The 2021 Audi A3 bucks current trends, continuing to offer a manual transmission. But will it land stateside?
Manual transmissions are a dying breed.
Nowhere is that more true than here in the US, where the stick-shift has been on life support for the last several decades. Enthusiast-focused manual-only cars like the Ford Focus ST, Ford Fiesta ST, and Dodge Viper did their level best to keep the manual alive, but of course, none of them are still on offer. Even the BMW 3-Series dropped the manual option starting with the 2019 model year.
When one of the most visible products in the "Ultimate Driving Machine" lineup ditches the stick, you know you have a problem. Then, there's Audi.
Given the current situation, we were delighted to learn that the all-new 2021 Audi A3 would come with three pedals in Europe, if so optioned, keeping its manual option alive even as the car gets a thorough overhaul and Audi ramps up its efforts with electrification.
But will the Audi A3 offer the 6-speed manual here in the US? That would make it a bit of a holdout in the market, and could draw in younger gearheads in search of something upscale with four doors and a sizable trunk. And the company itself has left plenty enough room for a manual A3, having done away with the stick-shift entirely in the US after the 2019 Audi A4.
Earlier in the year, Matthias Rabe, technical chief at Audi parent Volkswagen, remarked in an interview that "as long as there is a demand, [Volkswagen] will continue to offer manual gearboxes." That comment came just a short while after Audi tweeted a photo of a manual Quattro shifter, with the text: "The lost art of deciding which gear you're in. #40YearsOfquattro."
Of course, none of this is necessarily proof of anything in particular; Audi can be nostalgic for the manual Quattros of yesteryear without endowing its modern cars with stick-shifts, and what works for one market doesn't always work for another. Moreover, some reports have suggested that the 2021 Audi A3 will ship with standard 48V hybrid technology in the US - something that's harder to implement with a clutch.
Still, here's to hoping.