27 Feb 2013

Audi A3 e-tron - Now you don't have to feel like a plonker in a hybrid

Audi have just released details of the new A3 e-tron.  The first Audi hybrid concept was released 24 years ago.  They've had quite some time to refine the technology

Most hybrid cars scream, "LOOK AT ME I 'M IN A HYBRID," at passers by, which rather embarrasses the driver.  Those that haven't been designed to look unusual so, just in case you didn't notice the hybrid badge, at least you can tell it's different - and probably a hybrid.

Other hybrids include the Toyota Auris and various Lexi and Infinitis and are deathly dull.

But there is one cool hybrid.  So cool it sounds like a space ship as it shoots past you on track.  And it won the 24 Heures du Mans.  The Audi R18 e-tron quattro.  Not for nothing have Audi invested lots of money in hybrid technology.

Audi have been building hybrid cars for quite some time.  The first Audi hybrid was called the duo and it was launched as a concept in 1989.  It was basically an Audi 100 Avant with a 136bhp petrol engine under the bonnet and a 12bhp electric motor and battery pack set into the boot floor, which drove the rear wheels.

The latest Audi hybrid is the A3 e-tron.  Not only does it have a better name than the duo, it also has more power.  The A3 e-tron gets a normal 1.4TFSI engine with 148bhp and an electric motor with 100bhp.  The stats are pretty impressive, with 0-62mph taking 7.6 seconds and a top speed of 138mph, using both petrol and electric motors.

In purely electric mode the A3 will travel for 31 miles (with a light right foot) and attain a top speed of 81mph.  Theoretically the A3 e-tron can do 188mpg and produce 35g/km of CO2 but these are frankly just exploiting loopholes in the Euro emissions regulations and are not attainable in the real world.

The A3 e-tron gets a new 6 speed semi-automatic gearbox clumsily called the e-S tronic transmission, which is designed to achieve better power and performance from the tools at it's disposal.

The A3 e-tron will turn off both engines when not accelerating so as to harvest energy.  Pretty clever stuff.

The most important thing about the A3 e-tron is that as long as the price isn't ridiculous (prices haven't been announced yet) it can save you money and you will not look idiotic driving it.  In fact, being an A3, you will look pretty cool driving it.

Hybrid is here to stay - whether the non-electric engine be powered by petrol, diesel or hydrogen.  Finally, hybrid cars are becoming normal and mainstream.

There is one fly in the ointment.  Volkswagen's conventionally powered Golf GTD, which was announced recently, is faster and will probably be cheaper to buy and cheaper to run in the real world.  Unless the A3 e-tron costs less than £25,000 the Golf GTD will be the car we would choose over it.