Audi Tron Program: Latest Update On Plug-In Audis, More, From Berlin

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Audi future lab tron-experience at Berlin Tempelhof

Audi future lab tron-experience at Berlin Tempelhof

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Audi's 'tron' program has been, well, a little confusing over recent years.

Back in the early days it was oh so simple--one concept car, known simply as the Audi e-tron, represented Audi's foray into future mobility.

Since then it seems a dozen models have come and gone, but after presentations galore and a test drive or two at Audi's future lab tron-experience in Berlin, we're happy to report it's all a lot simpler these days.

Well, kinda.

Audi A3 e-tron

Front and center to Audi's 'tron' range of models is one of only two vehicles genuinely confirmed for production.

Both are variants of Audi's latest A3 compact, though each goes about its 'future of mobility' brief in a different way.

The e-tron, as you might gather from its prefix, uses electric propulsion as part of a plug-in hybrid drivetrain. Audi, in both the past and the present, has been skeptical over fully electric vehicles, but the plug-in A3 e-tron seems to be a happy compromize both for the company and the vehicle's eventual buyers.

Audi began its A3 e-tron presentation saying nothing less than "We're proud that it doesn't look like an electric vehicle".

Controversial to some, perhaps, but in our experience electric car enthusiasts are split between those who embrace the weird and wonderful, and those who'd rather fade into the crowd.

Every inch an A3, the e-tron will certainly appeal more to the latter group--only the incredibly eagle-eyed will spot its discrete badging and more heavily-chromed grille denoting its differences from every other A3.

Audi touts it as a vehicle with no compromises--it has performance, efficiency (just 35 grams per kilometer of CO2, on the European fuel cycle), clean electric running and a healthy dose of luxury.

Unfortunately we were unable to drive the A3 e-tron--the car was on display only--but we'll be assessing that "no compromise" claim soon in a more in-depth feature, so keep your eyes peeled.

Audi future lab tron-experience at Berlin Tempelhof

Audi future lab tron-experience at Berlin Tempelhof

Enlarge Photo

Audi A3 g-tron

The second, and so far only other tron model confirmed for production is also an Audi A3.

Like the e-tron, the g-tron's main source of propulsion is a 1.4-liter turbocharged gasoline engine... but that's about where the similarities stop.

The g-tron is Audi's natural gas vehicle. It'll make production, though its U.S. future is less certain.

Initially at least, it'll be demonstrating Audi's new 'e-gas' program in Germany, using CO2 and water to produce a synthetic natural gas which can then be fed back into the nation's gas supplies. This e-gas will be produced in volumes equal to the amounts used in each g-tron Audi sells, effectively making each car cabon-neutral.

If the A3 e-tron is as little different from a regular A3 as possible, you'd not have a chance spotting the g-tron in a crowd.

Even driving it (full impressions will follow in a future report), it felt exactly like every other 1.4-liter A3--smooth, peppy, nicely-built, unmistakably German. It was just a little cleaner than almost everything else in Berlin traffic...

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