2016 Audi A3 e-tron: First Drive Page 3

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With a small ‘EV Mode’ button below the MMI screen, you can toggle through them all. There’s an EV Mode, a Hybrid mode that uses the battery charge, one that’s charge-sustaining, and one that can actually restore a charge. From what we observed, the system can bring the battery back up to full in just over a half-hour of driving (essentially a quick charge). Of course, the engine is consuming far more fuel during this time, however.

In EV Mode, the gasoline engine will only start when you absolutely floor the accelerator and get the click of a full-throttle detent does the gasoline engine fire up. And provided you don’t mash your right foot all the way, you can ride EV mode all the way up to 81 mph (130 km/h), where the system softly limits you to that speed. Provided you don’t press the accelerator all the way to the floor and the click of a full-throttle detent, the gasoline engine won’t start.

READ: Decoding Toyota's Electric-Car Disdain: A Role For Fuel Cells

Go too fast, or floor it, and there’s a rude awakening

But do as we did and the engine has quite the rude awakening. Never mind that it’s cold, or nearly so; it starts up and is almost immediately at high revs and engaged by the clutch pack, pushing up toward triple-digit speeds. And after running in quiet all-electric mode, it sounds noisy. It’s effective and confident, though; we reached nearly 100 mph (160 km/h) at one point, and the A3 e-tron felt extremely stable and confident, in a way that would apply to few other electrified or hybrid vehicles, exotic sports cars notwithstanding.

The A3 e-tron can accelerate to 60 mph in just 7.6 seconds, and reach nearly 138 mph. While we didn’t bring it up to that speed, we did in motorway pass above the 130-km/h (81 mph) mark.

The e-tron’s charge port is accessed through a twist of the Audi four-ring badge at the front. And outside of the charging system used in the VW e-Golf, it’s the only charging system that we’ve seen that will allow your programmed charge time but have a temporary override at the charge port.

Charging from flat to full takes three hours and 45 minutes, and sadly, as with most competing plug-in hybrids, Audi has no plans to add fast-charge capability to the e-tron.

More weight on the back wheels, a more balanced feel in tight corners

Back to the driving experience, The more rearward weight distribution helps it steer better, and feel better in mid-corner transitions. The only thing getting in the way of hurling the e-tron into each corner with even more enthusiasm is the tires—energy savers that, while quiet, simply don’t have a lot of available grip and start shrieking surprisingly early.


 
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