2016 Audi A3 e-tron: First Drive Page 2

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That battery pack has an 8.8-kWh capacity, and it’s supplied entirely by Panasonic—using Panasonic’s automotive-grade prismatic cells rather than the consumer-electronics cells employed by Tesla Motors. It’s liquid-cooled with an Audi-designed system, and all the rest of the electric-drive and hybrid-powertrain components are Audi-designed and built.

To clarify, the lithium-ion chemistry of the pack used in the e-tron is different than that used in the Volkswagen e-Golf we also drove this month. While the e-Golf has a chemistry chosen for efficiency, stability, and use in extreme climates, the A3 e-tron has a pack that is allowed to more rapidly discharge.

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Three separate liquid cooling systems, one clutched-in motor

And just to make sure there’s enough battery cooling for high-performance driving needs, the e-tron includes three separate cooling systems: one for the engine, a second for the intercooler and the electric drive motor, and a third for the battery pack and related electronics. With those, as well as the typical regular service required for the DSG unit, this is not likely to be a simple or cheap car to maintain, long-term.

The Audi-built components include the heart of the system: a special version of the VW Group DSG dual-clutch gearbox that has a 75-kW electric motor system helping feed the input, with a third, solenoid-actuated clutch that can disconnect the engine, or clutch it in, in ways that are often wondrously well coordinated, and sometimes imperceptible. The motor makes 243 pound-feet of torque on its own, but in ‘boost’ mode combined with the gasoline engine pushes peak torque up to 258 lb-ft.

And of course the hybrid system brings perkiness by especially adding oomph at the low end of the rev range. The 1.4-liter turbocharged (TFSI) four-cylinder engine in the e-tron makes 150 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque, but the hybrid system boosts it to 204 hp and 258 lb-ft, respectively.

Although Volkswagen has been selling a Jetta employing a hybrid motor system and DSG, Audi officials confirmed that this is different hybrid hardware, and that Audi on its own developed its maps for the system.

About 25 miles at a time, as an electric car

With no internal combustion engine running, the e-tron will be an electric car for an official 50 km (31 miles), followed by 553 miles (from the 10.6-gallon tank) in mixed gasoline-electric hybrid mode—all by the EU Combined test, which tends to overshoot real-world numbers. Based on that and what we saw in our drive, expect about 25 miles on a full charge.

But to help you make the most of this setup, Audi is including more drive modes—and overall driver control over what the powertrain is doing and when—than any other plug-in hybrid.

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