Back in August EFTM flung the Audi A3 Sportback e-tron, their first plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, around a test slalom on the Great Barrier Reef Airport, Hamilton Island. Now we’ve returned to the revolutionary Audi, but this time on a Go Kart track.
The Melbourne International Karting Complex is playing host to a strictly limited number of people who’d like to sample the fruits of Audi’s determination to nail a plug-in hybrid drivetrain. Until Sunday November 16 prospective buyers can hurtle around in left-hand drive models to get a taste of what’s on offer when the Australian model goes on sale in early 2015.
EFTM was granted access to the track under the guidance of Audi drive man and TV personality Steve Pizzati along with other product specialists. As you’d expect the Audi team glow enthusiastically about the A3 with a power socket up front. But I’ll admit even given the limited time behind the wheel I’ve had at two separate launches it’s definitely evident that the A3 Sportback e-tron is a ripper. It’s brisk, exceptionally well-balanced thanks to the weight of the battery and offers a quality dose of the future without looking like a Delorean time machine.
We did a couple of so-called hot laps with the Audi drivers, many of whom have racing backgrounds. Their candour about the e-tron while we were one on one screeching around on low resistance eco tyres is genuine, this is a driver’s car.
But price will be an enormous issue, in fact even Audi MD Andrew Doyle admitted to me that selling just 10 a month would be acceptable. At $60,000 you’re an early adopter who obviously doesn’t care about the $6,000 – $7,000 price premium over a gasoline A3 Sportback. It would take numerous years to recoup those savings at the pump, which basically rules out any form of economic sense when buying one. But with the 3.0-litre TDI diesel Audi Q7 the next model to receive the e-tron treatment, it’s technology here to stay and in years to come no doubt more financially accessible.