First drive: Audi plugs into the hybrid world
AUDI'S 5dr A3 Sportback plug-in hybrid, the e-tron, will get here in January and marks the start of several others of its kind from the German maker.
Among its competitors are the likes of the battery-powered BMW i3. It will appeal on the basis that, unlike electric cars, it has no 'range anxiety' as it is capable of more than 900km on a full tank and battery.
Recharging times have been reduced. A full charge at a public outlet will take just over two hours while plugging in at home will replenish in just three hours and 45 minutes. The two charging points are neatly tucked in behind the four rings on the front grille.
No price has yet been announced but you can expect it to cost somewhere in the late €30,000s after combined grants of €7,500 have been factored in.
On a test run over four hours, incorporating urban and motorway driving, the e-tron coped nonchalantly with the conditions.
Even the presence of four burly adults failed to unsettle it.
The fact that, overall, we achieved a modest return of just over 56mpg – some have chalked up figures as high as 180mpg – underlined the need for practice. It also emphasised more the fun than the science of the exercise. . . which is precisely what motoring should be about.
Audi chief Rupert Stadler says the e-tron will be followed by other plug-in hybrids.
The company is convinced they represent the best solution for low-emission cars because they don't rely on a charge every 160km or so.
The e-tron can, it says, cover 50km on just the battery alone.
Interesting that in Germany, Audi is selling the car through a network of 100 dealerships where service personnel have been trained to work with the technology.
The dealerships have a charging station that customers can use for free during business hours.
The e-tron has a 150bhp 1.4-litre direct injection turbo petrol engine and a 102bhp electric motor within the 6spd dual-clutch transmission. Top speed is 222kmh in hybrid mode and 130kmh in pure electric mode.
Average emissions come to 35g/km (1.5l/100km).
The engine on its own uses 4.5 litres every 100km (105 g/km).
The hybrid system adds 300kg to the car's weight – but that doesn't seem to affect the low running costs. And ultimately that is the e-tron's real appeal.