Audi – smarter than Smart
MOVE over, iPad. Mercedes Smart.
Your position as the ultimate city accessory is about to be stolen by the Audi A1 e-tron.
The attention being given to the little two-door four-seater at Michelin Challenge Bibendum forecasts there’ll be a queue when it arrives.
And there would have been a queue to drive it, but the baby on display in its Sunday best was strictly hands-off. So it was left to its big brother, the A3 Sportback e-tron, to demonstrate on the test track some of what we can expect from the A1.
The A3 at Challenge Bibendum is a research model, and an Audi engineer at the event said it was not being considered for production at the moment as the model was nearing renewal, but the A1 e-tron would be on the market overseas late next year.
The system in the A3 relies on an electric motor with a continuous power output of 60kW, with peak outputs of 100kW and 270Nm of torque, which drives the front wheels via a singlespeed transmission.
There are three driving modes dynamic, auto and efficiency that change responses to throttle input and also raise or suppress the amount of power used. There are also four settings that adjust how much energy is recovered during braking and in the sailing mode where the system decouples and the car essentially coasts until more power is needed.
The lithium-ion battery rank can be recharged from dead-flat in nine hours from a household supply, and in four hours using 400-volt three-phase current.
Audi says a single charge will give you 140km in the A3, but the lighter A1 e-tron will have a 45kW motor that can peak at 75kW, working with a range extender in the form of a singlerotor Wankel engine and 15kW electric generator to give a 200km drive.
On the track, the A3 e-tron’s overall driving feel is close to a normal compact car, with all strong torque on offer and quite responsive handling.
The dynamics are helped by positioning the battery rank through the centre tunnel and under the rear seat and luggage floor to improve balance and give a low centre of gravity.
The change into sailing mode is unnoticeable, and can extend for quite a distance unless extra load is demanded.
It remains to be seen how well the system would do in a long run, but the performance of the A3 e-tron suggests the A1 will be a star in the city car stakes.
This is the car the early adopters will want to be in, and the uber-chic will want to be seen in.