The new Audi A3 Sportback e-tron may be pushing the brand into new territory in terms of technology, but Australian idiosyncrasies continue to prohibit the progress of the brand in terms of connectivity.
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Audi Australia will be unable to offer buyers of the new A3 Sportback e-tron the opportunity to control or monitor their car from their smartphone via the SIM-based Audi Connect e-tron services app.

The app, which is available on smartphones running Android and iOS, is designed to allow drivers to “remotely check the status of the car, such as the battery charge and electric range, and also call up a variety of service information and the car's location”.

The app also allows owners to manage when the car will be charged, and also preset the climate control without draining the car’s batteries.

But according to Nathalie Mania, product marketing for Audi specialising in Audi Connect services, the app is unsuitable for Australia – not because of the app itself, but the devices built in to the car that communicate with the app.

Audi A3 Sportback e-tron

“It’s the hardware. We’ve got a second online communication unit in the A3 and it’s not certified for Australia. It’s called OCU, it’s a different hardware than the normal Connect system,” Mania said.

“It runs on a different frequency [in Australia], so we need a different hardware,” she said.

The issue with that is twofold – Audi can’t justify spending extra money in developing new hardware for distinct markets, and even if it could, Australia is expected to be a low-volume market for the e-tron version of the A3.

“Of course there would be additional costs, but as well the frequency is different so we would have to develop the whole package for Australia again,” Mania said.

“But we’ll work on it. Maybe at a later stage. It’s definitely a target to bring the e-tron Connect services to all countries.”

Audi A3 Sportback e-tron

Audi Australia senior product communications executive Shaun Cleary confirmed the brand would not offer the app, at least initially, but stated that work is being done to make Audi Connect services available for Australian buyers.

He said that buyers will still be able to perform all of the functions the app offers, including setting timers for off-peak charging by using the Audi MMI media interface system.

Unfortunately, though, the hardware to support the system cannot be retrofitted.

The lack of an app doesn’t mean potential buyers will miss out on the connected experience. The company offers a web platform for owners to use, which allows them to view driving data including average electricity consumption, average speed and more.

The Audi A3 Sportback e-tron is due on sale in early 2015 priced at about $60,000. Audi Australia estimates it may sell approximately 10 units per month of the high-tech hybrid.

Read our review of Audi Connect.