We drove the Audi RS e-tron GT for an hour; here’s what we learned
better than an RS7 —
Ars got to spend some time with a preproduction car in Virginia.
Jonathan M. Gitlin
In February, Audi took the wraps off its next electric vehicle. It’s called the e-tron GT, and unlike the rest of Audi’s EV offerings, this one isn’t an SUV or crossover. It’s a four-door sports car that shares a platform with the very impressive Porsche Taycan. We’re expecting a proper drive later this summer once the e-tron GT is on sale, but on Tuesday, Audi let Ars spend an hour behind the wheel of a preproduction version on the roads of northern Virginia.
The car is available in two flavors: the $99,900 e-tron GT or the $139,900 RS e-tron GT, and it’s the latter that we got to drive. It’s a twin-motor design, combining a 235 hp (175 kW) motor at the front axle and a 450 hp (335 kW) motor at the rear, with a combined output of 590 hp (440 kW) and 612 lb-ft (830Nm). The motors are fed by a 93.4 kWh battery pack (~85 kWh usable capacity). The battery’s 800 V electrical architecture allows it to fast charge at up to 270 kW—which means going from 5 to 80 percent in 22.5 minutes—and it can regenerate up to 265 kW of energy under braking.
The Audi might be a little cheaper and a little less powerful than the Taycan, but it’s a better-looking car, even in relatively anonymous metallic gray paint. Its cabin is more conventional than the Porsche, with just two screens—one for the main instrument display and one for the infotainment system—and plenty of physical buttons for things like the climate controls. (The audio controls on the center console are like the touch-sensitive dial on the front of an iPod, which is neat.)
As you drop down into the driver’s seat, it’s apparent from the driving position that you’re in something that’s closer to a sports car than a regular sedan—again, a trait this car shares with the Taycan. The driving position may be more like that of the R8 supercar than the RS7, with its sedan roots, and the RS e-tron GT shares the R8’s trait of great forward visibility combined with a tiny rear window.
It was apparent that the RS7 had just been replaced as my favorite Audi after just a few miles of driving. Both the RS7 and the e-tron are all-wheel drive 590 hp five-door fastbacks capable of rapidly transporting four adults and their stuff. They both look spectacular, and once you’ve added a few options, they’ll cost about the same. They even weigh pretty much the same—around 5,000 lbs (2,200kg), give or take.
But the RS7 drinks a gallon of gasoline every 15 miles (24 km) in the city, and more if you’re enjoying it on track or trying for Vmax on the Autobahn. Meanwhile, the RS e-tron GT is as clean as the electricity you feed it.
The immediate torque of the electric motors goes a very long way to disguising the RS e-tron GT’s mass. The car will actually beat an R8 supercar to 60 mph in launch control, which temporarily increases maximum power to 637 hp (475 kW). But even with its regular power output, the e-tron is still faster in the dash to highway speeds than the twin-turbo RS7. But it feels a bit less dramatic and more effortless, in part thanks to the relative silence with which it all happens. All EVs are required to make some noise as they accelerate to warn pedestrians, and much like other sporty EVs, the RS e-tron GT’s voice is a kind of growly mechanical sound that seems appropriate.
The combination of a low center of gravity and adaptive air suspension means the ride is very smooth, and I felt no body roll when cornering. The steering communicates the road conditions and available front grip better than your typical Audi, but not as well as the R8. Suffice it to say that I never got anywhere close to the car’s limits on the road.
Over the course of an hour and a mix of highways and back roads, I averaged 2.4 miles/kWh (25.8 kWh/100km), mostly switching between Efficiency mode (which limits acceleration and caps speed at 85 mph/137 km/h) and Dynamic (which gives you full power). That’s about where I expected it to be—low enough to make a Tesla fan feel smug but still sufficient to give the RS e-tron a range of about 240 miles.
More miles are necessary to form a fuller opinion, as an hour isn’t really long enough to form a full impression, but this first drive makes it clear that the RS e-tron GT is no turkey. And I’m not just saying that so Audi’s PR office lets me have another ride.
Listing image by Jonathan Gitlin