Turns out recharging can be trickier than refuelling.
First published in the June 2016 issue of Wheels magazine, Australia’s most experienced and most trusted car magazine since 1953.
MONTH three and I’m starting to get used to Audi’s take on the (mostly) electric car. Easy torque is the name of the game. And I’m loving that you can zip around keenly without making much noise. Sure, there’s a lot to be said for the theatre of a barking, popping exhaust. But, as Tesla owners would attest, there’s also a certain appeal about making a brisk getaway without people thinking you’re a wally.
That’s arguably the Audi A3 e-tron’s biggest party trick. There’s little visual fizz, and the only giveaway to people inside is the lack of noise. Good or bad, depending on your perspective.
The charging thing is all good, though. My e-tron tops out at about 40km, which almost gets me to the city and back, and having the engine there for extra grunt is a bonus.
I’m also getting into free charging. My local shopping centre has a ChargePoint station, which I decided to utilise on the bread-and-milk run. Except there was a Nissan Leaf hogging the charging plug. The next day, too. A week later it’s there again sucking up free electrons. I can smell a rat.
Clearly some cluey local is making his electric car someone else’s problem – and getting a free parking space at the same time. I’m initially jealous I can’t play the same game, although it’s a bit like parking in the disabled spots without a permit. Uncool to the extreme.
Slightly higher boot floor than the regular A3 Sportback reduces boot capacity from 380 litres to 280.
Besides, I’ve got bigger problems, and it all comes down to technology.
First, my computer decides it doesn’t want to upload some urgent files. Then the Telstra phone network goes on the blink, leaving me scarily phoneless for hours. To top it off my e-tron refuses to charge. The little charging light that hides behind the four rings in the grille won’t turn green, instead staying a stubborn orange.
So it was back to the dealership for a check-up and the initial response wasn’t what I wanted to hear: “We’ve checked it and can’t find anything wrong; it’s charging fine for us.” Yet at my house, at three different powerpoints, it refused to accept anything resembling electricity.
“Did you use the charging cable that comes with the car?” I ask the service manager. Turns out they charged it from a wall charger, and the problem was tracked down to my charging plug, which most owners will rarely use because Audi installs a wall charger for nicks when you buy an e-tron.
Those charging issues meant I used more good ol’ premium unleaded this month. As a result fuel use was the highest I’ve seen, at 5.6L/100km. Most of it was around town, so it’s not too bad, but it’s more than I wanted to spend in an electric car.
Pick the difference
You need to be a trainspotter to pick the A3 e-tron from garden-variety A3s. The more finely slotted grille and unique alloy wheels are the most obvious differentiators, while there’s also a unique front bumper. Inside there’s not much difference, either; the EV button and lack of a tacho (replaced with a power gauge) are the most obvious tweaks. There are also some unique screens in the trip computer to keep you up to date with what’s going on with the electricity.
AUDI A3 E-TRON
Price as tested: $65,530
Part 3: 688km @ 5.5kWh/100km (plus 38.5L of fuel)
Overall: 1848km @ 8.3kWh/100km (plus 88.5L of fuel)
Date acquired: January 2015