New: BMW 3-series plug-in hybrid

November 6th, 2015 § Comments Off on New: BMW 3-series plug-in hybrid § permalink

The BMW 330e plug-in hybrid promises powerful performance, typical BMW driving experience – and ability to travel all electrically for a certain stretch.
  BMW says 25 miles range on the easier going European NEDC test cycle is possible. How far this may mean under U.S. EPA testing is not stated, but range somewhere in the teens is likely.

Meanwhile, 0-60 mph performance can be as quick as 5.9 seconds. Due to make its North American Debut next month in LA, the PHEV with its 7.6-kilowatt-hour battery appears to be a significant step up in eco performance from the outgoing ActiveHybrid3 regular hybrid.

Performance ability is derived from a “Twin Power” turbo four serving up 214 pounds-feet of torque merged with a “cutting edge” electric motor adding in 184 pounds-feet. Total system power is rated 252 horsepower and CO2 emissions under NEDC is 49-44 g/km. This super low emission profile is with battery assist, and unstated is the car’s emissions in regular hybrid mode.

Total electric plus gas range is stated as 373 miles (600 km), and power is pureed through an eight-speed Steptronic automotic transmission.

“The arrangement of the electric motor in front of the transmission allows the transmission ratios to be used in all-electric mode as well,” says BMW, “This means a torque converter can be omitted, which partially cancels out the extra weight of the additional drive unit.”

The car offers three driving modes: AUTO eDRIVE, MAX eDRIVE and SAVE BATTERY.

The default AUTO eDRIVE uses the engine and electric motor together, and an all-electric top speed of 50 mph (80 km/h).

A second drive mode is MAX eDRIVE which uses electric power only. Here top e-speed is 75 mph (120 km/h) and the touted “25 mile” raqnge (under NEDC) is promised. Per blended PHEV practice, the engine can cut in at any time the accelerator is pushed down beyond its kickdown position. Full acceleration therefore is with gas assist.

The third drive mode is called SAVE BATTERY. This sustains charge by sparing the battery for later.

The rest of the car, says BMW is pure adrenaline laced luxury performance BMW 3-Series.

Joining the 330e in making a North American debut at the LA Auto Show will be also the BMW M4 GTS, BMW X1, and BMW 7 Series.

BMW has several more plug-in cars in the works, and we expect more news ongoing.

Bit of both: BMW X5 XDRIVE40E PLUG-IN HYBRID (2015) 85mpg

November 6th, 2015 § Comments Off on Bit of both: BMW X5 XDRIVE40E PLUG-IN HYBRID (2015) 85mpg § permalink

BMW’S X5 was one of the pioneers of family friendly off-roaders. Tall, spacious and bristling with gadgets, it’s a familiar sight the world over, from Austrian ski resorts to American freeways and outside school gates in the home counties.  
The one in the picture may look like its predecessors but it is different. At 70mph there is no sound to be heard other than a gentle rustle of wind and the remote hiss of tyres on asphalt. It is, frankly, amazing. The quiet is so enveloping that the voices of passengers drop to a hushed murmur.

This is the new BMW X5 xDrive40e plug-in hybrid — no noise, no vibration and no petrol being guzzled, even hustling us down the motorway at the legal limit.  

Plug-in hybrids, in case you hadn’t noticed, are all the rage. Audi, Mitsubishi, Porsche and Volvo are using the tech to help sell SUVs. And BMW — which already has several in its range, including the desirable i8 sports car — is harnessing the technology to help ease the conscience, and tax bill, of drivers.

In this case the system teams up a 2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine with a synchronous electric motor for a combined power output of 308bhp. The key here is that this X5 features a large lithium-ion battery pack that can deliver a pure electric range of up to 19 miles. Top speed on battery alone is 75mph, although you will seriously reduce the range at that pace.

  The X5 has three primary hybrid modes. Get in and start off without selecting anything, as you would in an ordinary X5, and the system will default to Auto eDrive. In this setting it behaves like any old hybrid, using a combination of electric and petrol motivation depending on what you’re doing with your right foot. Mash the throttle pedal to the floor and you’ll get every ounce of power the petrol engine and electric motor can muster, but if you’re pootling around town, the system will give you silent, pure-electric motoring.

So this is the mode for people who don’t want to think about modes; just let the car sort everything out. What you end up with is a fantastically refined SUV — the transition from pure electric running to petrol and electric is seamless. Often the only way to tell that the engine has joined proceedings is to keep an eye on the rev counter, which leaps into life when the car reckons you need a bit of poke. 

 You really have to charge it as much as possible, because if you run around on zero battery you’ve just got a needlessly heavy SUV that’ll get a fraction of the fuel mileage an equivalent diesel will

And it does have a decent turn of performance when you want it; for such a large car, 0-62mph in just 6.8 seconds is good going, by any measure. Power is fed through a smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission, and this X5 has permanent four-wheel drive.

If you select Max eDrive the X5 plug-in operates in pure electric mode; it will engage the petrol engine only if you suddenly find you need maximum beans. Around town it works really well — exploiting gaps in traffic is quite good fun as the torque of the electric motor is all there instantly.
The third setting, Save Battery, is self-explanatory; if you’re on a motorway and expect to be driving in a city centre where you might want pure electric motoring, this mode will maintain or even top up a minimum level of charge, which will give you a reasonable range of urban miles under electric power. It’s a handy feature, but the X5 is inefficient in that mode, especially if the engine is acting as a generator to top up the battery at the same time it is powering the car. You’ll feel more sinner than saint using it.

The X5’s cabin is still a good place to spend time, with comfortable seats and masses of space in the back. But if you need seven seats, it’ll have to be a non-hybrid X5, as the rear-mounted battery pack means a third row of chairs can’t be fitted. There is also restricted luggage space — 150 litres less with the rear seats down — although subjectively, the boot still looks quite capacious.

The plug-in X5 is heavier than its diesel equivalent, but because all the extra weight is low the car doesn’t feel unwieldy. You can hurry along a B-road, using its torque to slingshot out of corners, but ultimately, you’ll get early understeer if you’re caning it. And why would you want to do that in a big SUV?

As well as a choice of hybrid power modes, the plug-in X5 gets different driving settings, in common with other models in the range, that adjust throttle response, steering weight and gearshift speed. And while the steering is a little light, it’s perfectly suited in this application; the combination of easy torque response, refined transmission and quiet, smooth running makes the plug-in X5 a relaxing driving experience.

There’s something strangely satisfying about running this car on electric. Not in a polar bear-saving, Swampy kind of way; it’s just a brilliantly relaxing, smooth and quiet way of getting around

It would be a good commuter car for those with a journey combining motorways and city centres. And low CO2 emissions bring the usual tax breaks, although at 77g/km it just misses out on the London congestion charge limit of 75g/km. So close, but no cigar.

There is, though, an obvious drawback to owning a plug-in hybrid. You really have to charge it as much as possible, because if you run around on zero battery you’ve just got a needlessly heavy SUV that’ll get a fraction of the fuel mileage an equivalent diesel will. For the record, the claimed combined fuel consumption for this plug-in SUV is 85.6mpg.
First Drive review: BMW X5 xDrive40e

There are more public charging points, that’s true — and some of them even function — but for most, it’ll be charging at home or at work that’ll be the most sensible routine. That all sounds a hassle, but bear in mind that you can fully charge the X5’s battery on a domestic socket in just under four hours.

I made my last run to Munich airport — about 20 miles — mainly on electric power. And there’s something strangely satisfying about doing that. Not in a polar bear-saving, Swampy kind of way; it’s just a brilliantly relaxing, smooth and quiet way of getting around, in a car that’s as far removed from the ridiculous Reva G-Wiz as possible.

Then, on the last stretch of A-road, I gave it maximum right foot for a glorious surge of acceleration, which was hugely amusing. Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned.
2015 BMW X5 xDrive40e rivals

Volvo XC90 T8 Momentum, £59,995 (view cars for sale)
For Beautiful interior; great on the road

Against Expensive compared with rivals

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV 2.0 GX5hs, £45,054 (view cars for sale)
For Affordable; impressive range
Against Comparatively low power; performance is on the leisurely side

Electric Car Volt’s “innards”: 2016 Chevrolet Volt Voltec propulsion system

January 4th, 2015 § Comments Off on Electric Car Volt’s “innards”: 2016 Chevrolet Volt Voltec propulsion system § permalink

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV Newsletter

June 10th, 2014 § Comments Off on Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV Newsletter § permalink

Benefits & Features

Learn more about how the Outlander PHEV could fit into your life in this video. Mike Brewer goes out on a test drive with 3 potential customers to see how the Outlander PHEV could work for them.

Watch the full video

The Outlander PHEV on TV

If you haven’t seen the Outlander PHEV TV advert already, why not take a look on our You Tube channel?

Watch the ad

Mitsubishi TV Ad Facebook Competition

For your chance to win a Portable Power Pack to charge your smartphone, laptop or tablet on the go, head over to our Facebook page and enter the Outlander PHEV themed competition.

Mitsubishi Facebook page

Newcomer: Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV ‘How to’ Videos

June 10th, 2014 § Comments Off on Newcomer: Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV ‘How to’ Videos § permalink

Want to know more about the smartphone app or how to maximise the range of the Outlander PHEV? Check out these handy ‘how to’ videos we’ve posted on our You Tube channel:

– How to start and stop the Outlander PHEV
– How to charge the Outlander PHEV
– How to use the mobile app
– How to maximise the range.

Watch the ‘how to’ videos

Operation Guide

The only way to own an Operation Guide is to buy an Outlander PHEV, but if you would like to get a head start, you can download a copy here.

Download the guide

Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid first drive

July 15th, 2013 § Comments Off on Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid first drive § permalink

This is indeed the first of many -yet-to-come performance luxury cars which do not entail the ROAD TAX. Ironically for this Porshe’s powerhouse, it attracts £0 road tax, while reduced MPG consumption/CO2 emissions allowing one’s green conscience to enjoy this supercar.

Porshe Panamera Hybrid

The first of Porsche’s facelifted Panamera models, the S E-Hybrid.

The advanced petrolelectric hybrid, due to go on sale in the UK in August, replaces the earlier pre-facelift Porsche Panamera S Hybrid with some traditionally subtle exterior styling changes but, at the same time, significant modifications to its petrolelectric driveline, including a new on-board charger that forms part of the plug-in system and the adoption of a liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery in place of the older air-cooled nickel-metal hydride unit, among other detailed tweaks.

The result is a significant improvement in driveline efficiency and solid gains in performance, together with a big reduction in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. The best of both worlds, or so Porsche would have you believe.

It is not all rosy, though. The changes to the driveline bring an additional 115kg in kerbweight over the old Panamera Hybrid, bumping it up to a hefty 2095kg – 325kg more than the entry-level Panamera.

The headline figures for the Panamera S E-Hybrid are its claimed combined cycle average of 91.1mpg and CO2 emissions of just 71g/km. According to Porsche’s claims, it can also dispatch 62mph from standstill in 5.5sec, 124mph from standstill in 19.0sec, 50mph to 75mph in 3.4sec and a reach a top speed of 168mph flat out.

A further drawcard is its ability to run on electric power alone for distances well in excess of its predecessor thanks to the new battery, which boasts a greatly improved energy density and capacity that is increased over five fold at 9.4kWh. The figure varies with the topography of the road; official claims based on the controversial European test cycle procedure for hybrid powered cars puts it at 22.4 miles, although Porsche engineers suggest the real world range is actually between 11.2 and 22.4 miles. By comparison, the old Panamera S Hybrid was claimed to offer just 1.2 miles. Top speed in electric mode is an impressive 84mph.

The recharging time for the battery, meanwhile, is put at four hours on a 240 volts system and two hours on a 400 volt high charge system.

Power is provided, in part, from an Audi-sourced supercharged 3.0-litre V6 direct injection petrol engine that delivers 328bhp and 324lb ft of torque. It is mated with a brushless electric motor that produces 94bhp and 228lb ft of torque. Combined, the two power sources provide the Panamera S E-Hybrid with 410bhp at 5500rpm and 435lb ft of torque on a band of revs between 1250 and 4000rpm. Drive is sent through a standard eight speed automatic gearbox to the rear wheels.

Underneath, Porsche has tweaked the suspension of the Panamera in a bid to provide improved levels of low speed comfort. Larger chassis mounts are incorporated up front for added rigidity, the flow of oil within the adaptive dampers has been improved for added response and the software for the air springs has been recalibrated. The big liftback also receives a new range of alloy wheels, which use so-called flow forming construction to lower weight and a reduction in unsprung masses.

What is it like?
As complex as the Panamera S E-Hybrid’s driveline may appear – and, make no mistake, it is at the very cutting edge of automotive technology – the big four-seater is remarkably straight forward to drive. Which is exactly what Porsche says its customers demanded when they sat down with them to discuss what they expected of the world’s first plug-in petrolelectric luxury car.

Porsche has conceived its latest hybrid to offer four different driving modes: E-Power, Hybrid, E-Charge and Sport. The driver can override the system and choose to select a particular mode via buttons on the centre console, but the system is so intuitive it is better to leave it to its own devices for the best possible fuel savings.

The default mode is E-Power; as long as there is sufficient charge in the battery it will always use the electric motor to set off. Refinement levels in this mode are spectacular – every bit as impressive as a pure electric car, with only the sound of the tyres rolling across the bitumen to spoil the silence.

Just how long it continues like this depends on how much charge is in the battery and how much throttle you use. In press-on driving or when electric energy levels run low it automatically switches out of E-Power mode into Hybrid mode.

A string of information can be called upon to keep tabs of factors such as battery charge, remaining electric range and to ensure the highest possible efficiency and charging possibilities.

The E-charge mode allows the battery to be charged on the run, but it involves a firing of the petrol engine, which acts in part like a range extender by providing a small charge to the battery on top of the kinetic energy recuperated under braking and periods of trailing throttle.

On a 32 mile route mapped out at the launch of the new car in Germany this week, we managed to get the Panamera S E-Hybrid to remain in E-Power mode for almost 31 miles at an average speed of almost 30mph over a variety of roads, including city driving conditions, leaving us with indicated fuel consumption of 1413mpg.

On the return leg, with the battery charge depleted and less favourable topography, the petrol engine was in continuous operation, providing an overall figure of nearly 86mpg at roughly the same speed.

They’re impressive figures. But in real world driving conditions it is a rather different story, with overall consumption that is close to the Panamera Diesel, which now returns a combined cycle figure of almost 45mpg.

The big advantage over the old Panamera S Hybrid is the scope provided by the on-board charger to top up the new lithium ion battery using mains power, say overnight or during working hours. This provides it with the ability to run in pure electric mode for extended periods – something that makes the Panamera S E-Hybrid particularly well suited to everyday commuting.

Fortunately, there’s more to this latest Porsche model than pure electric driving. Switching into Sport mode unleashes the full potential of the driveline, in which the petrol engine and electric motor combine to provide more than adequate levels of performance.

At 2095kg, there’s significant mass to shift. But with solid low end torque, thanks in part to the inherent properties of the electric motor, there is a good turn of speed out of the blocks and through the gears, as revealed by Porsche’s own performance claims. The Panamera S E-Hybrid undercuts the Panamera Diesel’s 0-62mph time by a full 1.3sec and 0-124mph time by a full 11.4sec. Part throttle cruising qualities, meanwhile, are hard to fault, with subdued engine noise, low levels of wind buffeting and excellent longitudinal stability.

The additional weight brought on by the hybrid system is only really noticeable on more challenging roads, where you find yourself backing off in corners where you’d still be pressing on in the more inherently sporting Panamera S. The brakes, however, are superb, with excellent feel and massive stopping power. The modifications to the suspension also help improve low-speed ride, bringing greater levels of comfort without any detriment to the way it absorbs irregularities at higher speeds.

Should I buy one?
Up until now the S Hybrid has accounted for around five per cent of worldwide Panamera sales. With the introduction of the new S E-Hybrid, Porsche expects that number to at least double.

The new plug-in technology brings a much improved electric range and provides clear scope for added fuel savings in real world driving conditions.

The appeal of the new car will surely spread beyond early adopters to those who see the second generation hybrid systems as more than a mere gimmick. They won’t be disappointed.

Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid

Price £88,967; 0-62mph 5.5sec; Top speed 168mph; Economy 91.1mpg; CO2 71g/km; Kerbweight 2095kg; Engine V6, direct injection, supercharged, petrol, 2995cc; Power 410bhp at 5500rpm; Torque 435lb ft from 1250-4000rpm; Gearbox 8-spd automatic

by Greg Kable


2014 Volkswagen Golf Plug-In Hybrid

July 15th, 2013 § Comments Off on 2014 Volkswagen Golf Plug-In Hybrid § permalink

Der neue Volkswagen Golf

VW has just revealed plans to unveil a plug-in-hybrid variant for the seventh-generation Golf next month at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show. The model will join the already packed Golf lineup that includes versions like GTI, GTD and the more powerful R.

Few details have been offered, but you should expect to see the same plug-in hybrid drivetrain recently shown in the Audi A3 e-tron. We are talking about the 1.4 TFSI engine with an output of 150 horsepower combined with an electric motor that generates a total of 75 kW (100 horsepower). The hybrid system will be combined with a six-speed dual-clutch transmission and will sprint the car from 0 to 60 mph in about 7.6 seconds.

The future Golf hybrid will be delivering an all-electric range of 50 kilometers (31 miles) when driven to speeds up to 80 mph.

Full details on the new Volkswagen Golf Plug-In Hybrid will be unveiled during its official debut at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show.

2013/2014 Audi A3 Sportback E-Tron Video

July 15th, 2013 § Comments Off on 2013/2014 Audi A3 Sportback E-Tron Video § permalink

Audi is preparing to make a big step into the electrification of its lineup with the unveiling of its brand-new A3 e-tron. The model was unveiled at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show and will be put on sale in early 2014.

In case you have taken a little vacation under a rock for the last few years, Audi has been tossing around the e-tron designation since 2009. At the 2009 Frankfurt Auto Show, Audi unveiled the first e-tron concept in the form of the 308-horsepower 2010 R8 e-tron.

Audi again dropped an e-tron concept in 2010 at the Detroit Auto Show with the A4-based concept that was rumored to see life in 2014. In concept guise, this model pumped out 201 horsepower and hit 60 mph in 5.9 seconds. This model, codenamed the 9X1, is supposedly under development and will hit production in 2014.

The e-tron line carried on with the A1 e-tron at the 2010 Geneva Auto Show, which produced 101 horsepower. Then, at the 2010 Paris Motor Show, the 2011 e-tron Spyder stopped the show with its 296-horsepower, 3.0-liter V-6 TDI engine and 86-horsepower electric motors that sprinted the convertible to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds.

At the 2013 Geneva Motor Show, Audi finally unveiled the first production e-tron model, in the form of the 2013 A3 Sportback e-tron.

Driveline Specifications:

System Output 150 KW (204 Hp)
System Torque 350 Nm (258.15 Lb-Ft)
Output, 1.4 TFSI 110 KW (150 Hp)
Torque, 1.4 TFSI 250 Nm (184.39 Lb-Ft) From 1,750 To 4,000 Rpm
Output, Electric Motor Max. 75 KW
Torque, Electric Motor Max. 330 Nm (243.40 Lb-Ft)
Battery Capacity / Voltage 8.8 KWh / 280 To 390 Volts
0 – 100 Km/H (62 Mph) 7.6 S
Range In Electric Mode Up To 50 Km (31.07 Miles)
Overall Operating Range In NEDC Cycle Up To 940 Km (584.09 Miles)
Consumption Acc. To ECE Standard 1.5 L/100 Km (156.81 US Mpg)
CO2 Emissions Acc. To ECE Standard 35 Grams/Km (56.33 G/Mile)
Top Speed 222 Km/H (137.94 Mph)


The Audi A3 e-tron will be put on sale in 2014. Prices will be announced at a later date.

Volkswagen Golf Plug-in Hybrid review (2014) 32 EV Miles range. A3 e-tron Brother.

July 15th, 2013 § Comments Off on Volkswagen Golf Plug-in Hybrid review (2014) 32 EV Miles range. A3 e-tron Brother. § permalink

The Volkswagen Golf Plug-in Hybrid promises more than 188mpg and CO2 emissions of just 35g/km.


You might be wondering what all the fuss is about over the Volkswagen Golf Plug-in Hybrid – haven’t we seen this before?

Good question. In fact the first batteryelectric Golf MK I models arrived badged as City Stromers in the Seventies, and there were additional City Stromer versions of the MK II and MK III models.

The first plug-in hybrid Golf models appeared in 2008, with 20 Variant Twin Drive cars that had a 35-mile electric-only range. We were supposed to get a Golf MK VI production version, but have had to wait until this MK VII model, which will go on sale next summer.

The new MQB VW Group architecture for transverse engines means the latest plug-in hybrid powertrain will be available for a range of Audi, VW, Seat and Skoda models.

First to arrive will be the Audi A3 e-tron, which will be launched this summer. Audi claims this is exactly what it planned all along and that all the other stuff, such as its neat little rotary engine range extender and pure battery derivatives were just a bit of teasing.

Volkswagen, however, has been pretty clear all along that plug-in hybrid technology is the only sensible choice for the immediate future and is pushing it hard.

Group-wide, the Plug-in Hybrid models will combine a 148bhp/184lb ft, 1.4-litre TSI, turbocharged, four-cylinder, petrol engine and a 101bhp/243lb ft VW-manufactured electric motor, which weighs 75lb. The electric motor sits between the engine and the twin-clutch, six-speed gearbox and has its own separate clutch so it can be disengaged to provide a coasting mode. The battery is a 96-cell, 8.8kWh Sanyo unit which weighs 258lb and sits under the rear seats.

Top speed is 138mph, and the 0-62mph time is a very brisk 7.6sec. EU Combined fuel consumption is 188.3mpg and the CO2 emissions figure is 35g/km. Total system power is 201bhp and torque is 258lb ft.

Volkswagen quotes a maximum range of 31 miles using only battery power and 416 miles using petrol and battery power. A recharge takes three hours using a UK household supply.

First impressions are that this is a no-compromise environmental car. The dashboard is familiar Golf, but in place of the rev counter there’s a power meter that shows the energy flow and power useage.

There are several different drive modes: Electric-only, Petrol-only, and a Charge mode so that the engine will charge the battery. There’s also Boost, where both power units lend a shoulder to the wheel.

The first two are pretty self explanatory, Charge mode is inefficient, but useful if you need to go into an electric-vehicle-only zone; Boost is pretty quick. So much so that VW is wondering whether it should market the Plug-in Hybrid as that modern oxymoron, a performance environmental model.

With a kerb weight of about 1.5 tons, you feel the extra weight as a slight lethargy in the steering, an extra bounce over regular road undulations, and a bit of harshness over bumps. Another problem is the brakes which, on this prototype, were hopeless jerky in response, dipping the nose as each clutch opens and closes. We’re told that will be sorted out by the time it makes it on sale.

Of course we don’t know the price yet and that’s the ultimate test. Those who regularly do long journeys are likely to find the £20,000 Bluemotion diesel a more economical car to buy and run, but environmental carrots and sticks are changing, and fuel isn’t getting any cheaper.

In the medium term, the hybrid might be on a par with,or even a better bet than, a diesel. You might need a calculator.


By Andrew English

Audi A3 Sportback e-tron review (2014 release date) 32EV mile range

July 15th, 2013 § Comments Off on Audi A3 Sportback e-tron review (2014 release date) 32EV mile range § permalink

Despite its e-tron badging, unlike the attention gathering Audi R8 e-tron prototype sports car, this model, due in the UK mid next year, is not a pure electric car but actually Audi’s first petrolelectric plug-in hybrid. Audi now believes this technology will be with us for a long time.

The company claims many urban drivers will rarely experience the petrol engine in the A3 Sportback e-tron if they recharge their plug-in car regularly thanks to a 30-mile electric only range. Hybrids though remain an expensive way to travel. First impressions suggest this e-tron could be quite a fun car to drive on a twisty road but that would be at the expense of fuel economy.


Definitely on the brisk side with 0-62mph acceleration in 7.6 seconds, compared to 11.4 seconds for example for a Toyota Prius, and an (untested) top speed of 138 mph thanks to 203 bhp on tap. The four-cylinder turbocharged and intercooled 1.4 litre petrol engine delivers 148bhp and 185 lbs ft of peak torque from 1,750rpm to 4,000rpm. The 75kW electric motor, which is integrated into the car‘s six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, provides 101bhp, enough for 80 mph, and 243 lbs ft of torque. The electric motor is located between the engine’s dual mass flywheel and a newly developed ‘separating’ clutch. When the petrol engine starts it is started by the electric motor via the clutch. Range in pure electric mode is up to 31 miles. Fuel economy on the combined cycle is 188 mpg.


This very early test drive was restricted to urban roads in Berlin and most drivers would think they were in a normal Audi A3 Sportback. The electrically assisted power steering felt a little wooden at times but acceleration and braking performance was very good. Audi says the car weighs less than 1580kg but with two adults aboard, the stiffer springing to cope with the weight of batteries, electric motor and electric air conditioning to keep the batteries at the best operating temperature, make for quite a firm ride. Total weight of the equipment is about 125kg – the batteries are over the rear axle. Audi has moved the 1.4 litre petrol engine slightly to the right, when viewed from the driver’s seat, to make room for various high voltage components and the disc-shaped electric motor.


There are two possibilities with hybrid car design: you make the car look futuristic as with the Vauxhall Ampera, or as standard as possible as with Audi’s A3 Sportback. The lower air intakes on this prototype have two horizontal metal strips, and the grille a multitude of shining horizontal strips. Horizontal strips are used at the rear instead of exhaust pipes, which are hidden. The car rode on unique pattern 19 inch wheels, which are likely to be restricted to the series-production model. Overall it’s a sleeker design than the previous Sportback incarnation and has a welcome increase in rear legroom thanks to a 58mm increase in wheelbase. Despite a smaller petrol tank than the non-hybrid car boot space reduces from 350 litres to 280 litres with the rear seats in use or from 1,220 litres to 1,120 litres with them folded down. The rear seats still split 40/60. It is 1425mm in length and 1780mm wide.


As usual with a hybrid, driving couldn’t be simpler. Switch on the power, select drive on the automatic transmission, release the brake and press the accelerator and away you go. Release the accelerator at high speed and the car coasts with both drives deactivated. At lower speeds the systems recover energy. Energy is also collected during braking unless full braking is needed.

The driver can choose three programmes: sport, efficiency and EV. In EV priority is given to electric drive, while ‘hold’ stops battery use until you enter a low pollution zone such as a city. A power meter takes the place of the rev counter to show your driving style and consumption. Further displays show trip data, energy use and battery status. There are the usual good seats with a wide range of adjustment. Logical minor controls but hateful, potentially problematic electronic handbrake.


Under the ECE standard for plug-in hybrids the A3 e-tron’s carbon dioxide emissions are just 35g/km which equates to 188mpg. Using both electric motor and combustion engine the car has a range of 580 miles and a range of 30 miles on electric power alone. Over a short urban test route the car’s trip computer showed better than 100mpg. A London to Manchester trip would show something very different. From an industrial power socket full battery recharging takes slightly over two hours compared to nearly four hours from a home power socket. Modified cylinder liners and piston rings, together with a sensor to measure oil quality, help protect the petrol engine which would be frequently subjected to high loads while still cold during its life. Warranty is three years/60,000 miles.


Zero emissions are emitted from the tailpipe in electric only mode, and a start-stop system cuts off the petrol engine when not required in start-stop traffic. High speed coasting facility operates automatically to save fuel when easing off. The petrol engine has a diecast aluminium crankcase weighing only 100kg and benefits from low frictional losses to improve fuel consumption. When braking or decelerating the electric motor captures kinetic energy and stores it in the electric batteries. Low rolling resistance tyres, electrically assisted power steering and minimal use of air conditioning in eco mode also reduce fuel consumption. The engine exhaust manifold is integrated into the cylinder head so the coolant reaches operating temperature quickly. At high loads the water jacket lowers the temperature of the exhaust gases.


Audi says the e-tron will be highly specified as standard. The model is likely to have its own distinct trim level and customisation options too. Owners will be able to check their car’s status (battery charge, potential range etc) online and schedule charging and cabin heating or cooling using a smart phone. Test car had usual high spec sound system, satellite navigation, dual-zone air conditioning etc.


Mazda CX-5 SE-LModel tested: Audi A3 Sportback e-tron
Body-style: Five-door hatchback
Engine/CO2: 148bhp 1395cc four-cylinder turbocharged petrol and 101bhp electric motor / 35 gCO2/km
Trim grades: To be confirmed

On-road price: From (estimated) £32,500
Warranty: Three years/ 60,000 miles
In the showroom: Mid 2014
Review rating: 4.0 STARS

Posted by:
Russell Bray



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