First Drive: 2016 Audi A3 Sportback E-tron

It only takes a few miles of winding road to realize something about the 2016 Audi A3 Sportback E-­tron that’s rather uncharacteristic of most hybrid cars. It feels... pretty normal. Pretty uncompromising. It doesn’t seem to sacrifice the typical things like ride and handling, or performance, in the name of efficiency, as most hybrids do. Yet it can go 17 miles without using a drop of gasoline, on a full electric charge alone, returning 86 miles per gallon equivalent. Should the battery deplete, the E-tron still returns 37 mpg on the highway, and 33 mpg in the city. You may go days or weeks without using a drop of gas. And you didn’t have to roll away with some silver egg-­shaped vessel of misery to make it so. You don’t have to be a martyr.

You may go days or weeks without using a drop of gas. 

From the outside, too, there are very few tells that the Audi is such a gas miser. There are a few little “E-­tron” badges, and that’s it. Those more in tune with Audi’s current lineup, however, will take quick notice of the Sportback (re: hatchback) body style, and know. The E-­tron is the only A3 in the U.S. market available in that specific guise. Other than that, it blends in. No, “Look at my neon green brake calipers everyone I’m driving a hybrid!”Or even a set of massive, “I’m saving the environment because I bought an E-tron as you can clearly see by these enormous decals” decals. It doesn’t put on the bratty EV-­spaceship-environmentalist-­savior front that other cars like t...