2015 Audi A3 E-tron Hybrid
2015 Audi A3 E-tron Hybrid
2015 Audi A3 E-tron Hybrid. Click image to enlarge

Preview and photos by Jonathan Yarkony

Audi is going electric in a big way. Already on the market is the Q5 Hybrid, a luxury compact crossover that promises 8.6 L/100 km in the city and 6.9 on the highway. (Sure, that’s okay, but the same vehicle with a diesel TDI drivetrain is rated at 9.0/6.4 L/100 km city highway, so it’s a flip of the coin as to which will get you the best real-world consumption.) Audi’s invincible R18 Le Mans Prototype racecar has been tearing up the Le Mans circuit with a hybrid drivetrain, while they’ve also dabbled with a fully electric supercar in the R8 e-tron and the experimental, limited-production A1 e-tron electric city car with a range-extending Wankel rotary engine.

But this is Audi’s next big thing in the electric field: the 2015 Audi A3 E-tron plug-in hybrid, a production car set to launch in Europe next summer, and North America shortly thereafter, although its arrival on our shores will be somewhat later, the exact dates to be determined.

So what is it exactly? As the name implies, it is a fairly conventional A3 in appearance. The same as the second-generation Sportback that has yet to arrive in Canada (fingers crossed), but with minor differences to the front and rear bumpers. Any A3 E-tron will also be a top trim featuring all the bells and whistles, so Canadian pricing could well start in the $50s (UK pricing starts at £32,700 according to current figures sources, €38K on the continent). In other words, bargain hunters need not apply. No matter the 1.5 L/100 km fuel economy on the European testing cycle, you’ll never make that kind of money back. Carbon dioxide emissions are rated at 35 g/km according to the same European testing methods.

No, this is a premium vehicle for early adopters looking for something more refined and sporty than the Chevy Volt, C-Max Energi or Prius PHV even if not on the budget for a Tesla or Fisker. While Audi has dabbled with all-electric motivation, their research has shown that customers looking to the premium segment don’t want range anxiety as part of the package and this model bridges the gap between efficiency and sportiness and luxury and sport for the customer they’re targeting.

2015 Audi A3 E-tron Hybrid
2015 Audi A3 E-tron Hybrid. Click image to enlarge

Audi started our presentation by showing off one of their new gadgets – an iPad x-ray app that can key in on certain areas of the car’s surface, which can then be exploded to show the specs and engineering schematics. Relevant? Not so much, but definitely cool.

The centrepiece of the engineering efforts for this vehicle is, of course, the hybrid drivetrain: a 1.4L turbocharged engine paired with a 75-kW electric motor powered by an 8.8-kWh lithium-ion battery. The transmission is a new six-speed e-S tronic dual-clutch gearbox (derived from VW/Audi’s excellent DSG) that houses the 75-kW electric motor between the dual-mass flywheel and the clutch pack, and also includes an additional “separating clutch” that decouples the wheels from the engine in order to allow a more efficient coasting mode.

Drivetrain components2015 Audi A3 E-tron Hybrid2015 Audi A3 E-tron Hybrid2015 Audi A3 E-tron Hybrid
2015 Audi A3 E-tron Hybrid. Click image to enlarge

Overall system output is rated at 204 hp and torque is estimated at 258 lb-ft, though the 75-kW motor alone is capable of generating 245 lb-ft of torque. The 1.4 TFSI features extra durability equipment (piston rings and liners, plus oil quality sensor) to deal with the expected frequent ‘cold’ starts after extended idle periods of electric-only operation.

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