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Next up for Audi: a plug-in hybrid car

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(Read caption) The Audi RS 5 is displayed. Audi's next line of vehicles will include the A3 e-tron, a plug-in hybrid, Ingram says.

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Audi has had its fair share of criticism from plug-in car fans, but the automaker now seems to be coming around to the idea of electric propulsion after some rather public dismissals of the technology.

Audi's first production plug-in model will be the A3 e-tron plug-in hybrid arriving next year, but the larger A4 sedan could now follow that lead in 2015.

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Autocar reports the 2015 Audi A4 could come with not one, but three plug-in hybrid models--offering varying degrees of efficiency and performance.

In addition to the usual range of gasoline and diesel models, the A4 could use variants of a  2.0-liter, 220-horsepower gasoline engine, a 180-hp 2.0-liter diesel, and a 250-hp version of Audi's current 3.0-liter supercharged V-6.

The full hybrid power figures are likely to be higher than those above. For perspective, the A3 e-tron's plug-in hybrid drivetrain uses a 1.4-liter gasoline engine and electric motor to develop a combined 204 horsepower--not far from the 2.0-liter engine on its own.

Layout should also be similar. Autocar says a 110-hp electric motor will live within the gearbox casing, just as it does in the A3. In the A3, power is transmitted through a dual-clutch automatic transmission, but the new cars could use an 8-speed gearbox.

Regular gasoline and diesel models should see a step up in efficiency--the former are likely to incorporate cylinder deactivation technology--while heavier use of aluminum should see curb weight drop by as much as 220 lbs on the base model.

Styling should be more evolutionary than revolutionary--but intricate detailing and sharp body creases will be the order of the day.

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Would you consider a plug-in hybrid A4?