Roughly two months ago, we introduced our new Audi A3 2.0T, talked about how much it kicks butt, and outlined where we want to see it go. The focus is two-fold: one, to make a great street car even better, and two, help Penske Audi promote its new dealership in West Covina, California.

Normally, we'd start a new project with some performance upgrades, a new suspension for a better stance and improved handling, or maybe some simple power upgrades to take the incredible 2.0-liter turbo engine up another couple notches. After that, we'd start worrying about cosmetic improvements.

Due to the timing of things, however, we started with a body kit. We had options; there are a handful of excellent and fairly well known German manufacturers offering complete kits for the range of Audi vehicles, from mild to wild. One of the best known and respected is Oettinger, and that's who we decided to go with. Partly because of name recognition, but mostly because, after informal inter-office surveys among ec and Penske staff, we felt-from an aesthetic standpoint-that it struck the best balance between subtlety and mild aggression.

Oettinger components are TV-approved, and have therefore been subjected to a wind tunnel. Will we ever drive this car fast enough to generate beneficial downforce? Probably not. For the most part, aftermarket aerodynamic components are largely cosmetic. And no, you do not need to put an aero kit on your car. There is a small cadre of enthusiasts who actually take grave offense to comprehensive body mods. For good reason: a lot of kits are obnoxious, wingy, venty, scoopy, ill-fitting and shabby looking.

But I'd counter any argument against aero mods with my own. It's this: if there's any initial criticism I have of the A3, it's that it's visually boring. Audi designs are fairly understated, but on the A3, the staid elements are conspicuously prominent. Whereas the A4 looks more grown-up and muscular, from certain angles this sport hatch just looks like a bar of soap.

The Oettinger kit adds that touch of edginess the A3 needs, while keeping its lines clean. It improves the front end, banishing the chrome bezel around the trapezoidal grille, enlarging the corner air inlets, and imparting just a smidgeon of carbon fiber to the lower central section. Now that I study it again, it looks freakin' great.

The package also includes side skirts, a roof-mounted wing for the hatch, and a new rear apron with cut-outs for dual exhaust exits, which CEC also saw fit to fill with a dual-exit Oettinger silencer-bonus. Call me crazy, but this A3 is suddenly looking like quite the badass.

It's conceivable that you could install the kit yourself, but considering the amount of work and the required precision involved, I'd say a professional installation would be the best choice. You'd likely have it painted by a pro in any case. Oettinger components are traditionally designed to work with existing designs, so modifications to either the kit or the car shouldn't be needed.

Part of the body kit deal was showing the car at CEC's booth in Las Vegas at SEMA 2006. On that occasion, it was wearing the thick-spoke Oettinger wheels (the only part of the cosmetic package I don't particularly like). We've since switched to signature CEC alloys in a 19-inch format. They look good, but we'll be changing them again shortly with a new, more custom set-up when we turn our attention to the suspension.

SOURCE
Penske Audi West Covina Claus Ettensberger Corporation
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