A plug-in hybrid that puts you in control
Let’s face it—if you’re looking at a plug-in hybrid, you are interesting in control. A plug-in hybrid gives back some of the control of your driving life that you give up with a battery-only electric car. Ubiquitous gas stations take care of the range anxiety of limited battery range and long charging times. You can still have your all-electric drives, but they’re on your terms. With the 2016 Audi A-3 e-tron, the Germans from Ingolstadt have taken the notion of control to a new level.
The choices are clear-cut and under your command:
- Electrons (up to 22 miles)
- Combined gas and electricity
While some electrics give you a measure of control over regenerative braking or can maximize range by limiting speed or detuning air conditioning, the e-tron allows you to choose from four modes of operation:
- EV only
- Hybrid operation using batteries for propulsion
- Charging battery, not using electric power
- Holding the battery charge for later use (for instance, if there is an area that will only allow pure electrics
It’s a novel approach, something you might expect from German engineers. It’s the defining feature of the new plug-in Audi A3, the e-tron. Of course, on top of the vehicle choice options, Audi also pushes e-tron purchasers to look into home solar and charging units to boost the fossil-fuel free miles of the plug-in hybrid.
The mileage results
We have always liked the Audi A3, even though it has seemed to have some trouble finding a home with American car buyers. Maybe it was the hatchback. Audi certainly has not had a problem as
the company has posted 65 months of sales records in the U.S. But the e-tron represents a new direction for the brand, taking its luxury into the electric realm. Not that they haven’t hinted—or is that too mild of a word—at this new direction. Numerous e-tron models have shown up at auto shows over the past few years, but the A3 is the first model to make it to market.
The 2016 A3 e-tron delivered on its promised fuel economy numbers (always problematic for a plug-in hybrid, but listed a 86 mpge or 39 mpg on gasoline alone). We managed 31.6 mpg while
charging and hit 41 mpg in hybrid mode. We also found the e-tron registered 22 miles of range when fully charged.
In EV mode the car was a smooth runner; it had a seamless transition from full electric to gasoline modes, though sometimes the engine kick in did seem louder, especially when the transition took place at idle. Running in hybrid mode the e-tron was almost as quiet as when running in electric-only.
The e-tron powertrain includes a 1.4-liter TFSI that puts out a smooth 204-horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque (numbers are combined with the three-phase electric motor). A six-speed S-tronic dual-cloutch automatic transmission backs it up. Energy storage from brake regeneration or engine charging takes place in an 8.8 kWh lithium-ion battery that is fitted underneath the rear seat.
Audi deserves accolades for style, something in which they do take great pride. They have a very clever plug location—behind the Audi “rings” in the grill. It’s in front—the correct place for a charging plug (hint to those companies taking the cheaper and easier route of placing it behind a former gas filler door. Having it hidden is the right move.
Inside, you’re confronted by a plethora of buttons and switches, but it only reinforces the tech focus of Audi and this car. One tech feature stood out in a negative way—Audi’s side assist system, which is its version of blind spot warning technology. The alerts from this system were not as subtle as some other systems we’ve experienced, which could lead it to be seen as annoying enough to turn off, which would be a bad thing. On the other hand, Audi’s engineers may feel it needs to be as persistent as it is to get the driver’s attention with all of the other distractions that are part of modern driving.
The e-tron starts at $37,900, a $7,000 bump from the gas-only A3. Our test model came in at $46,100, including optional Premium Plus package, a Technology Package and sparkling Misano Red pearl paint. As with all A3s, there is a $575 destination charge.
The Premium Plus package (a mid-level trim above the entry Premium and the top Prestige) includes 15-spoke turbine-design 17-inch wheels, 225/45 all-season tires, #D “optic” inlays (designed to look like carbon fiber), adaptive lighting, iPod cable for music interface, LED headlights, heated front seats and high-gloss aluminum window surrounds.
The technology package adds the Audi MMI navigation, Audi Connect online services (six-month subscription) and Audi side assist, which functionally is a blind sport warning system.
Standard features on the base model include xenon headlights, LED DRLs and taillights, packing system with rearview camera, leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, leather seats (12-way power adjustable including lumbar adjustment in front), 60/40 split-folding rear seat, sound system with AM/FM/SiriusXM (three-month complimentary subscription)/CD/SD card reader/aux-in, power adjustable exterior mirrors, panoramic sunroof with retractable sunshade, Bluetooth for mobile phone connection, dual-zone automatic climate control, a pop-up touchscreen (by far the most elegant solution for this now ubiquitous piece of the modern car), LED interior lighting and a rain and light sensors.
Audi A3 e-tron model pricing:
- Premium – $37,900
- Premium Plus – $42,000
- Prestige – $46,800
Warranties on the A3 include:
- Basic – Four years/50,000 miles
- Battery – Eight years/100,00 miles
- Corrosion Perforation – 12 years/Unlimited miles
- Scheduled Maintenance – One year/5,000 miles
- Roadside Assistance – Four Years/50,000 miles
The 2016 Audi3 Sportback e-tron comes with 10 airbags, an anti-lock brake system and electronic stability control (ESC). It has not been crash-tested by NHTSA or the IIHS, though the former notes positive that the car includes a rearview video system, ESC (though that is now a federally mandated piece of safety equipment for most cars), forward collision warning and lane departure warning.
Conclusion: The 2016 Audi A3 e-tron
The 2016 Audi A3 e-tron is an easy car to like. The 20+ miles of electric range means you can cruise around town and never use an ounce of gasoline, but because it has an engine on board you can be good for more than 400 miles of cruising and still get respectable hybrid fuel economy. What we like even more is that you can really fine-tune the driving mode for what you need, maximizing for electric miles or overall fuel economy.
Beyond the plug-in flexibility the main appeal of the car is that it’s an Audi. It delivers well on all of the expected touches of luxury, performance and attention-to-detail, from the faux carbon fiber trim to the steady grip of the road from its supple suspension. A car that’s fun-to-drive, feels like it’s built around you as a driver and has electric capability—count us in. When it comes with a stand-out red paint job and also includes a functional hatchback, the deal is sealed. This was the car we’ve been waiting for.
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Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle, which does not address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology, during which we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements. Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class or are among the top mpg vehicles on the market. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at firstname.lastname@example.org.