Hybrid technology has come along in leaps and bounds in recent years, but more so in the integration of the electronics. Battery technology, except in the case, seemingly, of the product from Tesla, has pretty much stalled. For the time being, mainstream makers are using a petrol and battery powered engine combination and A Wheel Thing took to the roads in the new A3 e-tron from Audi.There’s nothing really obvious that has the e-tron version stand out more than the standard, nicely rounded, A3, until you get up close. There’s the lower case e-tron badge and,more subtly, the plastic lock hidden in the four ringed badge in the grille. Twist that and, with a gentle nudge sometimes, it reveals the charging point for the battery pack. There’s 75 kW on offer and a fantastic 330 Nm of torque. That’s hooked up to “the generator”, a 1.4L TSFI petrol engine, with 110 kilowatts (5000 to 6000 rpm) and 250 torques between 1600 and 3500 revs.
That’s enough combined moombah to see the e-tron do the ton in a lick over seven and a half seconds, while consuming just 1.6L of unleaded go-go juice per 100 klicks. That’s using a six speed auto, a smooth changing unit with the now almost mandatory paddle shifts. Left to itself, the gearbox slurs through nicely and with the manualshift in operation is noticeably, but not by a huge amount, crisper.
Steering is rapid, direct, with enough weight and heft to involve you in the decision making, unlike the over assisted Q3. Ride quality is soft, in a luxurious way, but there’s some hard absorption of smaller bumps straight up. A measure of body roll is also noticeable in the 1615 kg e-tron, but, again, by not a huge amount. Rubber and wheels were Pirelli P7s, at 225/45 on 17 inch alloys. Body style is the five door hatch, with the familiar LED style tail lights and a high tech looking front.What is truly noticeable is the silence of the e-tron in purely electric drive, boorish road noise not withstanding. Because electric vehicles are still so rare, it’s natural to expect something that says the car is ready to go. Slip in, strap in, press Start and……nothing. The dash has lit up, the excellent sounding digital radio is on and…nothing. Select Drive or Reverse and the e-tron silently gets underway.
Plant the welly and there’s that never ending wave of go go go go go as you watch the charge display change in response (Audi quotes zero to sixty in under five seconds and a top speed in electric mode of 130 kmh). Although it’s not lightning quick (see what I did there?) it’s more than quick enough and did manage to chirp the tyres a couple of times. Range from full? Umm…next question.
There’s four different drive modes, including using the petrol engine to help keep the battery level where it is or, more importantly, top the charge up and that is an important part of where this car survives or fails.
The e-tron come with a front mounted port, located behind a swing out badge, as mentioned and has a 10 amp compatible charging cable and control unit in the boot. Charging time at home is around five hours or, using an industrial 3 phase, half that.The car itself has a charging program in the computer; once plugged in and turned on, a green light will flash to indicate charging is underway and glows steady when done. There’s a kinetic energy recovery system as well, pulling charge into the batteries under brakes. A Wheel Thing managed a best of under 40 kilometres from full charge.
The traditional dash display is there, bar a swap of the tacho for the aforementioned charge dial, which also gives you an indication of engine efficiency. It brackets a monochrome info screen with the speedo with the rest of the dash housing funky airvents, the larger jog dial linked and operated screen and the brightly coloured aircon controls. Audio wise, there’s DAB+ on top of the AM/FM/Auxiliary choices.
The test car came fitted with some options: there’s the Assistance Package, at $1990, featuring adaptive cruise control (with the sensor clearly visible in the front bumper and subject to being covered in dirt), pre-sense including autonomous emergency braking, active lane and side assist and high beam assist. Safety wise, there’s the full array of airbags including driver’s knee, stabilisation control electronics, rear parking camera as standard and the steering column is adjustable for tilt and reach. The metallic Monsoon grey paint was a $1050 option and the Comfort Package (electric and heated front seats, LED interior lighting, electric mirrors, dimming rear vision mirror and driver’s mirror) was $1990. The clear sounding B&O audio was a somewhat eye watering $1750 option, with the car testing out at $69270 plus ORC’s.
Audi’s servicing now offers a Genuine Care plan, covering your Audi for three years or 45000 kilometres, whichever comes first, which works by prepaying for your services (15000 k’s or twelve months) in the first year of buying your new Audi, plus you’ll get 24/365 roadside assist and the Audi magazine. The warranty is three years and unlimited kilometres, offering plenty of piece of mind.
Until fuel cell cars and a network of high rate of charge power stations for cars are more commonplace, hybrids such as the e-tron will be the stop gap in regards to decreasing fuel consumption. Audi’s level of computer integration which allows the driver just that much more flexibility of how the petrol engine synchronises with the battery system is a winner, the relative lack of battery range isn’t.
For details, head across to the Audi Australia website and follow the links or click here: Audi Australia A3 e-tron