
  • The Camry is slightly more fuel-efficient than the A3
  • The Camry rates higher in crash tests
  • The A3 is somewhat quicker than the Camry
  • The A3 is somewhat lighter than the Camry

Camry XSE V6 vs. Audi A3 Premium 45 TFSI: Where the Audi Comes Out on Top

As with the Mercedes, aside from size, the Audi comes out on top in pretty much every other category, most notably in terms of interior design and styling. The Camry’s no penalty box—quite the contrary, actually; it’s a reasonably good-looking, nicely trimmed space—but there’s no doubt you’re driving a Toyota, however nice. In the A3, you get a taste of how the few-percenters live, with many of the same styling cues and details found in Audi’s $60,000-and-up offerings. The only downside to the A3’s design, really, is that the next A3, due to arrive in the U.S. sometime next year, looks even better.

Without adding any extras, the A3 Premium (the base trim in Audi parlance; the step-up variant is the Premium Plus) as equipped in 45 TFSI guise includes aluminum interior trim, heated front seats with leather seating surfaces throughout the cabin, with eight-way adjustability (plus four lumbar adjustments) for the driver. The Camry’s front seats both offer eight-way adjustability, and the XSE V6 trim includes leather trim and heating for the front seats, too.

The Camry XSE V6, perhaps surprisingly, does not include navigation among its standard features (it can be had for $2,790 as part of the Driver Assist Package with Options), but it does include both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, so that’s essentially a moot point—and doubly so, because the A3 takes the same approach. Both come with good-sized displays, the Camry XSE V6 using an 8.0-inch display as the interface to the nine-speaker JBL Audio Plus with ClariFi system, which includes Bluetooth audio and handsfree functions as well as AM/FM/HD Radio/CD and SiriusXM, one USB media port, two USB charge ports, and voice recognition.

The A3 Premium’s standard tech kit includes a 7.0-inch display and MMI Radio interface, with HD Radio and the aforementioned Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, but since I didn’t opt for the Premium Plus trim, this A3 misses out on the 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system, but makes do just fine with its standard 10-speaker system. Overall, the electronics advantage you might expect the Audi to have is not really there; most of the A3’s more “wow” features (like Virtual Cockpit and advanced driver-assist tech) are part of the $3,000-dearer Premium Plus’s realm or optional packages. One thing the Camry has that the A3 doesn’t at this price point is a 10-inch head-up display (HUD), which can be a great help in maintaining alertness while knowing where you’re going and what’s going on in the car.

As closely matched as these cars are on features, the behind-the-wheel driving experience is worlds apart. It’s not so much that the A3 has immaculate at-the-limit driving dynamics; it doesn’t. But it does have a very sweetly tuned suspension and a rigid chassis that communicate a classical Europeanness in ride and handling. For some of America’s more neglected roads, however, the Camry’s somewhat plusher ride may be preferable. Neither will let you down in a quick merge or two-lane pass, as both are more athletic than you might think, and are plenty powerful for their (different) sizes. The Audi, however, will inspire more confidence in slippery conditions, tha
nks to its standard quattro all-wheel drive. The Camry is available with all-wheel drive, but not when paired with the V-6 engine.

2020 Toyota Camry XSE V6 vs. 2020 Audi A3 Premium 45 TFSI Quattro: Overall Value

This match, to my eye, is a much closer one than the Mercedes A220 vs. Camry XLE battle, but that may just be my bias showing through. If this showdown were held next year, I’d expect the rather stunning new A3 to start any feature or performance comparison with a commanding lead over the Toyota on the strength of its design alone. But this year, as we say goodbye to the present A3, it’s a much tougher call. The 2020 Toyota Camry XSE V6 represents a tremendous value in terms of feature set, technology, and power. But the whole premise of this Buy a Camry or … series is that the Camry, while commendable, is commonplace. The 2020 Audi A3, while it may be the least-expensive Audi, still isn’t so popular as to be seen filling whole rows of parking lots, and it’s a sharp little sedan even today. For the style-conscious who don’t need a ton of extra space, the Audi A3 is a nice doorway into the world of much more expensive cars at the cost of a Camry.

2020 Toyota Camry XSE V6 vs. 2020 Audi A3 Premium 45 TFSI Subjective Quick Take

  • The A3’s interior and exterior design are more “premium-feeling” than the Camry’s
  • The A3’s technology and equipment are evenly matched with the Camry’s
  • The A3’s ride and handling are somewhat sportier than the Camry’s
  • The A3 may soon look dated with a new model on the way
  • The Camry is a tremendous value
  • The A3 remains a great choice for those who don’t want to see their car coming and going
  • Camry has a 10-inch HUD, A3 doesn’t have a HUD
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