Audi A3 e-tron prototype: first drive, June 2012Enlarge Photo
That new A3 will be built on Volkswagen Group's so-called MQB modular component set, which has been designed to accommodate not only gasoline and diesel powertrains, but also hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and fully electric propulsion.
We'd expect the plug-in hybrid A3 e-tron to launch slightly after the all-new 2014 Audi A3. It will likely use the 150-hp turbocharged 1.4-liter engine and hybrid system first shown in the Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid Concept at the Detroit Auto Show last January.
That engine is paired to a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, with a 20-kilowatt (27-hp) electric motor sandwiched between the engine and transmission.
Audi's plug-in hybrid version might have a more powerful electric motor, to enable the car to travel in full electric mode for 15 miles or thereabouts, powered by a larger battery pack than the relatively small one used in the 2013 VW Jetta Hybrid.
Top of the A3 range
Curry said that because the plug-in hybrid would be the A3's most technically sophisticated powertrain, the model would probably sit at the top of the A3 range.
He also noted that Audi's higher price points would allow the use of more lightweight materials to cut weight and improve performance.
We suspect that means the 2015 Audi A3 e-tron plug-in hybrid could be priced above $40,000, putting it at or above Chevrolet Volt prices.
VW Group has a history of electric Golfs dating back to the 1980s, and the global automaker is clearly committed to offering a full range of electrified and plug-in alternatives.
As the sporty volume brand within the group, not to mention a surging competitor in the luxury segment, Audi will have to offer technologically advanced vehicles that are also sportier and more fun to drive than their mass-market VW counterparts.
Based on our brief drive in the all-electric prototype A3 e-tron, we look forward to learning more about Audi's production plug-in hybrid.