Audi unveils an attractive technical study – the A3 e-tron concept – in Shanghai. The four-seat notchback sedan integrates the full breadth of the brand’s technological expertise – from the enhanced MMI operating system to the high-end infotainment system, and last but not least the drivetrain.
It is an interesting car, a harbinger of things to come for Audi, and therefore we present it on our columns...
Hans Knol ten Bensel
The concept car has two engines, and comes with lithium-ion batteries that store enough energy to propel the car on electric power alone for up to 54 km (34 miles).
The e-tron, a plug-in hybrid car, also delivers high fuel efficiency.
Design and body – a showcase for future Audi styling…
Stefan Sielaff, Head of Design AUDI AG, and the new Audi A3 e-tron concept at at the Auto Shanghai 2011 in China.
The Audi A3 e-tron concept is a “classic” four-seat notchback sedan. It measures 4.44 meters (14.57 ft) long and 1.84 meters (6.04 ft) wide, but is only 1.39 meters (4.56 ft) high – proportions that underscore its dynamic character. But notwithstanding this “classic” bodywork concept, it is a showcase for styling trends we can expect in the future.
The design represents the typical Audi language of sporty elegance. The single-frame grille is integrated into the front end, giving it a sculptured look. Its frame is made of carbon fiber-reinforced polymer (CFRP), and the transversely mounted, three-dimensional aluminum louvers create a visual effect that emphasizes the showcar’s width. The headlights merge with the beveled upper corners of the single-frame, forming a transition that marks the starting point of the prominently accentuated lines of the engine hood.
The headlights represent a new stage of evolution in LED technology, a groundbreaking innovation from Audi. They now become broader as they extend outward, and a line underneath makes them seem to float on air.
Also new is the full-length air intake above the front spoiler, also made of CFRP, and framed by a metal clasp. The spoiler features a splitter that increases the downforce on the front wheels.
Characteristic of Audi design, the greenhouse accounts for one-third of the height, while the sheet metal makes up the remaining two-thirds.
The exterior mirrors, made of aluminum and CFRP, are perched atop the window-channel strips. The door handles with their brushed-aluminum clasps are recessed flush with the door. When the driver touches them, they power-extend…
The broad, flat tail lights are sculptured and culminate in a point on the inside, and the tailgate carries 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.
Body weight is kept low…
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, engine hood and tailgate are made of aluminum. With its high levels of rigidity, the body provides the basis for the sedan’s precise handling, excellent vibrational comfort and low weight – the Audi A3 e-tron concept tips the scales at just 1,720 kilograms (3,792 lb).
The cockpit, too, gives an impression of lightness and airiness. The horizontal lines emphasize its design. The instrument panel draws the driver in – typical for Audi.
When the high quality audio system is turned on, they extend a few millimeters, thus orchestrating a visual accompaniment to the system’s excellent sound.
Behind the compact, flat-bottomed, three-spoke multifunction steering wheel is an innovative display concept that renders the individual driving states of the hybrid drive clear-cut and tangible. 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 percent. A second scale is divided into colored 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 both. An additional instrument displays the charge level of the battery.
Between the two large round dials sits a 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.
Things to come: a “MMI touch” touchpad.
The control panel for the MMI multimedia system is located on the central 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 at Audi. The ultra-thin MMI monitor power-extends upwards out of the instrument panel, another feature taken from the full-size car class.
Internet and infotainment…
A UMTS model provides full access to the Internet, allowing the car to retrieve convenient services from Google. Thanks to the WLAN hotspot, passengers can surf and send e-mail to their hearts’ content. Holders for iPads are installed on the back of the front seat backrests.
A plug-in hybrid drivetrain…
Designed as a plug-in hybrid, the A3 e-tron concept is propelled by two power units – a 155-kW (211-hp) 1.4 TFSI turbocharged gasoline four-cylinder engine and direct injection and an electric motor with an output of 20 kW (27 hp).
Power enough: the system provides a combined output of 175 kW (238 hp). Working together, the gasoline engine and electric motor accelerate the notchback to 100 km/h (62.14 mph) in 6.8 seconds, then on to 231 km/h (143.54 mph). 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, which are located behind the rear seats. With a charge capacity of 12 kWh, they give the e-tron a range of up to 54 km (34 miles) on electric power alone.
The batteries are charged by the standard 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 traffic.
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 shift gears manually.
Touch control buttons alongside the handrest on the central tunnel console are used to select drive positions R, N and D. These are backlit in red 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 standstill, feathering all the available power with minimal tire slip.
The chassis and suspension is derived from the current RS 3 Sportback. The front suspension – a MacPherson construction with a separate axle support – has a track measuring a full 1,572 millimeters (61.89 in).
The rack-and-pinion steering is electromechanical and requires no energy when driving straight ahead.
The four-link rear suspension with its 1,542-millimeter (60.71-in) track is likewise fixed to a subframe.
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 light-alloy rims measure 20 inches in diameter. The tire format is 245/30 at the front and rear. The front brake disks are gripped by four-piston calipers. TheESPstabilization system has a Sport mode and can be completely deactivated. The parking brake is actuated electromechanically.
A remarkeable car, packed with future technical and styling solutions… and therefore an important car to show you in these columns…
Hans Knol ten Bensel