Five First Impressions: 2016 Audi A3 e-tron

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:

It shifts
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.

style=”font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 17px;”>Jul 8, 2015 at 12:49pm PDT

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


  • carsmofo

    for some reason i find this design oddly…dated. it looks more 2006 than 2016.

    • Six_Tymes

      how true. i wish it would go away.

  • Imjus Sayin

    Nice KIA Spectra 5 update.

  • bloggin

    Wow….$47k for just 17 EV miles. Then 37/41 and 39 combined. That’s one expensive Golf wagon. I can get a midsize Fusion Energy with 20 EV miles for $33k with 40/36/38mpg. Or a Volt at $33K with 53 EV miles and 43/42/42mpg.

  • Antonio Bošković

    just get a golf gte, same engine and everything but cheaper
    i like this car but it just costs too much

  • mohillic

    I’m curious about how long you can actually go between fill ups, how many miles? Also please let us know about how effective the regenerative braking is. Do you have to ride the brake to activate it or can you use the paddle shifters? or some other method?? Thanks!

    • Boguslaw Wojtyra

      can use paddle shifters as if you were down shifting in an manual. I hardly touch brakes..

      • mohillic

        good to know, thank you for the reply!

      • mohillic

        oh, and if you have the data, how many miles can you go before you actually need to fill up. for example I commute 50 miles one way for work, assuming I can plug in at work I’m curious how often I would be getting gas.

        • Boguslaw Wojtyra

          I usually do a lot shorter trips, so I use mostly electric. This car really is meant for shorter commutes for the best efficiency. You could go about 22 miles on EV, and the rest would be at about 40 MPG. Not sure how the math works out over the whole run.

          • Mohamed Choukeir Montréal Qc

            lol there is no paddle shifters in the A3 e-tron

          • Boguslaw Wojtyra


            Then what do you call the levers behind the steering wheel that change the gears?

          • Mohamed Choukeir Montréal Qc

            I know Canada/USA you can’t even get paddles optional. UK it seems paddles are standard on the updated A3 only.

          • Mohamed Choukeir Montréal Qc

            i am speaking only for the E-tron.

          • Boguslaw Wojtyra

            My Etron (Canada)… Has paddles. They were standard.

  • Phil Kulak

    Can you elaborate a bit on the “smoothness” issue? I’ve never experienced an EV to not be smooth; that’s normally the main benefit of the electronic drive.

  • Jenci Bergen

    I’ve been driving my eTron for a little over a month…and love it. I was driving a VW sportwagon TDI (which was a great car also) and wanted more of the luxury features such as adaptive cruise control etc. I’m on my third tank of gas (since I picked up the car) and have averaged 54 mpg. I’m in sales and do a lot of highway driving (which is actually worse for a hybrid) and charge my battery once over night. This next week, I will be installing a charger at my office, so I’ll be able to charge the car in between appointments and expect my MPG to increase. I typically get 550 to 600 miles on a tank. The car is exceptionally quite and has an awesome sound system…a perfect combination for a long drive. Otherwise, the care is fun to drive and has plenty of power. Two things that I don’t like….for 50K I think they should have memory seats and an internal garage door opener (they told me that if you have the adaptive cruise control, there is no room for the garage door opener).

  • catharine

    after I plug in I usually show that I have about 20 miles for electric power. in reality, it lasts about half of that, even when not on the freeway, but just around town. Any thoughts to how to get closer to the 20 the car says I will get?

    • Boguslaw Wojtyra

      To get the mileage out out of the EV you have to drive slower, smoother.

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