Audi A3 E-tron concept (2011) first official pictures

Published: 19 April 2011

This is the Audi A3 E-tron concept, just unveiled alongside the new Q3 SUV at the 2011 Shanghai motor show. It’s Audi’s second A3 concept car in the space of two months – the first was a 402bhp super saloon, but this is a little more eco-conscious, with a plug-in hybrid powertrain – but both preview how the next A3 will look.

Does this new Audi A3 E-tron concept still use the first concept’s turbocharged 2.5-litre five-pot engine?

Afraid not. Petrol power now comes from a turbocharged and direct injection 1.4-litre four cylinder engine – it produces 208bhp, and an electric motor adds 20kW for a 234bhp total. Working together the pair will push the A3 E-tron to 62mph in 6.8 seconds and on to a 143mph to speed.

There’s a set of lithium-ion batteries located behind the rear seats, and with a 12kWh capacity they give the A3 E-tron an EV range of up to 34 miles. The lithium-ion batteries are charged when the car is in motion, or the A3 E-tron can be plugged in to power up. Sounds impressive, but Audi has neglected to release any claimed fuel consumption or CO2 figures so we don’t know just how clean or green the A3 E-tron is.

As part of the E-tron tweaks, the A3 concept gains extra louvers in its chromed grille, a new front bumper and different exhausts pipes. It features the same carbonfibre-reinforced plastic grille frame, air intake, door mirrors and rear diffuser as the first A3 concept, plus its aluminium doors, bonnet and boot. But the addition of the plug-in hybrid componentry adds a lot of extra weight – the E-tron concept tips the scales at 180kg more than the 402bhp original, at 1720kg.

What’s beneath the skin of the Audi A3 E-tron concept?

Beneath the bodywork is a chassis derived from the current RS3 Sportback. That means four-wheel drive and a seven-speed double-clutch gearbox, but it gains inch bigger alloys (now 20s) and Audi’s Drive Select system. The latter has five modes (Comfort, Auto, Dynamic, Individual and Efficiency) which tweak the settings of the engine, power steering and seven-speed S-tronic transmission.

And inside it’s another glimpse at the next-generation A3, with four circular air vents, three air-con controllers, a pop-up sat-nav, and the MMI rotary dial that now incorporates Audi’s trick touch pad. The rev counter is replaced by a ‘power metre’ similar to that available in the Q5 Hybrid.

The real A3 won’t go on sale until 2012, but in the meantime you can see Audi’s official sketches of its next A3 hatchback, Sportback and saloon here.

By Ben Pulman

CAR's editor-at-large, co-ordinator, tallboy