What is it?
The Audi A3 e-tron is a plug-in petrol hybrid version of the A3 Sportback. It’s powered by a 148bhp 1.4 litre TSI engine and a 99bhp electric motor sandwiched between the gearbox and power unit to drive the front wheels. The motor also doubles as the engine’s starter.
A six-speed DSG gearbox harnesses the power, its wide ratio spread enabling the electric motor to operate through a narrower, 0-2000rpm rev range that allows for a more efficient design. The adapted DSG transmission includes an additional clutch that decouples the motors to allow coasting, which is a more efficient use of kinetic energy than recuperation.
The e-tron’s 8.8kWh, 125kg battery lives under the rear seat, while the repositioned fuel tank sits beneath a slightly raised boot floor. Despite the tank’s proximity to the A3’s back end this car can absorb a 50mph rear impact without the plastic tank rupturing. At the other end of this A3 e-tron, neatly hidden behind the four rings of its grille, is the power socket for the charging cable.
Despite its low emission, fuel-saving hardware the e-tron can be considered as both fuel-saver and lightly sporting performance car. It has the scope to achieve a spectacular 188.3mpg – one tester has even managed 235mpg – besides sprinting to 62mph in 7.6sec and topping 138mph. It will also travel at up to 80mph on electric power alone, although its 31-mile range will obviously be compromised by high EV speeds like these.
Those 31 miles are enough to allow most commuting trips to be completed without resort to the petrol engine; this practice encouraged by the automatic defaulting to EV mode on start-up. The petrol engine can instantly be engaged via the kickdown button however, or by using a centre console-mounted rocker switch to toggle to hybrid operation. Because kickdown can demand maximum effort from a cold engine, Audi has reworked this TFSI’s piston rings and liners for wear-protection, and included a sensor to measure oil quality.
The DSG transmission provides the same features as you get in a conventional car, including a manual paddle-shift mode, a creep function and kickdown, your chosen gear indicated in the instrument pack. As is the car’s range, a yellow and green bar graph indicating its distance potential with petrol and electric power. You can also select an energy flow read-out, and the infotainment display provides a box-out highlighting your chosen mode.
Otherwise, the interior looks standard, although an electric heater and air conditioner lie behind the familiar controls on the dashboard. The A3’s exterior appears similar too, there being no additional aerodynamic aids, although it does have low-rolling resistance tyres.