First Drive Review 2017 Audi A3 Sportback e-tron: A station wagon by any other name

(Audi)

(Audi)

I am starting to reluctantly accept the fact that hybrids and plug-ins are here to stay.  Being an old school V8 type of guy anything less than full gasoline power under the hood is sacrilegious. Yet we now have cars that use electricity in addition to gas, and some that use no gas at all. But then again we also have “man-bun” and skinny lattes… but I digress.

First came the Prius, something I hesitated to call it a “car”. It had a boxy shape, an uninspired interior, and little else besides an electric motor. Yet they sold, and still do, mainly on the strength of Saving Mother Earth.

Since the Prius was introduced several hybrids and plug-ins have come on the market. I’ve tried several and begrudgingly must admit that they aren’t going away anytime soon.

Audi jumped on the hybrid train on a large scale in 2010 with the Q5, followed by the A1 and A4. In 2016, the A3 line got a hybrid, the “e-tron” “sportback”. It’s an attempt to compete with the hybrid sedans like the Prius, and Chevy Volt.

Audi recently sent me the 2017 e-tron for a week. Another week with another hybrid. Now, don’t get me wrong I like Audi, and the 3 series the e-tron is based on.  A year after its introduction, the 2017 gets a refresh as did all the A3 series.  The refresh adds udi’s digital gauge cluster (Virtual Cockpit), Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, a panoramic sunroof, a rearview camera, and Audi’s Pre Sense front-collision warning system that can also apply the brakes on its own if necessary. There were also exterior revisions and the e-tron gets revised front and rear fascias, including head- and taillights

The 2017 Audi A3 Sportback e-tron is a compact four-door plug-in hybrid hatchback. It is available in three trim levels: Premium, Premium Plus and Prestige.

The base Premium has all the standard A3 features including, keyless entry and ignition, a sunroof, leather upholstery, eight-way power front seats with four-way power lumbar adjustment, LED daytime running lights and LED interior lights, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, duel zone climate control, and automatic wipers among other niceties.  There’s also Audi’s MMI electronics interface with a 5.3-inch central display, and forward collision warning system with automatic emergency braking. Tech also includes, Bluetooth, a rearview camera, and a 10-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite and HD radio, and a USB interface.

The Premium Plus trim adds upgraded trim inside and out, LED headlights, front and rear parking sensors, and heated front seats.

(Audi)

(Audi)

You can add the Technology package as an option that has the Virtual Cockpit expanded instrument cluster, blind-spot monitoring, an upgraded MMI system with an improved display and a touch-sensitive controller along with Audi Connect online services with 4G LTE mobile Wi-Fi, smartphone app integration, voice controls and a navigation system.

The top of the line Prestige trim has adaptive cruise control, the Technology package, adaptive cruise control with lane departure warning and a14-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system.

Since this is a hybrid you can’t simply say “under the hood”. Because in this hybird there is an 8.8-kWh battery under the rear seats. It powers a 102-hp electric motor that with 243 lb-ft of torque; on the gas side, there is a 150-hp 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine giving the total system output is 204 horsepower and 258 lb-ft.

Audi calls this a hatchback; however, it really is nothing more than a squat station wagon. The theme for any Audi, especially the 3 series, is plainness.  The e-tron falls right in line.

The exterior looks, okay, but typical Audi; that is, it could blend in a crowd and get lost. The interior is well laid out and the controls easy to use and understand.  The utilitarian layout is clean and modern with enough gadgets to get the job done.

One of the biggest differences I found in relation to other hybrids is the complexity of the hybrid system.

There are four driving modes: EV, Hybrid, Hold, and Charge. EV is full battery for up to 16 miles, Hybrid uses both, while Hold turns the battery off, and Charge uses engine power to recharge the battery.  While complicated, the range does allow a driver to take full advantage of the hybrid system.  A week is not long enough to really try all the different modes; no doubt an owner could learn how to maximize the system for everyday use.

One thing I could never figure out during my week was the Sport of the e-tron Sportback. Yes, there is a “Sport” mode, but I can best describe it as underwhelming: zero to 60 mph came in just under 7 seconds. So then, the e-tron isn’t a sports car. What it is, is a decent, well-appointed hybrid that will get great fuel mileage (83mpge, 34 mpg gas only), and has room enough to haul just about anything the suburban family wants it to.

Just don’t call it a hatchback, because a station wagon, even a hybrid one, by any other name is still a station wagon.

The 2017 Audi A3 Sportback e-tron
MSRP: $38,900
MSRP: $46,675
Engine: 1.4 liter turbocharged 4-cylinder. 204 @ 5000rpm, 258 lb-ft torque
Transmission: 6-speed shiftable automatic
Fuel Mileage (EPA): 83 MPGe, 34 mpg combined
Fuel Mileage (as tested, mixed conditions, hybrid): 37 mpg
Base Curb Weight: 3616

Exterior Dimensions (in)
Wheelbase: 103.5
Length, Overall: 169.7
Width, Max w/o mirrors: 70.3
Height, Overall: 56.1
Track Width, Front: 60.7
Track Width, Rear: 59.6

Interior Dimensions
Passenger Capacity: 5
Front Head Room :38.7
Front Leg Room: 41.2
Front Shoulder Room: 54.8
Second Head Room: 37.5
Second Leg Room :35.4
Second Shoulder Room:    52.9

Cargo Area Dimensions
Cargo Volume with Rear Seat Up: 13.6
Cargo Volume with Rear Seat Down: 33.7

Warranty
Basic: 4 Years/50,000 Miles
Drivetrain: 4 Years/50,000 Miles
Corrosion: 12 Years/Unlimited Miles
Hybrid/Electric Components: 8 Years/100,000 Miles
Roadside Assistance: 4 Years/Unlimited Miles
Maintenance: 1 Years/10,000 Miles

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Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. He served in support of Operation Just Cause, Desert Shield/Storm and ended his military career in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Greg has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for Examiner.com and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology.

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