Pre­mium per­former

Petrol-elec­tric e-tron looks like the reg­u­lar A3 and drives even bet­ter

Herald Sun - Motoring - - PRESTIGE -

CAR­ING for the en­vi­ron­ment al­ways comes at a cost, just as there’s a price to pay if you don’t.

For prospec­tive Audi A3 Sport­back owner Ryan Flint the is­sue is whether he is pre­pared to spend more to buy the petrol­elec­tric e-tron ver­sion of the car. A Rock­pool chef, he has an eye for qual­ity and the A3 ful­fils that brief.

Tipped to cost $60,000 when it goes on sale in March the plug-in hy­brid will be about $14,000 dearer than the topline con­ven­tional petrol model.

Own­er­ship, how­ever, will cost cor­re­spond­ingly less. The e-tron will travel up to 50km on elec­tric propul­sion from its 75kW mo­tor. That’s enough to get many to and from their place of work with­out hav­ing the petrol en­gine kick in to recharge the bat­tery back or pro­vide con­ven­tional power.

Audi Drive Ex­pe­ri­ence head Steve Piz­zati says the av­er­age cost of recharg­ing the lithi­u­mion bat­ter­ies us­ing elec­tric­ity is about $2.50, or $5 for 100km.

The most pow­er­ful A3 en­gine, the 1.8-litre turbo quat­tro, uses a claimed 6.5L/100km. With un­leaded at $1.46 a litre, it costs $9.50 to cover the same dis­tance.

The $4.50 dif­fer­ence won’t have a big ef­fect on the bud­get but (as­sum­ing e-tron own­ers recharge us­ing green power) it will have an ap­pre­cia­ble im­pact on the en­vi­ron­ment, given the petrol en­gine will emit 149 g of CO2 over that jour­ney.

To en­sure the warm and fuzzy feel­ing of “do­ing the right thing” isn’t just mar­ket­ing hype, Audi has bought “Green­Power” cred­its from Ori­gin En­ergy to en­sure the first 10,000km of elec­tric driv­ing is off­set by ac­cred­ited re­new­able en­ergy.

Flint ap­pre­ci­ates this, even if he’s un­sure whether his bud­get will stretch to an e-tron. “I like the idea,” he says. “It drives well and I thought it might be dearer. I could get to work with­out us­ing the en­gine and it still looks like a nor­mal A3.”

There are fewer com­pro­mises com­pared to many plug-in hy­brids. The lug­gage space is down 100L on a con­ven­tional front-wheel drive car but at 280L it an still takes a pair of small suit­cases be­fore the rear seats have to be folded.

Vis­ually, only the front dif­fers from a reg­u­lar A3. The four-ringed badge on the grille slides to re­veal the plug.

The bat­tery is un­der the rear seat, the fuel tank is 40L rather than 50L but Audi claims a com­bined range of 940km.

With range anx­i­ety cov­ered, Audi also has a pack­age to deal with price anx­i­ety. Ar­range a lease or fi­nance on the A3 etron and Audi will guar­an­tee a buy­back price based on du­ra­tion of own­er­ship and dis­tance trav­elled.

The e-tron’s rear-mounted bat­tery pack en­hances weight dis­tri­bu­tion and low­ers the cen­tre of grav­ity, so it cor­ners bet­ter than your av­er­age A3, a de­cent han­dler in its own right. Be­hind the wheel it is hard to spot as a hy­brid — other than the silent start-up — given the tran­si­tion from mo­tor to en­gine is barely no­tice­able.

Stan­dard gear in­cludes satnav, auto-park­ing, rear-view cam­era, dual-zone air­con and a home charg­ing sta­tion that many own­ers won’t have to pay to in­stall (de­pend­ing on their do­mes­tic wiring).

VER­DICT

For those who can ig­nore the price pre­mium, the A3 e-tron is one of the best petrol-elec­tric hy­brids on sale. It doesn’t look or drive like a freak and is a pre­mium prod­uct in ev­ery way.

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