FUEL FOR THOUGHT

Audi’s new E-tron is petrol, elec­tric or a com­bi­na­tion that of­fers great fuel econ­omy, writes CHRIS RI­LEY

Geelong Advertiser - Motoring - - FRONT PAGE -

Audi‘s new E-tron is petrol, elec­tric or a com­bi­na­tion that of­fers great fuel econ­omy

TALK about choice. You can buy six ver­sions of Audi’s A3 Sport­back, with a choice of four dif­fer­ent en­gines.

Make that seven with the re­cent ad­di­tion of the A3 Sport­back E-tron.

This one is a bit spe­cial though be­cause it’s a plug-in hy­brid, a car with both petrol and elec­tric mo­tors that plugs into a power point when it needs to be recharged.

The five-door hatch is the first of a new wave of Audis that will be fol­lowed by a plug-in ver­sion of the Q7 early next year and an E-tron ver­sion of the R8 su­per­car, just like the one Tony Stark drives in The

Avengers — although there are no plans for a right-hand drive ver­sion yet. All prom­ise a com­bi­na­tion of su­per per­for­mance and out­stand­ing fuel econ­omy, in a car that thank­fully doesn’t look like a child’s toy — un­like some com­peti­tors.

The A3 E-tron is in ef­fect three cars in one.

It can run on elec­tric­ity alone, it can op­er­ate on a com­bi­na­tion of elec­tric and petrol power and it can work with the petrol en­gine by it­self just like a nor­mal car, a nor­mal A3 in fact.

The good news is there’s no risk of be­ing left stranded be­cause the petrol en­gine cuts in au­to­mat­i­cally when the bat­tery runs out.

Audi claims a com­bined range of 920km, but it’s some­thing of a mov­ing tar­get be­cause energy re­claimed from brak­ing tops up the bat­tery along the way.

The hy­brid pow­er­train con­sists of a 1.4 litre tur­bocharged four­cylin­der petrol en­gine that de­liv­ers 110kW and 250Nm plus an elec­tric mo­tor that pro­duces 75kW and 350Nm.

The elec­tric mo­tor is in­te­grated into the six-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion, but the com­bined out­put is 150kW and 350Nm, with drive to the front wheels.

The E-Tron weighs 305kg more than a nor­mal A3, of which 125kg is the bat­tery pack. The pack sits un­der the rear seat and the petrol tank has been pushed back and re­duced to 40 litres to make room, with a slightly smaller boot and tyre re­pair kit in­stead of a spare.

To help off­set the ex­tra weight, the bon­net and front guards are made of light­weight alu­minium.

The charge socket where you plug it in is hid­den be­hind the slid­ing front badge, with fuel con­sump­tion a claimed just 1.6 litres/100km.

The thing is, at $62,490, the E-tron costs $24,000 more than the fuel sav­ing, multi-dis­place­ment COD model.

At $1.20 a litre for petrol, that equates to some­thing like 400 tanks of fuel, enough to take you a whop­ping 425,000km — or the cost of fuel for the en­tire pe­riod of own­er­ship.

That makes no eco­nomic sense, although the car comes with some added at­trac­tions such as leather, sports seats, LED head lights, drive mode se­lect, DAB dig­i­tal ra­dio, 20GB hard drive, satel­lite nav­i­ga­tion, park as­sis­tance, front and rear park­ing sen­sors plus a rear view cam­era.

The de­ci­sion to buy this par­tic­u­lar car is more a philo­soph­i­cal one. A chance to do your bit to save the en­vi­ron­ment, with­out look­ing like a goose do­ing it.

It’s tar­geted at city folks who travel less than 50km to work and back each day, who can recharge the 8.8kWh bat­tery us­ing off-peak power for as lit­tle as $1.01.

In fact, Audi has kicked in 10,000km of green power cred­its.

Audi Aus­tralia boss An­drew Doyle says the com­pany stands for so­phis­ti­ca­tion, sporti­ness and pro­gres­sive­ness.

By 2030, he said, 40 per cent of cars will have some form of elec­tri­fi­ca­tion and al­most twothirds will be hy­brids.

ON THE ROAD

Charg­ing takes five hours us­ing a nor­mal power point or half that time with one of Audi’s spe­cial charge sta­tions that it will in­stall free of charge if you buy the car.

Fully charged and ready to roll we pointed our car to­wards Syd­ney, but our test drive was a lit­tle dif­fer­ent from usual.

The chal­lenge was to drive from Bowral in the South­ern High­lands to Syd­ney air­port us­ing as lit­tle fuel as pos­si­ble. Af­ter all, that’s what it’s all about? Rated at 1.6 litres/100km, we started well get­ting 67km from a bat­tery that was sup­posed to be good for just 50 kays.

But real life has a way of in­trud­ing and with time run­ning out we needed to aban­don our quest and make a run to catch our af­ter­noon flight. That meant de­ploy­ing the ex­te­rior mir­rors, that we’d folded in to save drag and mov­ing from an 80km crawl into the cut and thrust of the fast lane.

In spite of all this we still man­aged to fin­ish with a cred­itable 2.7 litres/100km af­ter a 150km drive. In any other car we’d have been over the moon.

Our change of tac­tics paid div­i­dends be­cause at least we got to learn some­thing about the ride and han­dling, not to men­tion the per­for­mance.

Although it’s heav­ier than a nor­mal A3, the weight is more evenly dis­trib­uted, with a 55/45 split front and back.

With a lower cen­tre of grav­ity it sits bet­ter on the road and feels more planted, with bet­ter turn into corners.

The shift from elec­tric­ity to petrol power is seam­less and whether boosted by the elec­tric mo­tor or not, it will not dis­ap­point.

VER­DICT

3.5 / 5. Looks like an Audi. Drives like an Audi but has the abil­ity to de­liver amaz­ing fuel econ­omy — what a shame it’s so ex­pen­sive. For the same price you could have the high per­for­mance S3 (I know which one we’d take).

‘The A3 E-tron is in ef­fect three cars in one. It can run on elec­tric­ity alone, it can op­er­ate on a com­bi­na­tion of elec­tric and petrol power and it can work with the petrol en­gine by it­self just like a nor­mal car — a nor­mal A3 in fact.’

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