#662 LET’S DRIVE – Audi A3 40 TFSI e – Living with a hybrid – PART I

Since the first of February 2021, my life is electrified, literally electrified. The little hybrid from Audi has become my new best friend. My old car, long forgotten. That I would love the car, was pretty much clear right from the beginning. It has the perfect size, enough power and can be driven electrically most of the time.

But that’s just what all the other car dudes would talk about. The zero to 100 time, the theoretical fuel consumption and of course the very important top speed on the Autobahn. But in reality, those figures are not important after all. You do not do zero to 100 starts on the public roads, you will never reach those God given fuel consumption figures and of course the top speed is something, most of the people who are talking about them shouldn’t drive anyways. And so, those average reports are just rubbish, because they do not, in any way, represent the average users experience with a car. Therefore, I will do it differently.

After my first 1800 km in 80 days, ambient temperatures from -17 degrees Celsius up to +20 degrees Celsius, one appointment at the dealership due to a problem already, driving on both winter and summer tires, long high speed journeys on unrestricted parts of the Autobahn and my daily commute to work, I can pretty much tell you how the car performs so far.

Hybrid System

The hybrid system is actually pretty easy explained. The car starts always in the electric mode and stays there all day long, or at least as long as your battery has some energy left, or you do not accelerate too much or you do not switch into the hybrid or sport mode. It doesn’t matter in which mode you are, the car will drive off from a stand still always electrically. Fun fact, even on a snow covered icy road. The problem, too much torque for getting anywhere and so the car spins its wheels like a 18 years old doing his first burnout on a car park in order to impress his friends. But as long as you do not push over the end stop in your acceleration pedal, which you can clearly feel, your are cruising CO2 locally emission free through the country side. A good feeling, yes, but not in terms of saving the planet. It makes just fun, that’s the point. With 330 Nm of torque from the electric drive, the car outperforms the average car after any traffic light, or town sign. The electric acceleration is good, but not mind blowing. But well, you shouldn’t drive too fast electrically anyways. Your biggest enemy? The ambient temperature. With a theoretical range of 67 km according to the WLTP test circle, the highest number the car was ever showing to me was a 58 km. But a 58 km the car doesn’t drive. To work and back are 38 km and when it’s colder, the car can not even do that. Sure, it depends on the way you are driving. Of course I could hop into the car and sail with 70 km/h through the countryside, but come on, I am not 90 years old. The car can drive up to 140 km/h in the electric mode and sure, I want to at least drive that. Well, if I do that, the electric journey would be a short one. Driving that on a cold day and you can literally see how your battery is getting empty. The compromise I have found, not driving faster than 100 km/h when it’s really cold.

And so, on a normal day in March or April, where you have some minus 2 degrees Celsius in the morning and around 10 degrees Celsius when driving back home, the car will make around 50 km if you know how. But if you don’t, you will not even do 35 km. Is that range ok? I am not so sure about it! For me as an engineer, of course I understand the dilemma. Battery capacity is heavy, at least with the state of the art lithium batteries. But still, some hundred kg’s more battery would suit the car pretty awesomely. Of course it would get way heavier and the handling worse, but at least in places like Germany, where the temperatures are cold in the winter, the longer range would be a benefit.

I charge the car every single day and manage to do my daily commute electrically without any problem. Sure, when driving more, the range is something to keep in mind, but of course you have also the patrol engine waiting for its moment to shine. In perfect symphony, which represents the sport mode, the car outperforms expectations. The car is quick, not surprisingly quick, but the handling is on a different level. The VW GOLF/ Audi A3/ Seat LEON platform has one issue, most of the weight is sitting in the front, causing the cars to understeer like hell. With the battery sitting underneath the rear seats and the tank underneath the trunk, the car has a more balanced weight distribution which helps to make the car feel more alive. The weight, sure, it’s there, but it’s ok. It’s actually ok!

Assistants

Driving a car, that was produced in 2021, of course there are some assistants on board. A lane assist for example. An annoying one, to be honest. Taking the racing line, always and in every situation, the lane assist doesn’t want to trust my driving skills. With slight corrections, it positions the car in the middle of the road. Sure, maybe that’s a helpful thing for some people, but for me personally, it’s not. Switching it off? Yes, please! The other assist on board, the distance warner to the car in front. This thing, maybe even more annoying, but for me personally, a very good invention. Having lost the sense for keeping the right distance to the car in front, I was always too close, way too close. Sure, not a big deal with me knowing what I do, but for the other people, that might feel a bit uncomfortable. Since I have the new car, my distance is always on point! And the visualization in the virtual cockpit, an awesome gadget!

Overall the car is very good. The interior design is awesome and the screens show you everything you need. Sure, I have found some things that they could have done better, but that’s just always the thing. Where do you stop with developing and ask the customer for more money. With my car being basically the entry level version, there are things you need to accept to live without.

In Part II: The problems, the actual fuel consumption, the APP, the handling, things that are going on my nerves!

See you next time!

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