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Audi A3 1.9 TDIe 2008 review


 It is only a small “e” in the nomenclature but it represents a huge corporate watershed for Audi as the “other” German brand steps up to show the world that efficiency can be had without a magic bullet. With the launch of the A3 1.9 TDI e Audi Australia has started an internal reformation that is going to rumble across every model line in the four rings' showroom and provide a real-world argument for intelligent design over rampant technology.

“This is the start of Audi's 'progressive performance' message,” Audi Australia's Anna Burgdorf said at the launch of the new A3 derivative.

The ethos of the “e” car philosophy is largely common sense and involves use of design strategies available to any car manufacturer. There is no breakthrough technology in the engine, no super-efficient gearbox.

What gives the A3 1.9 TDI e its remarkable hybrid-challenging fuel efficiency — 4.5 litres per 100 kilometres on the official government cycle — is a series of rather small tweaks that together result in an 8 per cent improvement in economy and the consequent improvement in emissions. Audi engineers have tuned the electronics of the 77kW 1.9-litre turbodiesel engine — the same unit found in the standard A3 and the VW Golf — while lengthening ratios for third and fifth gear in the five-speed manual box, resulting in optimised fuel efficiency, particularly when the driver follows the recommended gear selection as displayed on the dash.

The car has also been lowered to improve efficiency through the air, lightened, fitted with aerodynamic plastic covers for the 16-inch wheels and shod with low-friction Michelin rubber to reduce rolling resistance.

From there it is down to the desire, determination and concentration of the driver as to how much lower the fuel efficiency can be driven.

While it is unlikely that any day-to-day driver will consistently return the 3.8L/100km figures achieved on the 366km launch drive from Adelaide to Kangaroo Island — driving purely for efficiency with windows up, airconditioning off, wing mirrors folded in and as much throttle-off time as possible — impressive real-world figures will be possible. The control car, driven to the speed limits, returned 4.3L/100km for the 366km drive. There is little noticeable difference to the 1.9 TDI stablemate.

“The 1.9 e is the most efficient car in the Audi fleet and it shows that hybrid is not the only solution [for economy and ecology],” Burgdorf says.

“We know the car is not going to be a huge seller, about 60 a year, but there will be an `e' version in all core model lines by the end of the year.”

Audi Australia's marketing manager, Immo Buschmann, says the popularity of the “e” cars will grow with the arrival of the A4 and A8 models later this year when the cars will carry badge proof of their green credentials — which is something that the A3 cars currently don't sport.

“As a premium brand we have been telling the story of progressive performance for some time,” Buschmann says. “What we haven't been talking about is safety and environmental impact ... it has just been a given that it is there.”

Buschmann says the design of the badging is a work in progress but will emphasise the green characteristics.

While the strategy is easily implemented there is much more to come from Audi as the philosophy is rolled out across the company and expanded to include more — and more complex — technology.

“There are already significant advantages in efficiency over hybrid technology,” Audi Australia's technical manager John Roberts says.

“There is the advantage of weight. You don't have to carry batteries.

“And there is the packaging advantage — you don't have to give up boot space to store the batteries.”

He says 30 per cent of consumption is dictated by driving style.

It is this area that the “e” future will target, Roberts says.



Audi A3 1.9 TDIe

Price: from $38,900

Engine: 1.9L/4-cylinder turbodiesel 77kW/250Nm

Transmission: 5-speed manual

Economy: 4.5L/100km (claimed); 3.8L/100km (tested)


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