Audi e-tron GT revealed with RS variant

Two versions of Audi's new electric Grand Tourer will be available from launch – starting at £79,900

By Sam Sheehan / Tuesday, February 9, 2021 / Loading comments

After months of socially distanced talks and associated teasing, Audi has finally unveiled the production version of its e-tron GT – the new EV that shares much of its tech with the widely lauded Porshe Taycan. An RS-badged model heads the two-version lineup with a claimed 646hp and 612lb ft of torque on overboost, which delivers 62mph in a claimed 3.3 seconds – while offering space for four passengers and a 405-litre boot. The e-tron GT is billed as a true grand tourer, with a more rounded character than Porsche’s unashamedly sporting alternative – although it's undeniably an Audi Sport-engineered model and shares a production line with the R8 in Neckarsulm. 

With the same sophisticated underpinnings as the Porsche, including an 800v electrical system and LG Chem lithium-ion battery (more on those shortly), even the ‘base’ e-tron gets 530hp and 472lb ft of overboost-rated torque. It delivers a 4.1-second claimed 0-62mph dash and a top speed of 152mph, just 3mph short of the RS, with both versions using the same twin-motor and two-speed setup, albeit in a different state of tune. The RS’s main advantage comes with its rear motor, which outputs 456hp alone, to the GT’s 435hp – with those numbers representing the pre-overboost maximums. But both variants get the same 238hp (also pre-overboost) front axle motor and matching gearbox ratios. If you’re scratching your head at the maths, rest assured we were too. But apparently the respective motor outputs can’t simply be added to create a combined total.

Both cars – each measuring 4.99 metres long on a 2.9-metre wheelbase – get a battery with a gross consumption of 93.4kWh (at ‘cruising speed’) or net of 85.7 kWh, mounted in the floor with a ‘foot garage’ – essentially an indentation where the rear passengers’ feet rest – for greater comfort in the back. There’s regenerative tech aboard, which can be adjusted to recuperate energy with up to 0.3 G of deceleration, before the mechanical brakes take over. That’s handy for efficiency and also those accustomed to (or keen to experience) single pedal city driving.

As for plug-in charging, both e-tron GT models get two ports, one on each wing, one handling AC and one DC. The DC port can work with 270kW fast chargers via the EV’s 800-volt system, enabling a 5-80 per cent top up in 22.5 mins. That equates to about 62 miles in five mins. Of course, in Britain at the moment, it would likely be much higher, given the laggardly state of the infrastructure. But that's not Audi's fault. When it comes to the domestic AC charger, 9 hours and 30 mins from 5-80 per cent with an 11kW port, or 5 hours 15 mins with an optional 22kW one. If you use the phone app to plan journeys, the e-tron can automatically prep its batteries (eg. through thermal management) for maximum efficiency.

As grand tourers, Audi is keen to emphasise the two-speed gearbox’s advantages in keeping revs to a minimum at speed, during which time cars fitted with the optional (or standard on Vorsprung models, which are expected to be popular in Britain) three-chamber air suspension – the first of its kind in an Audi – also squats the car 22mm lower. That helps to reduce drag, giving the car its slippery 0.24cd and enabling a claimed range of up to 303 miles for the e-tron GT, or 293 miles for the RS. As such, both models rival the Taycan, which is no surprise, but fall short of the Tesla’s Model S Long Range at 379 miles. Much like Porsche, Audi claims that its new model is more consistent ‘than rivals’ in performance, with the thermal management tech allowing for multiple flat-out stints without complaint. Audi will also be betting on greater handling and a more comfortable ride for its svelte four-door, too, in both GT and RS forms.

For maximum clout in that departments, the e-tron models get electronic torque vectoring, and they’re offered with all-wheel steering and a fully variable locking rear differential should buyers want to boost agility and traction. There’ll be no shortage of performance kit aboard, although it seems likely that the GT and RS will offer a slightly softer attitude than the Taycan. RS models of late have certainly made gains in that area, and the three-chamber air suspension ought to make itself felt. We’ve not been given a kerbweight yet, but don’t bet on much change from the plus-2.2-tonne weights of the similarly equipped Taycans.

To keep that all in check, Audi will offer its e-tron GT with three brake setups. The first is a ‘standard’ steel one, while the second (optional on the normal car and standard on the RS) uses an ultra-tough, ‘Carbid’ disc – essentially Audi’s version of Porsche’s tungsten carbide-coated setup. This is said to not only offer greater stopping power, but the reflective surface is also supposed to be almost as tough as diamond, producing 90 per cent less brake dust than steel discs. For the strongest stopping power, there's a more familiar carbon ceramic disc with 10-piston calipers, offered on both e-tron GT variants with the same claims for high performance, heat management and reduced unsprung mass.

Inside, it’s a familiar Audi affair, with the latest in MMI Virtual Cockpit setup bringing with it a digital instrument cluster and 10.1-inch central screen plus a small scattering of physical buttons. While it’s arguably not as visually impressive as the Porsche, the layout remains technically strong and from experience, the systems are brilliantly functional. Interestingly, the steering wheel is larger than the Taycan’s and the electromechanical weighting is said to be lighter, emphasising ease of use. The e-tron GT’s synthesised noise is also bespoke, tuned using real sounds that have been fed into Audi’s software so as to engage passengers with the car’s inner workings. Or at least that’s the intention. The cabin ought to easily accommodate four adults in the space sense, while the 40/20/40 split rear bench provides plenty of flexibility for load carrying. Still, we can’t help but wish there were an estate version for fast-wagon kudos in an electric form. Maybe next time. Or not – because Audi already offers what the market wants in that department with its e-tron SUV.

Compared to that taller model, though, the e-tron GT and RS models are considered a step up, with the brand’s marketing spiel unashamedly pointing to likely popularity with wealthy, middle aged buyers who have more than one car. That’s echoed in the pricing: the regular GT starts at £79,900, rising to £106,000 for the higher-equipped Vorsprung, with the RS priced from £110,950, rising to £133,340 for the RS Vorsprung. It means at this early stage, the Audi line-up actually kicks off at a higher starting point than the Porsche Taycan. We’d expect that to change in due course, however, with Audi likely to offer more variants in the coming months. For now, though, it’s chosen to kick things off with two strong candidates in the big money EV segment. Expect to see a lot of them, too: the UK is predicted to rank second only to North America when it comes to global sales. Let’s hope the infrastructure can keep up.

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