Audi Joins the Plug-In Fray, But Will Consumers Bite at These Prices?

Source: Audi

As far as BMW’s i8 is concerned, it’s a modern design tour de force: a harmonious blend of metal, plastics, glass, and carbon fiber. It looks as modern as its engineering is, and its ambitious styling gives its powertrain a tremendous standard to live up to (which, as far as we can see, shouldn’t be an issue).

Audi (VLKAY.PK), however, is deciding to take its hybrid tech in a different direction, banking that consumers are going to swing more for its routine consumer car than a hot performance car. The statement from Audi is all about fuel savings, rather than its attention-grabbing nature. In fact, put next to the conventional A3 hatchback and without the obvious decals along the side, the differences would be hardly noticeable.

Audi has been working on its e-Tron plug-in hybrid platform for years now, but consumers have yet to see a meaningful mass-market application of it. The A3 hatch, which is so far unavailable in the U.S. in its current generation, will be able to travel about 31 miles on electricity alone before the 1.4 liter TSFI engine kicks in. Total system horsepower is a respectable 204, and torque comes in at 258 pound-feet — more than a Volkswagen Golf TDI and Toyota’s four-cylinder Tacoma pickup.

Audi says the A3 e-Tron can be charged in somewhat more than two hours from an industrial outlet, and “a smartphone app provides for extremely easy remote charging and precooling/preheating.” But the most crucial part is the A3 e-Tron reportedly gets 156.8 miles per gallon on the U.S. cycle. I know what you’re thinking: A 100 mpg-plus Audi? Sign me up. But there’s one aspect of the car that definitely isn’t as conventional as the exterior would have you believe, and that would be the price tag. In Germany, the A3 e-Tron is slated to go for 37,900 euros ($51,660 by today’s exchange rates) — about $20,600 more than the conventional gasoline-powered model.