Sticking with electrification, this week I’m sitting behind the wheel of a 2016 Audi A3 Sportback e-tron.
It’s the only way you can get an A3 hatchback in the US right now, and that may be reason enough for fans of the old model to consider it. But I’m more interested to see how it performs as a hybrid and EV, something the Volkswagen Group isn’t that well known for despite marketing the Jetta Hybrid and e-Golf in this country for a while now. Will the A3 e-tron help boost the organization’s green credibility or is it obviously a way to comply with an electric car mandate?
Here are five thoughts I’ve had while driving the A3 e-tron:
And I’m not just talking about the net 204 horsepower coming from the 1.4-liter turbo four and electric motor combination. The “S tronic” dual-clutch gearbox that comes on the e-tron provides a more refined driving experience than the 2016 Toyota Prius and the sensation of snappier acceleration than the 2016 Chevy Volt. You also have six gears of manual override and a Sport setting to knock the gear lever into, so it’s just like any DSG-equipped A3 in that regard.
But it isn’t smooth
There are four driving modes (apart from the Drive Select button, which really just changes the power steering assist on this car) to toggle through with a button on the dash, and each has its quirks. Unless there’s no charge, the car always starts in EV mode, but takes a while to let you change it to hybrid mode or a hold feature that preserves the battery charge. Smooth starts from stop signs is possible only in electric mode, something that feels a little old-school Prius. It takes careful pressure from your right foot to make consistent progress, something that requires patience until you fully adapt to it.
I look forward to plugging the car in every time
That’s because Audi has the most clever way of hiding the charge point I’ve seen yet. God bless them and their delightfully over-engineered way to hide the charge port.
It’s just like an A3
Many EVs and hybrids flaunt their
weirdness difference, but the A3 e-tron is largely free of that. Save for subtle badges and that trick logo in the grille, there’s nothing about it that stands out. And I rather like that. All of the controls inside feel like standard Audi, and the interior is predictably classy. This is one of the most stylish plug-ins out there now.
But it’s also just like an A3
As tested, this Premium Plus e-tron is about $47,000 before a few thousand in government incentives for electric cars. It can get even more pricey if you raid the options list. Like the gas-only A3s, you have to realize the closely related VW Golf family is a very good set of cars that also ooze refinement. Would I buy this A3 e-tron over a Golf GTI Performance Pack that’s $10,000 cheaper in order to have the ability to drive around emissions-free at times? Decisions, decisions…
Now that I’ve thrown out those thoughts, what else would you like to know about the A3 e-tron? Sound off in the comments below and look for a full review in the near future.
Photos: Zac Estrada/Carscoops