by: George Achorn, photos: Audi Spain
Editor’s Note: This article originally ran in the Q3_2021 issue of quattro Magazine. If you would like to subscribe to quattro Magazine, please join Audi Club here.
The RS e-tron GT has a distinctive note. A synthesized guttural audio signature that is felt as much as it is heard, apparently inspired by a didgeridoo according to Audi engineers, and perhaps filtered through the disposition of an aggrieved murder hornet. Like most sportscars, it’s an even tone when in drive and at a standstill, then elevates synthetically to 25 mph when you accelerate as is to be expected with an electric. Unlike one of the RS e-tron GT’s RS brethren, the sound isn’t the howl of some passionate exhaust wail when the brake is side-stepped. Instead, it’s more composed, but just as authoritative.
As the driver, you also don’t cry out. Yes, you sidestepped that throttle, but it’s almost as if the brutal launch you called up commences before the nerve synapses traveling up your leg and torso have time to communicate that the deed. The all four wheels are already turning by the time your brain gets the message that the accelerator has been pinned to the floor. Your fists tighten on the fat flat-bottom wheel instinctively as the waves of accelerative forces pass through your body. You inhale with your own unique sound… an unexpected gasp and then likely a giggle.
Yes, there were already cars that are this fast. It’s the sudden brutality of the launch that continues to surprise… at least during the two-hour brief fling we had with an early Euro-market RS e-tron GT one summer afternoon in the Northern Virginia countryside not far from Audi of America headquarters.
The e-tron GT and hotter RS e-tron GT aren’t exactly an easy ride to land just yet. This isn’t Audis first electric, but this is the first electric road car from Audi Sport. We’d say “first electric” but with three Le Mans wins for LMP1 e-trons and a Formula E championship under their belt, it’s fair to say Audi Sport’s first electric road car is both race-bred and hotly anticipated. Initial customer cars are expected to arrive at American Audi dealers this summer and perhaps by the time you read this. At the moment though, there are just a few Euro market examples in country for lucky jerks like me to take a spin so as to get some early impressions.
Yes, we got to drive it. No, there wasn’t time to get more than a first impression. In as much, what we have to share involves quick seat-of-the-pants than tested data. There was no time to discover range, push it in a controlled environment, or live with it as an accessory to real life. No doubt it will perform exceptionally in all of these scenarios, but what we had time for that afternoon was to hit the road for a quick drive – one-part high-speed highway and one-part back roads that were occasionally but not always filled with other afternoon commuters. It was a brief fling, but like any great fling, it left us wanting more.
The formula was simple. We had two hours and were given a course due west into the Northern Virginia horse country. We’d be wheeling an RS e-tron GT and would be joined by an Audi of America representative in an e-tron GT. The RS was effectively loaded with leather interior, while the e-tron GT had the new synthetic non-leather option made from recycled bottles and the like. This setup no doubt appeals to the environmentalists amongst e-tron customers just as the resulting European market sport cloth that it also resembles will be appreciated by traditional enthusiasts who prefer a more Euro specification. That’s a win-win by our account, where enthusiasts can also do their ecological part. Alas, we had precious little time with that car since it was piloted by the aforementioned wingman.
The cabin of the RS e-tron GT was both familiar and handsome. Though they may sound like one, electric cars don’t have to be alien spaceships. We notice some handsome new touches like a fob sized “shifter”, nowadays a drive mode selector really, plus a start button you can largely ignore because it knows you’re there. There’s also incredible detail work from the hexagonally stitched sport seats to the carbonfiber-laden stepped dashboard that harks Audis e-tron SUV interior design in its stepped design. Anyone familiar with the brand’s rich interiors will be immediately familiar with this otherworldly ride. Audis virtual cockpit and accompanying MMI infotainment displays work essentially just as they do in ICE Audi offerings like Audis RS 6 Avant. So too do other controls; even the shift paddles that, in this case, shift up and down through stepped energy recuperation resistance that feels just like you’re shifting down even though you’re not. Mash on the throttle though and you’re immediately and rapidly on the go without any thought of gearing.
For those keeping count of gears, there is a two-speed transmission, yet you won’t notice it in operation. Two may sound low, but in an electric car with torque always available from an electric motor, the transmission is more a component for efficiency than anything else. In the case of the RS e-tron GT like ours, there are also dual synchronous electric motors pushing 590 hp (637 hp in boost mode) and 612 lb-ft of torque that are good for propelling this 5,139 lb. car from 0-60 mph in a reported 3.1 seconds. That’s effectively the same as the Audi R8 V10 performance, but I’d wager it feels considerably more impressive due to the immediacy of the power delivery.
Powering those electric motors is a 93 kWh lithium ion battery. Audis reported range for the RS e-tron GT is 232 miles, though that is likely a conservative rating given current owners of the Porsche Taycan Turbo platform mate report numbers approaching 300 miles range with the identical battery configuration and nearly identical weight. If you can avoid the temptation of mind-bending accelerative launches, we’re guessing real world range will be similar.
There are advantages to having a wingman in that other e-tron GT. Other than the lack of RS badges on the front and rear and handsome, blue-tinted Kemora Grey hue, that car appears visually identical to the RS I’m piloting. It gives me a chance to take in the voluptuous, low and wide four-door coupe form as we make our way through the Virginia countryside. It’s more aggressively handsome and low-slung than even Audi Sport’s other four-door coupes such as the RS 5 Sportback and RS 7.
It also appears Audi has taken lessons learned with its larger and heavier cars to make the RS e-tron GT drive small… or rather… light. Yes, the weight is already very low in the chassis, wearing its heaviest components like batteries below the floor, but the way it handles can be attributed to more than just a low center of gravity. In the narrow bends of Virginia, the RS e-tron GT feels every bit the sports grand tourer one would hope to come from Audi Sport. The steering communicates, the tail pivots intuitively.
Incredible first impressions are a funny thing. When paired with passion, they are a vehicle toward true love. For many petrolheads, Audis e-tron family may very well embody that first impression of electric. No doubt then there will be more than a few who fall in love with a beautiful and capable grand tourer such as the RS e-tron GT.