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2015 Audi A3 Sportback e-tron First Impression

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Vienna, Austria -- I suspect that some of you, if you are regular visitors to our site, may start finding the “brand” angle a little tiresome. The truth of the matter is that the vast majority of us are all about brands. Audi is one of those brands that sees us lusting and wanting, much like Michael Kors, Marc Jacobs, and so on.

All prospective hybrids, say under the $60k mark, are marginally (if at all) interesting. The only exception that comes to mind is the Infiniti Q50S Hybrid, but then we come across the whole brand debate again…

What you need to know about the 2015 Audi A3 Sportback e-tron is that it drives as good as any A3, better even, and as a rare treat, the driver has much control over what the car does. Through Drive Select and various hybrid/EV modes, the A3 e-tron can be as green or not so green depending on the driver’s will. This is one cool hybrid.

What is an Audi A3 Sportback e-tron?
The A3 is Audi’s current compact gateway car in North America and has recently undergone a complete makeover. In hopes of attracting more buyers in the US, Audi decided to only offer the sedan whereas the A3 has historically been solely available as a hatchback. The coming of the A3 Sportback e-tron is a sign of a change in policy.

Audi’s Tron program involves a number of sustainable energy sources for powering cars. The A3 g-tron and R8 e-tron are two such examples; however, the hybrid A3 e-tron is the best suited for real world use.

2015 Audi A3 Sportback e-tron Price and Specs
Pricing for the 2015 Audi A3 Sportback e-tron has not yet been fixed, however, we were told to assume that the MSRP would reflect that of the new BMW i3, in other words, around $40k.

The Audi A3 e-tron’s hybrid powertrain consists of a turbocharged 4-cylinder 1.4L TFSI internal combustion engine mated to synchronous electric motor. The 1.4L generates 150 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. The combined system output is a not inconsiderable 204 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque.

The electric motor is housed in Audi’s dual-clutch 6-speed S tronic transmission, which sends the power to the front wheels. The A3 e-tron’s electric range is 50 km, and the total range reaches an impressive 940km. Its average CO2 emissions are as little as 35 grams per km (56.33g/mile). In North America, this translates into an impressive 1.5L/100 km.

The A3 e-tron is a plug-in hybrid that requires roughly 2 ½ hours to fully recharge its 8.8 kWh capacity batteries.

The 0-100 km sprint goes by in 7.6 seconds on the way to a top speed of 222 km/h. Top speed in EV mode is 130 km/h.

Driving the 2015 Audi A3 Sportback e-tron
Here’s where I really get onboard. The A3 e-tron is one of the best sorted PHEVs I’ve ever driven. It all begins in large part because of the A3’s well sorted chassis and nimble outer dimensions. This car is actually three-in-one: a sporty compact car, a sophisticated hybrid, and an electric car.

The A3 e-tron’s steering is superbly direct and well weighted. The car feels extremely solid. In fact, its integrity is perhaps one of the best I’ve experienced from Audi in a while. From this point on, Audi’s Drive Select and the intelligent hybrid management system make all the difference.

The 2015 A3 e-tron starts up in EV mode by default assuming that most commutes are typically less than 50 km. Should the day call for a longer drive, you may leave the A3 in EV and it will drop into Hybrid Auto mode once the batteries are depleted. Said mode can be selected before hitting the road as well.

Should you live right near the highway, the Hybrid Hold mode will keep battery power off until desired by the driver. Lastly, the Hybrid Charge mode will put the emphasis on the recycling the A3's kinetic energy back into the battery.

In EV mode, only when braking does any energy return to the batteries. In this fashion, the transmission’s clutch decouples from the engine thus allowing free coasting, maximizing range, and limiting throttle requirements.

The 2015 A3 Sportback e-tron also highlights Audi’s Drive Select which enables the driver to select between a further four drive modes: comfort, auto, dynamic, and individual. I can foresee one issue with this multitude of driving options and that is that most will simply set the two menus to “auto” and forget about it…

Should this not be the case then the driver will be able to maximize the driving experience that can be provided by this remarkable car. Under hard acceleration, the torque-y powertrain makes the A3 seem far quicker than the numbers indicate. The S tronic masterfully punches from one gear to another with nary a glitch or hiccup, as we’ve come to expect from all of the VAG’s dual-clutch boxes. Sporty only barely begins to describe how good the car feels.

With a brilliant engine-tranny combo and nearly infallible driving characteristics, the A3 Sportback e-tron is truly good fun.

Inside and Out of the 2015 Audi A3 Sportback e-tron
The revised A3 is grown up and very mature, but with a tastefully youthful flare. In e-tron guise, the A3 includes unique front and rear bumpers, and wheels. Its cute butt also features exclusive reflectors and a tasteful diffuser.

The charging port is located in the Singleframe grille behind the four rings, which folds out to the side revealing where the plug goes. Other specifics include e-tron badges and I must say that for a hybrid, it’s quite the subdued, sporty looker.

The same can be said when climbing aboard. Audi cabins are typically clean and well executed. The Sportback e-tron is all business with a few buttons (EV) that typify the e-tron from the regular e-tron.

Seats are supportive and work in harmony with the steering column helping create a perfect driving position. The overall feeling behind the wheel of the new A3 is tailored, and I like it a lot.

Comparing the 2015 Audi A3 Sportback e-tron
The A3 e-tron is the sportiest of compact hybrids. The Lexus CT200h is the closest in terms of bodystyle and sporting aspirations, but cannot match the A3 drive-wise. Other possible contestants include the Acura ILX hybrid, the Volkswagen Jetta hybrid and the Infiniti Q50 hybrid.

Of the lot, none can match the 2015 A3 Sportback e-tron’s evolved state of being such a pleasure to drive and so efficient. I am really taken by a hybrid. There’s a first for everything.

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    2015 Audi A3 e-tron
    audi a3 2015
    2015 Audi A3 e-tron
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