The new model – which is set to establish a new “pillar for the brand” – is the first such plug-in hybrid car from Audi, based on its most popular model, the A3 Sportback five-door hatch. It is expected to sit directly alongside the current range-topping model, the S3 Sportback, with a likely ask of $59,900 plus on-road costs.
While the price does plot the e-tron considerably higher than the rest of the range, which kicks of at just $35,600, the charge (ahem) will be slightly lower than the $59,990 Holden Volt, and the BMW i3, which can be had as a pure EV ($63,900) or with a range-extending petrol engine ($69,900).
Audi Australia managing director Andrew Doyle told CarAdvice the brand knows the price is a sensitive point for a car like this, but insisted that if the car is used as intended, the costs could be recouped over time.
“That premium is well covered by the efficiency of the car over the cost of ownership. I’m not afraid to charge a premium. I think that it can be and should be a premium,” he said.
“If you start to talk about the cost of ownership – I think it’s $2.50, roughly, to charge the car – that’s roughly half the price of petrol. Then you can start to talk about a total value proposition that makes sense.”
The A3 Sportback e-tron is powered by a 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine teamed to a six-speed dual-clutch automatic with an in-built electric motor, and a 75kW electric motor that combines with a bank of lithium-ion batteries under the rear seat (output: 8.8kWh). All power is sent to the front wheels, with combined peak outputs of 150kW of power and 350Nm of torque - almost identical figures to the brand's 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine.
The A3 Sportback e-tron is set to have a claimed combined cycle fuel use of 1.6 litres per 100 kilometres, making it one of the most fuel-efficient vehicles on the market, alongside fellow plug-in models such as the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (1.9L/100km claimed) and Holden Volt (1.2L/100km claimed). Audi claims the car will offer a total range of up to 940km from a full tank and full battery charge, while EV range is claimed at 50km.
It weighs 1540 kilograms excluding the driver – or about 200kg more than a standard front-drive A3 – but still manages a claimed 0-100km/h sprint time of 7.6 seconds.
The charge-point for the car is hidden behind the A3’s grille, with the badge section popping out to show where the cord plugs in. There are very few other giveaways in terms of the car’s styling, with revised bumpers and different wheel designs the biggest giveaways.
When asked if the car’s non-outlandish appearance could be to its detriment, Doyle said he thought the opposite was the case.
“It’s extraordinarily normal. That’s what I think people will be interested about. It’s a normal car, it offers all the convenience of a normal car, plus I think there are people who probably wouldn't consider themselves hybrid or electric car drivers,” he said. “But they could, I imagine, say that’s something I could live with.”
“There’s no compromise, you don’t need to change your lifestyle.”
Audi has confirmed a number of items to be offered as standard on the new A3 Sportback e-tron. They include 17-inch wheels, leather interior trim, a sports steering wheel, smart key entry and push-button start, a reverse-view camera, front and rear parking sensors, semi-automated parking assistance park assist, a 7.0-inch pop-up media system with satellite navigation, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming.
Perhaps the most important and intriguing item offered as part of the buy-in is a home or office charge-box. Provided the desired location is capable of handling the system, the wall-box uses 16-amp, single-phase power to help cut the car’s recharge time to about 2.5 hours. On a standard 10-amp charge from a conventional socket, it takes approximately double that.
“We offer almost a one-stop shop – you get the home check, the ability to fit it in to your lifestyle and your patterns,” Doyle said.
“At your house, or your place of work, or whatever it is. It’s all about making the whole proposition easier."
The German brand will sell the car through 16 select dealerships, mainly in urban centres, and will be offering test drives of left-hand-drive, pre-production models at the Port Melbourne go kart track from November.
The company says it has received more than 1200 expressions of interest in the car, which it estimates will sell between 10-15 units per month.