2015 Audi A3 Sportback e-tron – Drive and Review
The Audi A3 Sportback e-tron is currently the only hybrid model which the Ingolstadt-based car manufacturer offers its customers. The e-tron model was first presented at the 2013 IAA in Frankfurt and went on sale in Europe in the last quarter of 2014. More and more car manufacturers are introducing hybrid-models in the mid-sized premium market in order to combine the efficiency of the electric engine with the everyday usability of a gasoline displacement. While Audi is already selling the A3 e-tron for some time, BMW is about to introduce the BMW 330e shortly and Mercedes-Benz has recently premiered a hybrid-version of the C-Class at the 2015 NAIAS in Detroit.
Thanks to my local Audi dealer I was able to pick up an Audi A3 e-tron for an extended weekend and used the hybrid in my everyday driving cycle. My A3 e-tron came with a monsoon-grey extrior color and featured a combination of black alcantara and leather seats in the interior. Also the A3 e-tron lettering on both sides of the car let other drivers know that I was driving not an everyday A3. Additional options of the car included a panorama sunroof, a Bang & Olufsen sound system, adaptive LED headlights and the e-tron plus package which includes a charging dock, a cable for public charging points, the MMI navigation plus, Audi connect and a phone box.
Engine and Technology
The Audi A3 e-tron is powered by a turbocharged four-cylinder engine and an electric motor which is integrated in the 6-speed S-tronic automatic transmission. Both engines offer a combined power output of 204 hp (150 kW) with a maximum torque of 258 pound-feet (350 Nm). The 1.4-liter petrol engine of the e-tron is basically the same engine as used in the standard A3. It develops a power of 150 hp (110 kW) with a peak torque of 184 pound-feet (250 Nm) being available between 1,750 through 4,000 rpm. The power of both engines is transferred to the front-wheel drive system of the A3. The only difference of the petrol engine becomes noticeable after opening the car’s hood. The engine is positioned a few centimeters further to the left in order to make room for the high-voltage components.
Despite the use of a wide range of lightweight construction components, such as aluminium, the overall weight of the A3 e-tron increased up to 200 kg (440 lbs) compared to the standard A3 with it’s 1.4 TFSI engine. The additional weight is probably also the reason why Audi isn’t offering the e-tron with the companies all-wheel drive system quattro. Quattro would have increased the weight even more. In order to provide a maximum saftey for the battieres, Audi positioned the batteries in the section below the rearseat bench where high-strength materials, such as steel, are used. The electric motor itself is integrated in the six-speed S-tronic automatic tranmission.
Driving the Audi A3 e-tron
In my extended weekend with the A3 e-tron I covered a total distance of 248 km (154 miles). The combination of the elctric motor with a gasoline engine provides a theoretical, electric driving range of 50 km (31 miles). Although I charged the e-tron throughout the first night in my garage, I was surprised that the board computer showed only a maximum range of 40 km (24 miles). The electric range was still sufficient for my daily drive to work and for grocery shopping but not as much as indicated by Audi. Also the advertised total range of 940 km (584 miles) differs hugely from the real-life figures. Fully charged with electric power (40 km) and gasoline (540 km), the board computer reports a total range of 580 km (360 miles). Audi admits, published in small letters on their website, that the range of the A3 e-tron depends on certain factors, such as temperature, driving profile, weight, speed etc. Nonetheless, these factors normally don’t explain a difference of 360 km (223 miles).
The e-tron offers four different driving modes, namely Electric (EV), Hybrid (Auto), Hybrid (Hold) and Hybrid (Charge). I kept the car most of the time in the Electric mode and was able to cover most of the distances with electric power. However, on some trips where I haven’t been able to recharge the car with electric energy (simply because of the missing electric infrastructure), I experienced the smooth transition from electric to gasoline power. The switch to the gasoline engine was barely noticeable and I had to concentrate in order to realize it. Another experience I learned was the “sailing” capability of the e-tron. Since the e-tron keeps the speed for quite some time, I was able to remove my feet from the accelerator pedal while driving 100 km/h (62 mph) already 500 meters (0,3 miles) before entering a village with a maximum speed limit of 50 km/h (31 mph). Only with using such driving techniques, the A3’s maximum electric range can be retrieved.
Audi also offers it’s latest MultiMedia Interface (MMI) also for A3 customers. The MMI features hard drive-based navigation in combination with a touch pad for inputting text with one’s fingers. The system is able to detect even inaccurate written letters on the touchpad. Despite the new touchpad functionality, Audi continued to install a bunch of buttons next to the controller. Four buttons are programmed for Radio, Media, Telephone and Navigation. The other four are reflecting the MMI’s menu of all four corners on the screen. Additionally, a Menu and Back button are also available.
The navigation map as well as all other important details, such as the driving economy or the Audi Drive Select options are displayed on the seven-inch full-color screen located in the mid of the dashboard. State of the art connectivity is provided with a WLAN hotspot and Bluetooth to connect the drivers mobile phone. The optional phone box, integrated in the armrest, connects the mobile phone with the external antenna and offers an USB port to charge the phone.
A3 e-tron Specials
Additional Audi Connect features are specially created for e-tron drivers and can be activated via the Audi A3 e-tron platform. The services include functionalities to programme the charging of the batteries and allows the driver to monitor the current charging status of the car. Audi provides the Audi Connect services free of charge for the first two years. Before customers order a new A3 e-tron, Audi is offering a pre-check which can be accessed via the e-tron Mobility Check. After finishing the pre-check Audi offers to send an installation specialist who performs the final electricity check at the customers home. If the pre-check was successful, a charging dock (wallbox), which is inlcuded in the e-tron plus package, can be installed immediately.
Additionally, e-tron drivers may enjoy the pleasure of charging their A3 e-tron complimentary at their dealers charging station (if the dealership has decided to offer this special service to its e-tron customers). Every certified e-tron dealer is able to offer a charging station for his A3 e-tron customers. So, if you live next to or near by a certified e-tron dealer, you might be entiteld to enjoy free electricity to charge your e-tron. A battery warranty of eight years or 160,000 km (99,419 miles) is included in the vehicle price and, if customer demands, Audi is even able to supply renewable energy to customer homes for a complete CO2 free driving experience.
The Audi A3 e-tron was a perfect daily driver and I managed to cover each distance I drive day by day on pure electric power. However, the price difference of the e-tron compared to an equal specified A3 2.0 TFSI was almost 8,000 €. Calculating the fuel I would save with the e-tron year by year, I would reach a break-even point after 7 years. Taking the additional costs into consideration, the gasoline or diesel powered A3 will be the most logical choice for every potential A3 customer. However, eco-friendly customers who don’t mind to pay the green uplift will enjoy a fantastic hybrid providing the best of both worlds. Worth to mention is also the poor electric infrastructure in Germany which is by far not ready for 1 million electric cars (as targeted by the German government for 2020).
At the end of this report I would like to thank my local Audi dealer Christl & Schowalter in Freising who made this test-drive possible.
|Base price/price-as-tested||€ 37,900 / € 53,149|
|Drivetrain||Front engine, front-wheel drive|
|1.4-liter turbocharged V4
8.8 kWh with 280 to 390 volts
||204 hp / 258 lb-ft|
||50 km (31 miles)|
|Transmission||6-speed S tronic automatic transmission|
|Curb weight||(lbs) 3,470|
|Length x width x height||(inches) 169.6 x 70.2 x 56.0|
|0-62 mph||(seconds) 7.6|
|Fuel Economy (combined)
||1.5 l/ 100 km (156.8 mpg)|
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