Petrol-Electric A3 e-tron concept leads the charge for Audi in Shanghai

Hybrid based on A3 saloon concept shows another potential future direction for perennially popular Audi compact car

Audi is set to unveil a stunning technical study – the A3 e-tron concept – in Shanghai. The four-seat notchback saloon integrates the full breadth of the brand’s technological expertise – from the enhanced MMI operating system, to the high-end infotainment system, to the drivetrain. And with its two powerplants and lithium-ion batteries that store enough energy to propel the car on electric power alone for up to 54 km (34 miles), the plug-in hybrid also delivers high fuel efficiency.

Design and body

The Audi A3 e-tron concept is a four-seat notchback saloon. It measures 4.44 metres long and 1.84 metres wide, but just 1.39 metres high – proportions that underscore its dynamic character.

The styling has all the features of the typical Audi design language. The single-frame grille is integrated into the front end, giving it a sculptured look. Its frame is made of carbon fibre-reinforced polymer (CFRP), and the transversely mounted, three-dimensional aluminium louvres emphasise the showcar’s width. The headlights merge with the bevelled upper corners of the single-frame, forming a transition that marks the starting point of the prominent lines of the bonnet.

The headlights represent a new stage of evolution in LED technology, a groundbreaking innovation from Audi. They become broader as they extend outward, and a line underneath makes them seem to float. Above the front spoiler is a full-length air intake, also made of CFRP, framed by a metal clasp. The spoiler features a splitter that increases the downforce on the front wheels.

When viewed from the side, too, the A3 e-tron concept is instantly recognisable as an Audi – with its harmonious proportions, taut, muscular surfaces and a low roof dome with fluid lines flowing into a flat, coupe-like C-pillar. The shoulder area transitions elegantly into the tailgate. Characteristic of Audi design, the greenhouse accounts for one-third of the height, while the sheet metal makes up the remaining two-thirds.

Powerfully flared wings hint at the power of the engine. Two striking lines accentuate the flank: the undercut tornado line beneath the window edge and the dynamic line above the sills. The exterior mirrors, made of aluminium and CFRP, are perched on top of the window-channel strips. The door handles with their brushed-aluminium clasps are recessed flush with the door. When the driver touches them, they power-extend.

The intelligent interplay between surfaces and lines also defines the tail end of the A3 e-tron concept. The broad, flat tail lights are sculptured and culminate in a point on the inside, and the tailgate bears 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.

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, bonnet and tailgate are made of aluminium. With its high levels of rigidity, the body provides the basis for the saloon’s precise handling, excellent vibrational comfort and low weight – the Audi A3 e-tron concept tips the scales at just 1,720 kg.


The interior of the showcar is generously proportioned. The long wheelbase measuring 2.63 metres – a best-in-class figure in the premium compact segment – gives rear passengers generous knee room. The front sport seats with prominent side bolsters are slim and elegant.

The cockpit also gives an impression of lightness and airiness. The horizontal lines emphasise its design and the instrument panel draws the driver in – typical of Audi. Defined in three dimensions, the large trim strip is made of solid aluminium and includes control functions. The high-quality sound system in the doors and on the rear shelf has aluminium trim panels. When the audio system is switched on, they extend a few millimetres, creating a visual accompaniment to the system’s excellent sound.

On the centre console there are four large, round air vents that echo a jet’s design. The air flow is adjusted by pulling and pushing on the centre axis of the vents. The control knobs for the automatic air conditioning system are located in the lower section of the centre console on a raised, dedicated control panel. Visually, they are reminiscent of aeroplane turbines.

Behind the compact, flat-bottomed, three-spoke multifunction steering wheel is an innovative display that makes the individual driving states of the hybrid drive obvious. 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 per cent. A second scale is divided into coloured 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 the two. An additional instrument displays the charge level of the battery.

Between the two large round dials is the 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.

The control panel for the MMI multimedia system is located on the centre 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. The ultra-thin MMI monitor power-extends upwards out of the instrument panel, another feature taken from the full-size car class.

A UMTS (universal mobile telecommunication standard) module provides full access to the Internet, allowing the car to retrieve online services from Google. Thanks to the WLAN hotspot, passengers can surf and send e-mail to their hearts’ content. iPad holders are installed on the back of the front seat backrests.

A classic notchback saloon, the Audi A3 e-tron concept boasts a large luggage compartment with a volume of 410 litres and a low loading lip.


Designed as a plug-in hybrid, the A3 e-tron concept is propelled by two power units – a 211PS 1.4 TFSI four-cylinder engine with turbocharging and petrol direct injection and an electric motor with an output of 27PS. The system provides a combined output of 238PS. Working together, the petrol engine and electric motor accelerate the notchback to 62mph in 6.8 seconds, then on to 144mph. 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 located behind the rear seats. With a charge capacity of 12 kWh, they give the notchback a range of up to 34 miles on electric power alone.

The batteries are charged by the 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 driving.

A compact seven-speed S tronic serves as the transmission for the compact plug-in hybrid. It comprises two transmission structures, which are operated by two clutches. Gears are alternately shifted by the two clutches quickly, smoothly and without any perceptible interruption of traction.

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 change gears manually. Elegant touch control buttons alongside the handrest on the centre tunnel console allow the driver to select drive positions R, N and D. These are backlit with red light 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 a dead stop, furnishing explosive turbo power with minimal tyre slip.


Derived from the current RS 3 Sportback, the Audi A3 e-tron concept’s chassis is fully capable of handling the power from the drive system at all times. The four-seater masters any type of corner with speed, stability and composure. Its self-steering response remains essentially neutral all the way up to the handling limits.

The front suspension – a MacPherson construction with a separate axle support – has a track measuring 1,572 millimetres. The rack-and-pinion steering is extremely efficient because its electromechanical drive system requires no energy when driving straight ahead.

The four-link rear suspension with its 1,542-millimetre track is likewise fixed to a subframe. Its control arms are made of high-strength steel and enable the suspension to absorb longitudinal and lateral forces separately. The shock absorbers and coil springs are mounted separately from each other.

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 imposing light-alloy rims measure 20 inches in diameter. The tyre format is 245/30 at the front and rear. The front brake disks are gripped by four-piston calipers. The Electronic Stability Program (ESP) has a Sport mode and can be completely deactivated. The parking brake is actuated electromechanically.

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Sky is the limit for new open-air Audi R8 GT Spyder

New convertible version of most extreme R8 to date offers wind-in-hair access to 560PS and 197mph

  • Limited edition ultra-high performance R8 spawns new soft-top Spyder variant
  • 333 examples to be produced worldwide, 66 in UK specification
  • 85kg lighter than already light R8 V10 Spyder - additional carbon fibre reinforced polymer (CFRP) body parts
  • V10 FSI with 560PS, 0-62mph in 3.8 seconds, 197mph top speed

The extreme Audi R8 GT quite literally gets its second wind this week as a new open-air Spyder version of the even more focused 560PS super car makes its debut. Distilling the celebrated R8 V10 formula into an even more concentrated form, the more intensively weight optimized GT soft-top will deliver its breathtaking pace and handling poise to just 66 customers in the UK, and a total of 333 worldwide. They will have the opportunity to formally register their interest in right-hand-drive versions of the new 197mph drop-head via Audi Centres or the web site from today. Ordering will begin later this summer ahead of first customer deliveries in early 2012.

Thanks to Audi ultra lightweight technology, the flagship version of the high-performance open-top sports car has trimmed a full 85 kg from the already low weight of the R8 V10 Spyder, and as a result weighs in at just 1,640kg. This helps it to accelerate from zero to 62mph in 3.8 seconds and to reach a top speed of 197mph.

The Audi Space Frame (ASF) body with its cast nodes, extruded sections and aluminium panels, accounts for just 214 kg of the car’s total weight. It is assembled predominantly by hand in the R8 workshop at the Neckarsulm plant. Final assembly of the car takes place in the same way.

The engine frame is made of ultra-light magnesium; additional elements of the body are made of carbon fibre-reinforced polymer (CFRP). Together, these components provide a weight saving of 5.5 kg.

Visual modifications accentuate the styling of the R8 GT Spyder. These include additional contrasting titanium grey trim elements, a front splitter with a dual lip, flics at the sides of the front bumper, red GT badges, round exhaust tailpipes, an enlarged diffuser and dark LED tail lights in a clear-glass design. An optional windscreen frame in matte CFRP is also available.

Audi engineers also trimmed weight from the technical components in the transmission, wheels and brakes. In the interior, the bucket seats alone, with their chassis of glass fibre-reinforced polymer (GFRP), saved 31.5 kg.

In classic Audi fashion, the R8 GT Spyder features a lightweight fabric soft top that is extremely quiet even when motorway cruising at higher speeds. Its electrohydraulic drive raises or lowers it in 19 seconds, even at speeds of up to 31mph. The powered retractable glass rear window is nestled in the bulkhead, separate from the soft top. The bulkhead also incorporates a rollover protection system comprising two pre-tensioned plates.

Prodigious power: the drivetrain

The performance offered by the new top-of-the-line model in the R8 family is formidable. The 5.2-litre V10 with an aluminium crankcase draws its fuel from an FSI direct injection system. Dry-sump lubrication ensures a reliable supply of oil even under maximum lateral or straight-line acceleration.

With its modified electronic management, the long-stroke engine produces 540 Nm of torque at 6,500 rpm, and peak power of 560PS. In every situation, the engine impresses with its thrust and bite – and that unmistakable sound of an Audi ten-cylinder.

Gear changes in the R8 GT Spyder are handled by the R tronic sequential manual transmission without exception. Thanks to its electrohydraulic clutch and switching unit it shifts through each of its six gears within one tenth of a second at high load and engine speed, and it can operate in Normal, Sport and ‘manual’ modes.

The quattro permanent all-wheel drive system has a strong rear-wheel bias which is accentuated by the axle load distribution. If the situation calls for it, the system sends additional torque to the front axle. In tandem with the limited slip differential at the rear, it provides an added measure of high speed traction, stability and composure compared with more conventionally configured sports cars.

The suspension, too, works in favour of absolutely rewarding yet remarkably controllable handling. Aluminium double wishbones locate the wheels, and the rack-and-pinion power steering provides intimate feel and feedback. Taut tuning lowers the body by approximately 10 millimetres onto 19-inch wheels with 235/35 tyres up front and 295/30 tyres at the rear. The large, lightweight carbon-fibre ceramic brake discs decelerate the car with exceptional fade-free efficiency. The Electronic Stabilization Program (ESP) has a sport mode and can also be deactivated entirely.

Pure comfort: the interior and equipment

Great attention to detail is evident in the materials and workmanship inside the car. The salient aspect of the controls is their logically structured design. The open two-seater offers a roomy interior, and its front end load area can accommodate up to 100 litres of cargo. The rear bulkhead houses three storage compartments.

The interior is finished in black and can be trimmed in a choice of titanium grey or crimson red for added refinement. Alcantara upholstery comes as standard, and also features on the sports steering wheel and inner windscreen rail.

Audi also offers leather in Fine Nappa quality. Numerous details – including white dials and R8 GT logos – emphasize this car’s very special position within the R8 range. The distinctive R8 “monoposto,” a large arch encircling the driver’s cockpit, is made of matte CFRP.

Audi ultra requires no sacrifice on the part of R8 GT Spyder owners. Standard equipment includes LED headlights, LED tail lights, an automatic air conditioning system, DVD-based satellite navigation and the driver information system with a built-in lap timer.

A sophisticated sound system from Bang & Olufsen and a Bluetooth interface including a seatbelt microphone allowing drivers to hold phone conversations on the move are also standard features.

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