2016 Audi A3 e-tron: The dawn of the electric Audi (CNET On Cars, Episode 80)
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2016 Audi A3 e-tron: The dawn of the electric Audi (CNET On Cars, Episode 80)

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Audi's A3 e-tron, they finally went electric. What's the best car for teens? And you can mod the tech in your car, but are you out on a limb? It's time to check the tech. [SOUND] We see cars differently. Nice. We love them on the road and under the hood, but also check the tech and Are known for telling it like it is. Ugly is included at no extra cost. The good, the bad, the bottom line. This is CNet on cars. Welcome to CNet on cars, the show all about high tech cars and Modern driving. I'm Brian Cooley. Well you may have noticed Audi has long been kind of a hold out in the otherwise broad industry rush towards electrification as opposed to doing electric cars, plug ins, and hybrids. They mostly relied on turbos and diesels and precision engineering to achieve greater efficiency. But now it seems even they have caved with this guy. The Audi A3 Sportback Etron. A plug in hybrid. So my question is, what do they do differently, as they come to the party a little late, as opposed to just being an also-ran? Let's find out as we drive our little red friend and check the tech. [BLANK_AUDIO] In Audi parlance, e-tron means anything with more than a basic 12-volt battery under the hood. Could be anything Change from a full battery electric to a mild hybrid. [MUSIC] In this case, it's right in the middle. This is Audi's first electrified car in the US. [MUSIC] Maybe a little car, but it's a big deal. Because this is Audi's first electrified car they've ever actually sold. in the US. That's from a company that, until now, has really been leaning hard on getting efficiency through forced induction, turbos and superchargers, or clean, efficient diesels. But now they've either made an evolution Admission or capitulation, depending on your point of view in to the world of electrified cars. Now to be sure, it's a plug in hybrid, that means it can extended numbers of miles on electric but also won't strand you when you can't get to a charge. Okay, a quick tour of of A3 Sportback e-tron's cabin. There's our pop-up screen's got that beautiful Google Earth rendering on it, courtesy of a 4G-LTE connection. A very Audi thing. Four G LTE is standard in these cars, navigation is not It's weird. So if you don't have nav you at least have a hotspot to use your phone to get nav. In front of the driver you see we're lacking that cool all video virtual cockpit we just saw in the new Audio TT of the same model. Here it's traditional gauges. The one on the left you see is very electrified vehicle oriented. It shows charge, discharge, usage of the battery, there's one gage. And that's the sister with the fuel gage over on the right. Your drive controls are a very familiar looking shifter and gate for the DCTE dual clutch transmission, no paddles on the wheel, this isn't oriented that way. I think they want you to conserve more than thrash the vehicle. Now along those lines, here's Audi's drive select. We've seen this before to give you different drive personalities, individual, dynamic, comfort or automatic. Next to it is a new button, it's an EV drive mode on tope of those drive modes. And that will take you through the following four. Electric, where it goes battery only. Hybrid, where it blends the two, that's the most overall efficient, hold battery means take the charge in the battery, don't use it. And charge battery says the battery is down charge it up at all costs so that I have it ready later. Unlike some plugins this one is easy to keep in pure electric mode without really babying the pedal thanks to that EV mode switch. Which we just saw. This 1.4L Turbo, joined by electric motor and 8.8 kWh battery, generate 204 HP system, 258 LB-FT of torque. FWD only on this one, no Quattro. And as I mentioned six speed dual clutch is your only transmission. The thirty six hundred pounds of this guy gets to sixty in about seven and a half seconds. Thirty five MPG average, eighty three MPGe if you full exploit the car's plug in charge in ability. And sixteen miles of pure EB range per charge. Audi's done a great job of taking out electric car sound. A lot of electric cars make nasty electric noises. This one has them almost completely gone. The next thing I noticed though is depending on the mode you're in the car has kind of a CTD feel, which isn't a great thing. If you're used to the nice, positive bite of a typical Audi automatic or other transmission manual gearbox you don't really find that here. I believe it has It has to do with some of the juggling of the different power modes from combustion to electric to the other combination of them to the free wheeling it also does to conserve energy. It makes it a little [UNKNOWN] sometimes. With that said it's one of the nicer electric cars you're gonna drive. Now it feels its weight. I gotta say it's not that light, bright, tossable little Audi you might I think it is. It's got a certain mass to it. It's got a certain tubbyness when it bottoms into a divot. Into a turn, when it comes around, it really stresses the side walls of the tires when it goes around a sharp radius corner. There's battery weight here and there's no way around that. You do feel quite a difference between the different modes, but again I would kind of find the one I like And hopefully not have to worry about the car's battery and charge profile beyond that. In sum, the best headline around this car one I think Audi was shooting for is it's the Audi of electrified cars. Which is to say it's got the Audi looks, proportions, beautiful cabin, great technology and interface and most but not all of the Audi driving that people love about these cars. Okay, an A3 Sportsback Etron is going set you back a little under 39 with destination, and that's with the base trim level. Now, from that, you can knock off about 4,200 federal tax credit. Here in California, another 1,500 as of today's suit. But you've got to go all the way to the prestige trim to get things like navigation, Bang and Olufsen audio and the more advanced Driver assist. Fully optioned, by the way, the A3 e-tron can give you active lane keeping at 30 miles per hour and above, and also partial automatic emergency braking and blind spot warning detect. Not a driver assist powerhouse, but not bad. In all, I love driving a lot of Audis. I would say I love driving this one the least. But any electrified car today, for the most part, is a basic calculus of how much do you love it on the right brain, and how much of a good value does this pencil out to be longterm in your left brain. [MUSIC] By the way I've got some more impressions on that A3 Sportback E-tron over at cars.cnet.com and a first look I wrote up and a few additional photos you might find interesting. I get this one a lot in email. Hey Cooley what's the best car for my teen. Or sometimes I'll get that from the teen that wants to ask me as opposed to their parent. And depending who's asking the question, the answer can be a little a different as you might imagine. But for both the parent or the teen I've got some of the latest thinking, ideal stuff for the smarter driver and their kids. When CNET on cars returns. <music> When we talk about best and often first cars for teens. Very different images appear in ones mind eye. Depending if you are the teen in question. </music> or the parent of Zed. While the insurance institute for highway safety can broker this one, with the new set of recommendation as of the end of twenty fifteen. They have good choices, and best choices with four and five star crash ratings at both under ten k and under twenty k price levels. I zeroed in a sweet spot, the few cars that are at the intersection of best choice And under 10 grand. There are 20 vehicles that make that cut. Rather than run through them all here, I've got a link to the list in the show notes for episode 80 at CNetoncars.com but let me summarize a few bullets. First of all a lot of Volvo's out there, real safe and real cheap. Mid sized cars like fusions and Jetta's, those are gonna be the lion share. You're best choice And no pickup, minivan, or full size SUV makes the cut. Some chesnuts in terms of car type. High horse power doesn't make a lot of sense, and frankly, young driver, the coolest drivers out there are the ones who get it done with the least machine. Anybody with cash or credit can buy performance. Sad but true, bigger, heavier vehicles remains safer. That flies in the face of efficient and intelligent design, but physics are physics. As long as big cars and smaller cars collide, you kind of want to be in the bigger car. Compact crossovers? Those are a nice compromise, however. And buying nothing without electronic stability control. After airbags and anti-lock brakes, this is the third of the big three that have fundamentally changed auto safety. EFC is mandatory since model year 2012, and that alone can quickly shorten your shopping list. Some market notes. Time is on your side, everyday you wait for used cars come on the market with later and better safety tips, pushing down the price of that tech due to supply And the average teen car purchase price is a rather lossy $9,800 says IAHS. The medium, a more reasonable 5,300. But be aware at that price point you might leave out some recent safety tech. Welcome back to CNET on Cars, coming to you from our home at the Mount Tam Motor Club, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. I'm Brian Cooley. Well if you watch a show like this, you obviously care about car tech. And not just in new cars that someone else is buying, but in your own car. I know a lot of you have written in asking about changing your head unit, chipping and tuning your engine, putting on new tire wheel packages. Things like that, that are clearly your business, on your car. Or is it? It turns out the man sometimes has some say in what you do to your own car when you change its tech. It makes for a fascinating car tech 101. [MUSIC] We start with the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act of 1975. It basically says you have freedom to choose where your car is worked on and what brands of parts, materials, and fluids are used. This applies to aftermarket parts, parts that improve performance and remanufactured parts. Now beyond repairs, you're also free to get your routine maintenance done anywhere as long as it follows factory intervals and with substantially equivalent parts, materials and fluids. Now the gotchas. If the repair is done poorly, using lousy parts or incorrect fluid You can be denied warranty service on that part of the vehicle and any other parts of the car that might be damaged downstream. The Onus is on the factory and or dealers to prove that your non dealer repair cause an issue. The dealer can charge you diagnostic fees while they dig in to your cars to prove that your non dealer repairs cost Problem, and when the factory is providing free service like during a recall, they can direct which shop does that work. Now, reality check. If you shop with the dealer all of the sudden out day of the clear blue asking for a pricey warranty repair, you've never been there for maintenance, be sure you're carrying with you a tiny thick meticulous folder of receipts and procedures. They're gonna deny you like Steve Jobs daughter. Also know that today dealer service records are typically stored on networks that all the dealerships of that brand have access to. Next up is CPE coverage. This is customer provided equipment. Things like running boards, custom tire wheel combos, trick suspension or exhaust, upgraded audio gear, even a custom paint job. All this can fall under CPE. Now you likely have a base level of coverage for this kind of gear in your policy. Perhaps $1000 or so under comp and under collision. Which, by the way, covers permanently installed equipment. Not your cell phone claimed as an app system because you use it that way once in a while in the car. Custom equipment that is dealer installed is probably covered under your normal limits, not CPE. You may want to add additional CPE coverage to have your ad-ons fully covered. Most insurance companies are happy to sell that to you, but of course, at an additional premium cost. Then there's the DMCA and your car. This is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act Back. Goes back to 1998. It's a wide ranging piece of legislation that isn't really about cars, but it does apply to vehicles in that they have electronics that contain software, and that is proprietary intellectual property of the car maker. A typical bone of contention would be when someone chips their car with new power train management firmware to get more power out of it. That may also increase emissions of which said owner may avoid detection by flashing the car back to the factory setting temporarily when they go to get a smog test. Then the latest move in this area came in November 2015 when the US Copyright Office declared that it is legal under DMCA to modify the code in your car so long as it doesn't do so in a way that increases emissions. This is roughly analogous to earlier rulings that made it legal to jailbreak your phone so it could be used on other carriers than the one you bought it from. However, there could be a [UNKNOWN] intersection, here. You mod your car and that causes damage, say, sending too much power to the transmission, that could put you out of warranty even though it was legal under DMCA to make those changes in the first place. And don't take for granted that the dealer's diagnostic gear is going to be fooled if you flashed your car in a way that damaged it and then flashed it back, thinking you left no trace. Now, I've just given you a lot of ammo to defend your car's warranty but here are some ways to end up out of pocket real fast. Some Warranty Killers: Buy a salvage title or totaled car. That includes one that has flood records So before you buy used, title search three ways. A commercial [UNKNOWN] website, the government's NMVTIS site, and the NICB title check site run by the insurance agency. Racing. Even vehicles that are zoned tearing around a track in TV commercials are not covered if you do that. There are even hypocritical tales of dealers monitoring autocross club websites. To record license plate numbers for a future warranty detail. Tampering with the odometer. A huge no no. If the factory or dealer can't be competent of the car's mileage, they have no way to know if you're in warranty or not, and all bets are off. Plus you've broken state law, so the dealers gonna feel pretty good about telling you to lump it and take it out with the DA if you're unhappy. And as we mentioned earlier, aftermarket parts, if they are shown by the factory or dealer to have screwed up some part of your car. In the end it comes down to a fairly simple set of rules. Take care of your car, document that you've done so, and don't let maintenance slide. Deferred maintenance tends to create a rats nest Of layered problems in your vehicle, which can make it harder for all parties to figure out who's on the hook to fix what. Because it's not so easy to figure out where one problem ends and the next one begins. [MUSIC] In a moment, your email, how cars learn today and tomorrow, and why does the A/C come on when I just want heat, when CNET on Cars continues. [MUSIC] This is the NSA. This is the easy to drive, useable [UNKNOWN] It's a wonderful thing, I can see why people absolutely adore these things. [SOUND] And I love the noise that V6 makes, 3.2 liters of fun that is. It's fantastic. Man, it's a serious bit of kick. [SOUND] [MUSIC] Five more. From the XCAR team of CNET UK at cnet.com/xcar. [MUSIC] Welcome back to CNET on Cars. I'm Brian Cooley. My favorite part of the show is this, where I take some of your emails. And the one comes in from Zubair C who says, most cars today have automatic climate controls where you select Auto and then just adjust the temperature level and the car takes it from there. But when you use Auto, he notes, The AC, air conditioning, light comes on, even when it's cold in the winter and wants to know what's up with that? Should he manually defeat AC when he hits auto. This can be confounding. Let me explain a couple of things going on here. First of all, Zubair knows that AC is, of course, a chiller. It's a cooling technology, as we all know. But it also has another function by the way that it's designed. And that is it's also a dryer. And that's part of what's happening here. Your car is sensing temperature, but it's also sensing humidity. And most modern HPVA systems today is going to try and control both cuz they're both uncomfortable. Sometimes it's running the AC to take out moisture, not to cool the air. And it's at the same time, forcing hot air into the car, but drying it with the AC. One last point, know that automatic mode, is truly automatic mode. That means when you turn it into auto, you may see the AC light come on, which often denotes the fact that the air conditioning is under control of the automatic climate logic. That doesn't mean It's currently running the air conditioning compressor to blow out the cold air in the car, it merely has control over it. And if you were to hit the button and turn off AC, you now have taken it out of the mix for any future use until you Re set auto again, so it doesn't always mean it's blowing cold air it just means ac is in the mix of the over all logic. Our next female comes in from [INAUDIBLE] Who says, I've noticed that Tesla cars with auto pilot Self-driving upload their self-driving data to the cloud and that is shared with all other Teslas that have autopilot because imagine if there was a way for cars, other than Teslas, to tap into that data as well and use their own driving assistance tech to perhaps warn drivers about dangerous road or other conditions ahead, maybe prime the car for an impact. He says could this sort of Hive Mind technology be adapted for our normal cars? A lot of things going on here both technologically and in terms of policy and competition in the auto business. First of all we have something called DSRC, digital short range communications. It is Set to be proposed formally in the U.S. in 2016, for formal adoption in standard equipment some number of model years after that. That's one piece, that allows cars to do V to V, vehicle to vehicle. They can talk to each other and say hey, I'm here. I'm stopping short, so ucar behind me should know that. Things like that. The bigger picture, what your talking about, is more of a cloud technology where cars talk up to the cloud to some sort of master control that shares their wisdom with all other cars. Three things to look at that could get in the way of that. Pretty credibly. First of all this idea of auto learning starts with connectivity. You gotta have cars that are connected. Tesla's do have connectivity to the cloud so they can report what they've learned and then it could be shared back down to them as well. Most cars don't have that. It's still pretty rare to find a car with built in 3G or 4G. I'm not talking about pairing your phone, it's a different thing. It's got to be really built into the car for robustness. And that's still quite a rare vehicle. The next thing is you gotta have Standards. So that one car's learnings can be uploaded and downloaded to another. One car maker does one thing, another does another thing and they're not talking the same language, they're not talking into the same cloud servers. They have basically complete siloization. The third thing is even if we answered the Connectivity and the Standards phase, you got this one of Cooperation or competition. Car makers like to be different than others in as many ways as they can. You're asking for Tesla to use their data, their proprietary information, to make another competing car company's self driving tech work better. Tesla does not want to help Mercedes work better, they want Mercedes to die. So this is a very cutthroat, competitive industry. BMW, Mercedes, Tesla, Audi, Infiniti, They are not in the business of making each other's cars better. So I really think it's a long shot, to say that's gonna happen, until and unless self-driving becomes so much of a commodity, so much of an expected technology, that the regulators get in there and say okay, it's time for us to require this on all cars, require it be common and consistent on all cars. And that starts to lay the ground for a more unanimous system, where everybody is talking the same language. And perhaps, we start sharing through that data but to be honest, it's relatively unprecedented. [SOUND] Thanks for being here. Really appreciate you watching, and we really appreciate your input on the show as well. So keep it coming, it's oncars@cnet.com. You're a big part of what we do and how we build it around here. And don't forget to hit our site once in a while, cnetoncars.com where you'll find all our features broken down into nice nuggety bucket for snack sized viewing. I'll see you next time [INAUDIBLE] [MUSIC] [SOUND]

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