The launch of the A3 e-tron, which uses a turbo petrol engine and electric motor, would make it Audi's first hybrid model on sale in Australia. While that means Audi trails BMW and Mercedes-Benz bringing a hybrid to market, the A3 should be first of the trio to offer plug-in capability. Claimed 1.5L/100km consumption for the A3 e-tron will also make it the most frugal by far.
“We have made some recommendations … about where it [A3 e-tron] should fit [in the range],” told Audi Australia managing director Andrew Doyle.
“Like any model we negotiate backwards and forwards with the factory.”
Doyle wouldn’t be drawn into narrowing the timing of the local introduction of the A3 e-tron, but in relation to its its overseas launch, admitted that “the delay is not that much, it’s in line with [regular A3]”.
The standard A3 arrived locally less than a year after its debut in European markets, meaning the A3 e-tron should be less than a year away.
The managing director refused to be more specific about where the A3 e-tron would sit in the line-up, saying that “it’s a tough one to answer [and] I think it’s a bit too early to make a statement on that”, however he did confirm that Audi is looking closely at competitor plug-in vehicles, including the Holden Volt.
Where the A3 e-tron can call on its 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine to directly and in conjunction with the electric motor power the front wheels, the Volt uses its 1.4-litre non-turbo petrol engine as a generator to charge the batteries used to power the electric motor, which drives the front wheels.
While the A3 e-tron claims 1.5L/100km combined consumption in Europe, the Volt claims 1.2L/100km based on similar local ADR tests. The Audi, however, has combined system outputs of 150kW and 350Nm, and claims 0-100km/h in 7.6 seconds, where the Holden makes 111kW and 370Nm by comparison.
Muddying the waters further, the Audi’s ultra-high-performance S3 Sportback, at $59,900, costs $90 less than the Volt. Could the A3 e-tron cost as much or more than the S3 Sportback performance flagship?
“It’s a good question,” responds Doyle. “That’s the question we’re asking right now…
“It [S3] is a lot of car for $59,900.
“And what’s the price of an e-tron? What’s the price of technology?”
Doyle says to the question of whether buyers are prepared to pay as much for an economy-focused technology-leader as a high performance sports hatch: “the short answer is ‘yes’, the long answer is ‘how many’.
“It’s a bit like the RS situation; RS is not a volume car, it should never be a volume car, if we sell lots, that’s great. But it’s about showing what we can do, the pinnacle of motorsport in all our model ranges.
“E-tron is the same, isn’t it? It’s showing what we can do, and potentially we can in this early stage, while a lot of the technology is new charge a premium for it”.