Audi A3 Sportback e-tron

The first plug-in hybrid from Audi, the A3 Sportback e-tron, is now available to order for customers in Europe

8/14/14 8:00 pm chumakdenis 1

The first plug-in hybrid from Audi, the A3 Sportback e-tron, is now available to order for customers in Europe. Approximately 410 Audi dealers in Europe - including no fewer than 105 in Germany - are selling the A3 e-tron at a basic price of 37,900 euros on the German market. An individual installation check, the “e-tron plus” special package and “green” power from Audi complete the offering for the Audi A3 Sportback e-tron. The compact electric car will be handed over to its first customers this winter.

Specifications

Vehicle type: front-engine, front-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 5-door hatchback

Estimated base price: $40,000 (€37,900)

Engine type: turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve 1.4-liter inline-4, 150 hp, 184 lb-ft; permanent magnet AC synchronous electric motor, 102 hp, 243 lb-ft; combined power rating, 204 hp, 258 lb-ft; 8.8-kWh lithium-ion battery pack

Transmission: 6-speed dual-clutch automatic with manual shifting mode

Dimensions:
Wheelbase: 103.5 in
Length: 169.8 in
Width: 70.3 in Height: 56.1 in
Curb weigh (C/D est): 3400 lb

Performance (C/D EST):
Zero to 60 mph: 7.5 sec
Zero to 100 mph: 24.0 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 15.8 sec
Top speed: 138 mph

Fuel economy (C/D EST):
EPA combined electricity and gasoline: 95 MPGe

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“For Audi, the A3 Sportback e-tron marks another important step toward sustainable individual mobility,” states Wayne Griffiths, Head of Sales Germany at AUDI AG. “Our dealers have had an entirely positive response to the A3 Sportback e-tron, which shows that the combination of efficient drive technology and a sustainable energy source is really what the market is looking for.”

Under the hood

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The Audi A3 Sportback e-tron brings together a 1.4 TFSI gasoline engine and an electric motor, giving the compact automobile a system output of 150 kW (204 hp). The A3 Sportback e-tron’s fuel consumption in accordance with the NEDC standard for plug-in hybrid vehicles is just 1.5 liters of fuel per 100 kilometers (156.8 US mpg), with CO2 emissions of 35 grams per kilometer (56.3 g/mi). Under electric power alone it has a range of 50 kilometers (31.1 mi), and over 900 kilometers (559.2 mi) in combined mode. The basic price for the Audi A3 e-tron in Germany is 37,900 euros. Audi is also offering attractive leasing conditions: 319 euros per month with a term of 36 months.

Magic numbers

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Well,I almost sure that everyone is shocked by Audi's A3 Sportback e-tron specifications because the car is too good to be true.The mpg figure above is based on European standards, which are jiggered by the authorities to promote electrification by maximizing opportunities for vehicles to use their all-electric modes. Real-world drivers rarely achieve anything close to EU consumption estimates. In terms of this A3, when driven short distances and plugged in regularly, it won’t use any gasoline at all. But as soon as the batteries are depleted, fuel use will be essentially the same as a conventionally powered car.So let's begin and start our test-drive.

Revealing the myths

We decided to drive 50-mile loops that wound through Vienna city traffic and into the nearby mountains.

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During our first stint, we drove moderately and attempted to maintain a full battery by using the "hold" and "charge" modes. The former locks out the electric portion of the drivetrain (in case you want to save your EV mileage for, say, a restricted city center), whereas the latter forces the engine to act as a generator to maximize energy recuperation. In doing so, we saw an indicated 34 mpg in the cluster and returned with a completely full battery. On our second run, we started out using solely electric power, ran until the batteries were empty, and then put the car into "auto" mode to allow it to both recapture energy and feed it back to the powertrain as it saw fit. We also may have possibly set an Austrian plug-in-hybrid speed record. The result: 42 mpg and a drained battery. Less aggressive journalists, however, managed ­­­100 mpg and a depleted battery, too. For what it’s worth, we figure the EPA will rate this car at 95 MPGe combined in gas-electric operation.

The 96 liquid-cooled lithium-ion cells enabling such performance are recharged through a port located behind the Audi grille rings. According to Audi, the recharging process in Europe takes a good two hours with a high-voltage outlet and almost four hours using a household plug; those times aren’t exactly Tesla-quick, and you can figure on more time using lower-voltage U.S.-spec outlets.

Assuming that you drive very short distances every day and electricity is cheap-or cheaper than in Germany, anyway, which is in the costly process of shutting down its nuclear power plants-the A3 e-tron can be rather inexpensive to operate. Driven over long distances, the savings dwindle, and customers might well be better off with an A3 TDI.

Electricity kills

We’ll double down on the recommendation of a TDI for the fuel thrifty who actually like to drive. Saddled with an estimated 750 pounds of extra weight, the A3 e-tron doesn’t have much to offer anyone who isn’t into silently accelerating in all-electric mode to 60 mph in about 11 seconds. Yes, the full torque of the electric motor is available in Hybrid mode from 0 rpm and for up to 20 seconds when the battery is full. Yes, the dual powertrains-which produce a combined 204 horsepower-can scoot the A3 e-tron to 60 mph in an estimated 7.5 seconds. Yes, the aerodynamically enhanced top speed of 138 mph is reached without electric power. And, yes, the Volkswagen Group’s excellent six-speed DQ400E dual-clutch automatic does the shifting. But these facts and figures fail to coalesce into something completely satisfying, and the whole isn’t as linear and predictable as a conventional car.

The A3 e-tron’s cornering characteristics are less than scintillating. In fast bends, the car exhibits more body roll than any other A3 we’ve driven to date, and it also tends toward serious understeer. It’s too bad, then, that there is no available sport suspension, as this A3 would benefit from such a setup more than any of its siblings. At least the brakes are fairly well tuned for a hybrid’s, as they offer decent feel and a relatively seamless transition between their regenerative and friction modes. (Push the pedal gently for the former; the latter takes over once you go deeper into the pedal’s travel and for emergency stops.)

The A3 e-tron is far more successful when driven at the moderate speeds for which it is really intended. It launches from a stop using electric power, the transition is smooth when the gasoline engine joins the party, and the engine remains discreetly in the background when it’s running. Things are even more subdued when driving only on electrons, although the electric motor and transmission do wind through gears, creating a sound that resembles a distant tram.

A leisurely pace at least allows those inside to admire the surroundings, as the A3 has what may be the best interior in this segment. As for differences between this car and fossil-fueled A3s, there is basically one—a “power meter” gauge that replaces the tachometer. Beyond the driving modes we already described, additional powertrain control is available by selecting D or S with the gearshift. In D mode, the A3 e-tron sails, which is to say it will shut down and uncouple the powertrain from the drive wheels when coasting on the freeway to minimize friction and fuel consumption. In S mode, the powertrain maximizes energy recuperation. And then there's the Audi Drive Select, which itself offers Comfort, Auto, and Dynamic settings, as well as a mix-and-match mode.

It wasn't easy to fit the e-tron technology under the tight skin of the new A3. In order to make room for the lithium-ion batteries, the gas tank was made smaller and relocated a bit toward the back, under the cargo area. The tank is also now enclosed in a sturdy crash structure. The cargo capacity is lower than that of the regular A3 Sportback and the all-wheel-drive A3 Sportback Quattro. The engine was moved slightly toward the passenger’s side in order to make room for the electronics. And Audi stiffened the structure to deal with the extra weight.

Good news for German inhabitants

In Germany, the plug-in hybrid will be sold by 105 selected e-tron dealers; across Europe approximately 410 dealerships will sell the model. Their employees are receiving special training in sales and service relating to electric vehicles. Between mid-July and the end of August, Audi is providing training to around 2,000 sales, service and used car employees from all over Europe at its Training Center next to Munich. In addition, some 300 German high-voltage technicians and service advisors from Audi will undertake a technical training course at the Service Training Center in Neckarsulm.

In future, every e-tron dealer will also have at least one charging station that e-tron customers can use, even after their purchase. The Audi A3 Sportback e-tron can be charged quickly via a charging point at the dealership, within the public charging infrastructure or at the customer’s home. For the latter option, Audi offers - in Germany - an individual installation service whereby a technician checks the electrics in the customer’s home, makes any adjustments that may be required and installs the charging dock, which is designed for safe, convenient charging.

To ensure that sustainability is not compromised during the at-home charging process, customers in Germany can switch to environmentally friendly electricity, known as Audi energy. With Audi energy, the A3 Sportback e-tron is totally emission-free when operated electrically. All electricity all comes from hydroelectric power stations in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. To mark the start of the A3 Sportback e-tron, Audi has additionally put together the attractive “e-tron plus” package. In Germany it includes the charging dock, a cable for public charging points, MMI navigation plus, Audi connect and phone box.

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  audi a3 sportback e-tron audi hybrids available to order audi's first plug-in hybrid

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