Audi A3 e-tron concept shown at Shanghai Auto Show

As one of its largest markets, Audi AG chose the 2011 Shanghai Auto Show to unveil its latest concept car, the A3 e-tron.

The Audi A3 plug-in hybrid revealed at the 2011 Shanghai Auto Show

The A3 e-tron uses the same sedan shape and more or less the same bodywork as the A3 concept shown in Geneva earlier this year. The differences are a metallic front grille made from carbon fibre reinforced plastic, instead of the black plastic unit in the first concept and more streamlined air ducts in the front diffuser.

Visually the A3 e-tron is stunning. The 20-inch wheels wrapped in 245/30 R20 rubber ride atop the coolest alloy rims that appear to have been taken straight out of an aircrafts’ turbofan engine.

Under the hood things are radically different however. Instead of the 408HP turbo-charged 5 cylinder engine found in the original A3 concept, the e-tron passes as a bona-fide plug-in hybrid with a turbocharged 1.4L gasoline engine assisted by an electric motor producing 20 KW or 27HP.  The pair of power plants help to motivate the compact sedan from a standstill to 100 in 6.8 seconds and a top speed of

The A3 e-tron is fitted with a 7 speed S-Tronic dual clutch transmission that is controlled via electronic controls on the centre console beside the driver.

The vehicle is designed to run for up to 54 kilometres on emission free electric power supplied by the lithium-ion battery packs stored in the trunk. The batteries can be recharged by regenerative braking or by being plugged into a wall socket.

To reflect the electronic nature of the vehicle, the engine tachymeter has been replaced with a power meter which relays to the diver the total output of the hybrid system.

Not surprisingly, the battery packs have added a few pounds to the vehicle’s weight. The latest e-tron tips the scales at a heady 1723 kegs or 3,792 pounds. If Audi intends to build this stunning compact hybrid, they will have to send it out to the fat farm to shed a few pounds first. We anxiously await that day.