As summer unfolds, more convertibles are rolling through KBB's parking lot underscoring the appeal of open air motoring and the fact that the traditional ragtops, as opposed to convertible hardtops, continue to thrive. The 2015 Audi A3 Convertible is a prime example why soft tops have their own appeal. First off, the acoustic materials used in them offer insulation and sound levels, while not quite on par with a retractable hard top, come pretty close.

And of course, there's the aesthetics and ease of operation.  Folding cloth tops can be packed into a much tighter space and as a result the lines of the car are cleaner and trimmer than the hunchback look associated with hardtop models, which have much bulkier packages. The soft top can also go up and down fairly quick, even at speeds of up to 30 mph in the case of the Audi. The one-touch button and automatic latching make retracting or deploying the A3's top effortless.

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Open air cruising encouraged

The slick working top on the 2015 Audi A3 Cabriolet encourages you to drop the top even on the shortest of trips. In addition to the tremendous views, what little wind buffeting you get in the cabin is further attenuated by the mesh wind blocker that easily mounts over the rear seat. The rear seat, while not as spacious as the back in more mainstream midsize convertibles, it will fit two adults in a pinch. The interior itself is well-trimmed, with high quality materials and a sleek design.

Of course, when you cut the roof off a unit body car, there's a loss of structure and it's noticeable in some cowl shake and chassis flex, but nothing that's offputting. It does feel looser than the more buttoned down 2015 Mustang GT Convertible we had a few weeks earlier. But unlike the V-8 Mustang, the A3 brings a bit more sophistication and fuel economy to the driving experience thanks to its turbocharged 220-horesepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder, which is mated to a 6-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. The steering in the A3 is crisp and goes hand-in-hand with the car's taut road-holding abilities.

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Well-equipped tourer

There's no shortage of creature comforts in our test model, which was equipped with leather seating, dual zone automatic climate control, a leather-wrapped wheel with multifunction controls and satellite radio. The $8,450 Prestige package included 18-inch 10-spoke alloy wheels, heated seats, aluminum interior trim, LED interior lighting, the sporty S-Line exterior treatment, a Bang & Olfusen sound system, LED headlamps, parking system with rearview camera and Audi MMI Navigation plus. An $800 sport package included upgrades to front sport bucket seats, Audi drive select controls to change damping and throttle inputs, paddle shifters on the three-spoke sport steering wheel and a sport-tuned suspension.

All in, the 2015 Audi A3 Cabriolet 2.0T Quattro lists at $49,325 including $925 destination. It's in the same ballpark as the Mustang we tested, but worlds apart in driving experiences. If you're looking for a more extrovert approach, the Ford is the way to go, but if you're in the market for an elegant, European tourer, the Audi A3 is worth a look.


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