Petrol-Electric Audi A3 E-TRON Hits Shanghai

19 April 2011 at 17:31

Hybrid based on A3 saloon concept shows another potential future direction for perennially popular Audi compact car

The four-seat saloon integrates the full breadth of the brand’s technological expertise – from the enhanced MMI operating system, to the high-end infotainment system, to the drivetrain. And with its two powerplants and lithium-ion batteries that store enough energy to propel the car on electric power alone for up to 54 km (34 miles), the plug-in hybrid also delivers high fuel efficiency.

audi a3 etron

Design and body

The Audi A3 e-tron concept is a four-seat 'notchback' saloon. It measures 4.44 metres long and 1.84 metres wide, but just 1.39 metres high – proportions that underscore its dynamic character.

The styling has all the features of the typical Audi design language. The single-frame grille is integrated into the front end, giving it a pretty cool sculptured look. Excitingly Its frame is made of carbon fibre-reinforced polymer (We love carbon fibre round here), and the transversely mounted, three-dimensional aluminium louvres (not as complex as it sounds) emphasise the showcar’s width. The headlights merge with the bevelled upper corners of the single-frame too forming a transition that marks the starting point of the prominent lines of the bonnet, so far we really like the suggestions this car has for the future of Audi styling, generally Audi tends to keep things tame - even in the RS department but if some of the concept styling makes it through to the production version it will be a welcome boost to the companies image.

The headlights represent a new stage of evolution in LED technology, a groundbreaking innovation from Audi. They become broader as they extend outward, and a line underneath makes them seem to float. Above the front spoiler is a full-length air intake, also made of carbon reinforced plastic (CFRP), framed by a metal clasp. The spoiler features a splitter that increases the downforce on the front wheels, though we aren't sure how much downforce this sort of car requires.

audi a3 etron body

When viewed from the side the A3 e-tron concept is instantly recognisable as an Audi – with its harmonious proportions, taut, muscular surfaces and a low roof dome with fluid lines flowing into a flat, coupe-like C-pillar. The shoulder area transitions elegantly into the tailgate. Characteristic of Audi design, the greenhouse accounts for one-third of the height, while the sheet metal makes up the remaining two-thirds.

Powerfully flared wings hint at the power of the engine. Two striking lines accentuate the flank: the undercut tornado line beneath the window edge and the dynamic line above the sills. The exterior mirrors, made of aluminium and CFRP, are perched on top of the window-channel strips. The door handles with their brushed-aluminium clasps are recessed flush with the door. When the driver touches them, they power-extend.

The intelligent interplay between surfaces and lines also defines the tail end of the A3 e-tron concept. The broad, flat tail lights are sculptured and culminate in a point on the inside, and the tailgate bears an elegant spoiler edge. The rear apron includes a diffuser insert of CFRP and metal, which in turn surrounds the two large tailpipes for the exhaust system.

Ultra-modern components, design methods and joining techniques keep the body weight low. One example of this are the custom-tailored blanks (panels of various thicknesses) in the floor area. The doors, bonnet and tailgate are made of aluminium. With its high levels of rigidity, the body provides the basis for the saloon’s precise handling, excellent vibrational comfort and low weight – the Audi A3 e-tron concept tips the scales at just 1,720 kg.

audi a3 etron back

Interior

The interior of the showcar is generously proportioned. The long wheelbase measuring 2.63 metres – a best-in-class figure in the premium compact segment – gives rear passengers generous knee room. The front sport seats with prominent side bolsters are slim and elegant.

The cockpit also gives an impression of lightness and airiness. The horizontal lines emphasise its design and the instrument panel draws the driver in – typical of Audi. Defined in three dimensions, the large trim strip is made of solid aluminium and includes control functions. The high-quality sound system in the doors and on the rear shelf has aluminium trim panels. When the audio system is switched on, they extend a few millimetres, creating a visual accompaniment to the system’s excellent sound.

On the centre console there are four large, round air vents that echo a jet’s design. The air flow is adjusted by pulling and pushing on the centre axis of the vents. The control knobs for the automatic air conditioning system are located in the lower section of the centre console on a raised, dedicated control panel. Visually, they are reminiscent of aeroplane turbines.

Behind the compact, flat-bottomed, three-spoke multifunction steering wheel is an innovative display that makes the individual driving states of the hybrid drive obvious. The tachometer on the instrument cluster has been replaced by a “power meter,” with a needle that indicates the total system output on a scale of 0 to 100 per cent. A second scale is divided into coloured segments. At a glance, the green and orange segments clearly indicate where the A3 e-tron concept is drawing its power – from the electric motor, the combustion engine, or a combination of the two. An additional instrument displays the charge level of the battery.

Audi a3 etron interior

Between the two large round dials is the large, eight-inch display for the driver information system. This display and the large monitor of the MMI system show the operating states and power flows in the hybrid system in elegant graphics with a three-dimensional effect.

The MMI monitor also displays differentiated consumption and recuperation statistics in easily understandable bar graphs.

The control panel for the MMI multimedia system is located on the centre tunnel console. The interface on its large rotary pushbutton features another novelty – the MMI touch touchpad. This new solution, which makes the already exemplary operation even more intuitive, will soon be introduced in series production. The ultra-thin MMI monitor power-extends upwards out of the instrument panel, another feature taken from the full-size car class.

A UMTS (universal mobile telecommunication standard) module provides full access to the Internet, allowing the car to retrieve online services from Google. Thanks to the WLAN hotspot, passengers can surf and send e-mail to their hearts’ content. iPad holders are installed on the back of the front seat backrests.

A classic notchback saloon, the Audi A3 e-tron concept boasts a large luggage compartment with a volume of 410 litres and a low loading lip.

Drivetrain...The Clever Stuff!

Designed as a plug-in hybrid, the A3 e-tron concept is propelled by two power units – a 211PS 1.4 TFSI four-cylinder engine with turbocharging and petrol direct injection (straight out of the current A1) and an electric motor with an output of 27PS. The system provides a combined output of 238PS. Working together, the petrol engine and electric motor accelerate the notchback to 62mph in 6.8 seconds, then on to 144mph. A regulated oil pump, the intelligent Audi thermal management system, a start-stop system and an energy recovery system – technologies from the brand’s modular efficiency platform – all contribute to this high efficiency.

At the heart of the A3 e-tron concept are the lithium-ion batteries located behind the rear seats. With a charge capacity of 12 kWh, they give the notchback a range of up to 34 miles on electric power alone.

audi a3 charging

The batteries are charged by the energy recovery system when the car is in motion or directly from a household power socket when it is parked. This means that in most cases, the car is entirely emission-free in city driving - free congestion charge and zero road tax is always nice!

A compact seven-speed S tronic serves as the transmission for the compact plug-in hybrid. It comprises two transmission structures, which are operated by two clutches. Gears are alternately shifted by the two clutches quickly, smoothly and  without any perceptible interruption of traction - essentially a twin clutch DSG box.

The driver can operate the seven-speed S tronic in one automatic mode and one manual mode, using the paddles on the steering wheel to change gears manually, this is a vey welcome addition for those who like to feel a lillte more engaged in the drive. Elegant touch control buttons alongside the handrest on the centre tunnel console allow the driver to select drive positions R, N and D. These are backlit with red light when it gets dark. Drive position P is automatically engaged when the electric parking brake is applied. The launch control system manages the sprint from a dead stop, furnishing explosive turbo power with minimal tyre slip.

Chassis

Derived from the current RS 3 Sportback, the Audi A3 e-tron concept’s chassis is fully capable of handling the power from the drive system at all times. The four-seater masters any type of corner with speed, stability and composure. Its self-steering response remains essentially neutral all the way up to the handling limits.

The front suspension – a MacPherson construction with a separate axle support – has a track measuring 1,572 millimetres. The rack-and-pinion steering is extremely efficient because its electromechanical drive system requires no energy when driving straight ahead.

The four-link rear suspension with its 1,542-millimetre track is likewise fixed to a subframe. Its control arms are made of high-strength steel and enable the suspension to absorb longitudinal and lateral forces separately. The shock absorbers and coil springs are mounted separately from each other.

audi A3 ETRON Front picture

The Audi drive select dynamic handling system gives the driver five modes from which to select the characteristics of the engine, power steering and seven-speed S tronic. The modes are comfort, auto, dynamic, individual and efficiency, the last of which is designed for maximum economy.

The imposing light-alloy rims measure 20 inches in diameter. The tyre format is 245/30 at the front and rear. The front brake disks are gripped by four-piston calipers. The Electronic Stability Program (ESP) has a Sport mode and can be completely deactivated. The parking brake is actuated electromechanically.

 

 

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