Following the appearance of the A3 sedan concept with a 394hp five-cylinder turbo motor back in March 2011 (see the News pages at www.eurotuner.com), Audi has unveiled a further technical study based on the same platform – the A3 e-tron concept.
First shown in Shanghai, the four-seat sedan integrates the breadth of the brand’s technology, from the enhanced MMI operating system, to the high-end infotainment system and its drivetrain.
With two powerplants and lithium-ion batteries to store enough energy to propel the car on electric power alone for up to 34 miles, the plug-in hybrid delivers good fuel efficiency.
The styling of the A3 e-tron has typical Audi design language. The single-frame grille is integrated into the front end, giving it a sculptured look. Its frame is made of carbon fiber-reinforced polymer (CFRP), and the transversely mounted, three-dimensional aluminum louvers emphasize the width.
The headlights merge with the bevelled upper corners of the single-frame grille, forming a transition that marks the starting point of the prominent lines of the hood.
The headlights represent a new stage of evolution in LED technology. They become broader as they extend outward, and a line underneath makes them seem to float.
Above the front spoiler is a full-length air intake, also made of CFRP, framed by a metal clasp. The spoiler features a splitter that increases the downforce on the front wheels.
When viewed from the side,, the A3 e-tron concept has taut, muscular surfaces and a low roof dome with lines flowing into a flat, coupe-like C-pillar. The shoulder area transitions elegantly into the tailgate. Characteristic of Audi design, the greenhouse accounts for one-third of the height, while the sheet metal makes up the remaining two-thirds.
Powerfully flared fenders hint at the power of the engine. Two striking lines accentuate the flank: the undercut tornado line beneath the window edge and the dynamic line above the sills.
The mirrors, made of aluminum and CFRP. The door handles with their brushed-aluminum clasps are recessed flush with the door. When the driver touches them, they power-extend.
The intelligent interplay between surfaces and lines also defines the tail end of the A3 e-tron concept. The broad, flat tail lights are sculptured and culminate in a point on the inside, and the tailgate bears an elegant spoiler.
The rear apron includes a diffuser insert of CFRP and metal, which in turn surrounds the two large tailpipes for the exhaust system. The doors, hood and tailgate are made of aluminum so the Audi A3 e-tron concept tips the scales at just 1720 kg (3791kg)/ The cockpit also gives an impression of lightness and airiness. The large trim strip is made of solid aluminum and includes control functions. The high-quality sound system in the doors and on the rear shelf has aluminum trim panels. When the audio system is switched on, they extend a few millimeters, creating a visual accompaniment to the sound.
On the center console there are four large, round air vents that echo a jet’s design. The air flow is adjusted by pulling and pushing on the centre axis of the vents. The control knobs for the automatic air conditioning system are located in the lower section of the centre console on a raised, dedicated control panel. Visually, they are reminiscent of aeroplane turbines.
Behind the compact, flat-bottomed, three-spoke multifunction steering wheel is an innovative display that makes the individual driving states of the hybrid drive obvious. The tachometer on the instrument cluster has been replaced by a “power meter” with a needle that indicates the total system output on a scale of 0-100 per cent. A second scale is divided into colored segments. At a glance, the green and orange segments clearly indicate where the A3 e-tron concept is drawing its power – from the electric motor, the combustion engine, or a combination of the two. An additional instrument displays the charge level of the battery.
Between the two large round dials is the large, eight-inch display for the driver information system. This display and the large monitor of the MMI system show the operating states and power flows in the hybrid system in elegant graphics with a three-dimensional effect. The MMI monitor also displays differentiated consumption and recuperation statistics in easily understandable bar graphs. The control panel for the MMI multimedia system is located on the center console. The interface on its large rotary pushbutton features another novelty – the MMI touchpad. This new solutionwill soon be introduced in series production. The ultra-thin MMI monitor power-extends upwards out of the instrument panel.
A UMTS (universal mobile telecommunication standard) module provides full access to the internet, allowing the car to retrieve online services from Google. Thanks to the WLAN hotspot, passengers can surf and send email to their hearts’ content. iPad holders are installed on the back of the front seat backrests.
Designed as a plug-in hybrid, the A3 e-tron concept is propelled by two power units – a 211hp 1.4 TFSI four-cylinder engine with turbocharging and direct injection as well as an electric motor with an output of 27hp. The system provides a combined output of 238hp. Working together, the gasoline engine and electric motor accelerate the notchback to 62mph in 6.8 seconds, then on to 144mph. A regulated oil pump, the intelligent Audi thermal management system, a start-stop system and an energy recovery system – technologies from the brand’s modular efficiency platform – all contribute to this high efficiency.
At the heart of the A3 e-tron concept are the lithium-ion batteries located behind the rear seats. With a charge capacity of 12kWh, they give the notchback a range of up to 34 miles on electric power alone. The batteries are charged by the energy recovery system when the car is in motion or directly from a household power socket when it is parked. This means that in most cases, the car is entirely emission-free in city driving.
A compact seven-speed S tronic serves as the transmission. It comprises two transmission structures, which are operated by two clutches. Gears are alternately shifted by the two clutches quickly and without any perceptible interruption of traction. The driver can operate the seven-speed S tronic in automatic or manual mode, using the paddles on the steering wheel to change gears manually.
Elegant touch control buttons alongside the handrest on the center tunnel console allow the driver to select drive positions R, N and D. These are backlit with red light when it gets dark. Drive position P is automatically engaged when the electric parking brake is applied. The launch control system manages the sprint from a dead stop, furnishing explosive turbo power with minimal tire slip.
Derived from the current RS 3 Sportback, the Audi A3 e-tron concept’s chassis is fully capable of handling the power from the drive system at all times.
The 20” wheels have 245/30 tires front and rear. The front brake discs are gripped by four-piston calipers. The Electronic Stability Program (ESP) has a Sport mode and can be completely deactivated. The parking brake is actuated electromechanically.