Audi e-tron GT first drive: the only way to fly
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Audi e-tron GT (quattro & RS)
- Insanely fast acceleration!
- Usable, all-wheel grip
- GT comfortable front and back
- At $200k, we can’t afford one
- You’ll know when second gear hits!
- Porsche Taycan owners
Normally, the 0-100km/h test is the standard of a fast car. But today is different. Today, we’re in Audi’s new flagship, and a window into the future… on sale right now. We’re at an airstrip with no speed limits… well, no ‘enforced’ speed limits. Today, the challenge is 0-200km/h, in Audi’s e-tron GT and we have the Bay of Islands airport 1.2km runway all to ourselves, for one hour.
We’ve got one of the best cars to take advantage of those 1200 metres, too: Audi’s e-tron GT, in both entry-level quattro and top-spec RS models, detailed in June. Both offer all-wheel drive, 800 volts of power, twin electric motors and a wildly simple launch control system that’ll test if the claim of 11.8 seconds for the 0-200km/h sprint is achievable… among other trivial figures. Because we can.
As Audi’s future, the e-tron is the RS brand’s first electric car and a sign of things to come. By 2026, Audi will cease development on new ICE engines and by 2032, farewell them forever. This all started in 2014 with the trial of 200 A3 e-tron PHEVs, and in six short years, we have this GT, a key EV model to help win the heart and minds of traditional Audi S and RS customers.
It’s common knowledge the GT is based on the Porsche Taycan’s J1 platform, which also includes the neat rear passenger foot garage – basically extra footspace created by moving a few of the battery cells from the floor to under the rear seat.
The key numbers for the GT are 390kW (quattro) and 475kW, making it the highest powered Audi RS made, with power coming from a 175kW motor in the front and either 320kW (quattro) or 335kW (RS) motors in the rear.
This is fed from a 93kWh battery, offering up to 487km range, and up to 270kW fast-charging – meaning a 400km “fill” in 15 mins from the 300kW Hyper Chargers. Both models include an 11kW AC portable wall-socket charger, while the RS model also includes a 22kW AC touchscreen WiFi smartcharger; another bonus is a $1750 contribution towards a home wallbox installation. Charging ports are on each front flank.
Every Audi dealer now has at least a 50kW charger, with some key dealers fitted with 175kW chargers. Even the EV keyfobs feature EV charger chips, negating the (current) need for separate charging tags.
Visually, it’s another in the Audi line-up to trade off the Quattro blisters, though the GT can rightly claim them as bulging arches. It’s slippery, too, at 0.24 Cd. The rear spoiler rises automatically around 180km/h, so thankfully there’s a switch to show it off in traffic.
It’s arguably better looking than the Porsche Taycan, though that’s an argument David and I will continue with. A fixed Panorama roof is standard though if you prefer a carbon fibre roof, that’ll save 12kg. With a kerb weight of 2300kg, it’s like - in relative terms in the nicest way possible - Valerie Adams removing her bronze medal.
Other trinkets include a lightshow from the matrix LED headlights that shine up to 600m, and an e-tron sound emitter: outside at low speeds to warn pedestrians, and inside to offer a little more aural excitement. There’s even a mode that enables the sound of an Audi Quattro Group B rally car… we wish!
Inside it’s Nappa leather, three heated and cooled seat options and even a leather-free option, at a “higher price”, while the “froot” and boot offer up to 85 litres up front and 405 litres respectively. Plenty.
So just how fast is it? Very! Launch control is simply a matter of selecting dynamic, and mashing both pedals: there isn’t any increased tension, just the car waiting, attentive, poised to attack.
Porsche claims 3.2 seconds, so fittingly, the Audi RS e-tron GT catapults to 100km/h in 3.3 seconds in boost/launch control mode (4.1 secs in non-boost) – but it feels faster. Like being launched from a catapult without pause for engine revs, boost or gears, just a burst of relentless, awesome acceleration with a solid jolt as it shifts into second gear. We woudn’t be surprised to see a two-second 0-100km/h run in ideal conditions. And the Bay of Islands airstrip allows us to push harder, further and longer, with 200km/h quickly passing by in just 10.5 seconds! Top speed is listed as 250km/h, and by the 1km mark, I saw 253km/h on the speedo.
Unlike the many urban single-speed EVs, this GT uses a two-speed transmission that aids both standing sprints and autobahn speeds. First gear covers the NZ national speed limit, the shift point varying with load, speed and GT variant.
It’s quattro, Jim, but not as we know it, with no mechanical link between front and rear axles. Electrons and chips perform torque splitting between the motors, up to 100 per cent either way. All-wheel steering on the RS model offers a 60cm tighter turning circle at speeds up to 50km/h, and parallel steering above 80km/h.
Our drive journey around Kerikeri led us through the incredible Mangamuka Gorge road, and with a fresh rain shower, the negative cambered rollercoaster roads combined with the twisting ribbon of 80km/h corners, the GT was challenged but just ate up the road, carving through corners and firing out of them with the kind of grip and instant torque that demands throttle control to reduce piling on understeer. Simply, on this road, on this day, can’t think of many cars that would have as fast, at least that don’t carry Taycan Turbo badges.
Brakes are interesting, too, an Audi RS signature dish, available in conventional steel, new tungsten carbide or 20kg lighter ceramic, the tungsten carbide offering 10x harder than steel without the cost of ceramic, along with 90 per cent less brake dust. TC brakes cost $8250, while ceramics cost $25k on the quattro, and $15k on the RS. Porsche partnership has its “privileges”.
Interestingly, brake regeneration and energy recuperation isn’t strong in the GT as many pedestrian EVs, as it isn’t designed to be a one-pedal car even in max regen mode. The 800v battery has 33 cells, and each cell can be diagnosed or replaced – and it has an eight-year, 160,000km warranty, while its green credentials including manufacturing in a carbon-neutral Bollinger Hofe Audi Sport factory, where the R8 is also built.
It’s smart, too, and if it senses a charging station is a destination, will cool the battery as required to allow the full 270kW charging rate as soon as it’s plugged in, while navigation route guidance offers the most battery efficient way to get to a destination, given the charging rate of a battery is substantially faster from 10-50 per cent than from 50 to 100 per cent.
On the topic of splits, Audi expects an even split between quattro and RS models, and with the 60 heading to NZ this year already sold, and an order book for another 100 filling like a Hyper Charger.
Audi e-tron GT: superb performance in an electric super car.
AUDI E-TRON GT (QUATTRO/RS)
POWER: 390/475kW, 640/830Nm
BATTERY: 93kWh, 270kW charging
0-100KM/H: (RS) 4.1 secs, 3.3 secs (boost)