Audi just gave us a quick drive behind the wheel of a prototype of its upcoming A3 e-tron electric car — which won’t hit the streets for another two years! Although the A3 e-tron we drove will look different on the outside when it’s released, the all-electric powertrain was real and provides even more hope for the full adoption of electric vehicles in the industry. We also had a chance to interview Audi’s Director of E-Mobility, Jeff Curry about the A3 e-tron and the future of Audi’s electric lineup – hit the jump for more!

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Electric car buyers are about to get even more options in the next few years with new models coming from BMW, Infiniti and Audi. Unlike the current electric vehicles from Ford, GM and Nissan, the new models like the BMW i3 and Audi A3 e-tron will bring electric models to the luxury segment. Although Audi and BMW are both preparing new electric cars, they are each taking different approaches. The BMW i3, which has been previewed by the i3 concept, is a new model from the ground up that does not share its body with any other BMW model. It’s also being launched under the new BMW i sub-brand.

Audi is at the other end of the spectrum. Instead of building a new dedicated electric vehicle, Audi has chosen to create electric versions of its current lineup. This means that the A3 e-tron will look almost identical to the gasoline and diesel-powered A3 models. Audi’s Director of E-Mobility, Jeff Curry, stated that Audi’s research suggested that Audi customers that would be interested in an electric vehicle, still wanted to drive an “Audi”. So this means that the Audi A3 and other future Audi e-tron models will look almost identical to the models in which they are based on.

So how does it drive? Well if it wasn’t for the silent engine and different gauges, you probably wouldn’t realize that you are driving a full electric car. The A3 e-tron drives almost exactly the same as the other A3 models. Of course it’s not quite as fast as the turbocharged A3, but it definitely has the power to get up and go. Read on to find out more about our test drive!

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According to Curry, the A3’s electric engine is actually lighter than the gasoline and diesel engines in the other A3 models, which will remove some weight from the front of the vehicle. The battery pack adds an extra 500 pounds, but Audi has added a slightly stiffer suspension to offset some of the extra weight from the battery. Unlike other electric vehicles, Audi lets the driver set the amount of regenerative braking, which is adjusted via paddles on each side of the steering wheel. The regenerative braking system sends energy back to the A3’s battery during braking. According to Audi, the A3 e-tron has a top speed of 90 mph and an electric range of approximately 90 miles.

The best thing about the A3 e-tron other than the fact that it looks exactly like the standard A3 models is that there aren’t any compromises in interior room or cargo space. Audi is still figuring out the final pricing for the A3 e-tron, but it’s expected to be priced higher than the A3 TDI diesel, but still under $40k. Unlike other automakers that are only producing a limited number of their electric models, Audi expects the A3 e-tron to be a full production vehicle.

During the drive Jeff Curry provided a few more details about the future of Audi’s e-tron models. The first e-tron electric vehicle will be the R8 e-tron that will be released by the end of this year. The A3 e-tron is still two years away, but when that model is released, the first version will actually be a plug-in hybrid electric car based on the all-new A3. After that, Audi is also planning on releasing e-tron versions of the A4 and Q7 models.

+ Audi