During the past decade, as battery-powered and hybrid cars made inroads into the U.S. market, Audi was not a participant. Now, for 2016, the German automaker has joined the fray with a plug-in hybrid, based on the luxury subcompact A3. Seating five, the first e-tron model uses a 1.4-liter gasoline engine, teamed with a lithium-battery pack and electric motor. The battery can be charged at an electrical outlet, or charged while driving like familiar hybrid models.
What's New for 2016
A completely new model, the A3 Sportback e-tron goes on sale in fall of 2015. Full details on standard equipment and estimated fuel economy will not be available until near the launch date.
Choosing Your Audi A3 e-tron
Audi’s 1.4-liter gasoline engine makes 150 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque, teamed with an S tronic six-speed automatic transmission. Total output (gasoline and electric) is 204 horsepower and 258 pound-feet. The 8.8-kWh lithium-ion battery pack goes below the back seat. Battery rundown protection is included.
At 240 volts, the battery can be recharged in 2 hours and 15 minutes, according to Audi. The charging connection is behind the four-ring badge in the grille, accessible from either side of the car. Recharging at 120 volts takes about eight hours. An available smartphone app lets the driver remotely check the car’s battery status.
Four driving modes are selectable:
- EV: electric motor only
- Hybrid: automatically selects EV, hybrid, or gasoline
- Hold Battery: allows hybrid driving while preserving EV range for later
- Charge Battery: uses the gasoline engine to recharge battery at highway speed
Starting at $37,900 (plus destination charge), the base A3 e-tron comes with xenon plus high-intensity-discharge headlights, LED taillamps, LED interior lighting, keyless entry/start, automatic dual-zone climate control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and rearview camera with front/rear parking sensors. The panoramic sunroof has a retractable sunshade. Aluminum roof rails and full LED headlights are available. Standard aluminum wheels are 16-inch, with 17- and 18-inch available. Satellite radio is standard; navigation is available. A 705-watt, 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system is optional. Audi pre sense front includes brake assist or partial braking when a collision risk is detected.
Available safety features include active lane assist, adaptive cruise control with stop/go, and Audi side assist (including lane change assistant).
Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price is $42,000, but specific equipment details have not yet been determined.
Sticker price for the top model is $46,800, but specific equipment details have not yet been determined.
Because the basic Premium A3 e-tron is well-equipped, stepping up to Premium Plus or Prestige may not be necessary; but that could change when the full equipment lists are made available, and the three can be compared. EPA fuel-economy estimates also are not yet available, but should be consulted before shopping, to make sure the fuel-economy improvement over a regular A3 is sufficient to justify the additional cost of an e-tron.