2015 Audi A3 e-tron, plug-in wagons ho: Motoramic Drives
This car you see is clearly a new-generation Audi A3 Sportback. Yawn. But look closer and you’ll see the fancy decals that set this Sportback apart from the usual Bavarian five-door herd. “E-tron” is Audi’s sub-brand for all plug-in electric hybrids, and this A3 Sportback e-tron will be the first one of the breed to cruise into America.
Pricing for the plug-in electric hybrid A3 Sportback should come in at around $35,000 (or a few thousand less than the sticker for the BMW i3), and there will be no sedan. I’ll ask it: Why nothing really smart like a sedan A3 e-tron? The car’s project leader Jens van Eikels tells me, “With the chief markets intended to be China and the United States, we decided to offer the A3 e-tron in a body configuration that was out of the mainstream in these markets in particular.” The percentage of sales worldwide of the A3 lineup that will be e-tron Sportbacks, too, should amount to about five percent. So, for now Audi can dabble with early adopters happy to spend the extra green cash.
And it’s a ways off really, as you can tell by the headline here with that future-y "2015" model year. Audi wants to launch the A3 e-tron first in western Europe in September 2014, to be followed around March 2015 in the United States and Canada. So, it may actually be publicized here as a 2016 model. (Weren’t all cars supposed to be flying by then?) What I drove around southern California this day is a finished-looking prototype, but it is definitely a prototype. Main giveaways: the rough transitions between pure EV and hybrid driving with the 1.4-liter four-cylinder, and the removable smoker’s package ashtray in the center cupholder that is fixed and used to hide the red kill switch in case anything goes catastrophically wrong with the test mule. The latter red button is required on any prototype, and I didn’t use it all day, thus living to write this review.
Audi’s huge promise here is up to 600 miles of range from a full 10.6-gallon tank of fuel when the car is driven in a place like Iowa in perfect weather by someone with absolutely no place to get to in a hurry. In the dramatic hilly coastal zone of SoCal, I was nonetheless hitting 45 mpg while playing between pure EV and the other three modes — Hybrid, Hold, and Charge. This is the 148-hp tune of the multiple award-winning 1.4 TFSI engine, and it is paired with a 101-hp electric motor integrated within the housing for the six-speed dual-clutch gearbox. Together, they are allowed to churn forth to the front wheels 201 hp and 258 pound-feet of torque.