quattro Magazine: RS e-tron GT versus Angeles Crest

words/photos: George Achorn

Editor’s Note: This article originally ran in the Q1_2023 issue of quattro Magazine. If you would like to subscribe to quattro Magazine, please join Audi Club here.

Instagram link: @goodvibesbreakfastclub

Los Angeles is a mecca of car culture for so many reasons. Look past the bumper-to-bumper snarl of its freeways and you’ll find a city steeped in automotive history, culture and influencers. Outside the city are miles of iconic roads through canyons and mountain ranges. One such road is legend, a most technical challenge and one that can offer up the highest of stakes and literal pit falls should your bravado write checks that your driving skills can’t cash.

This is the Angeles Crest Highway. It’s a two-lane run of sunbaked tarmac stretching over the San Gabriel Mountains and through the Angeles Crest Forest. It is both well-maintained and well beyond the reach of mobile phone connectivity, perfect conditions for a focus on driving without distractions.

In L.A. briefly between a first drive of the Audi Q4 (pp. 22-23) and plans to attend Big SoCal Euro (p. 50), we were lucky enough to procure temporary access to an Ascari Blue 2022 Audi RS e-tron GT. With an entire unscheduled Friday ahead of us and a charged RS e-tron GT at our disposal, the urge to sample Angeles Crest was palpable.

Mind you, it wasn’t just the roads with incredible views. You see, high atop Angeles Crest sits Newcomb’s Ranch, originally a 160-acre horse ranch established in 1875. The ranch is on the National Register of Historic Places, but today it sits abandoned including an empty wood-framed bar surrounded by paved parking lot and aging “Newcomb’s Ranch” sign off to the side. It’s a popular place to stop for motorists having made the run.

On Friday mornings, Newcomb’s is also a gathering place for the Good Vibes Breakfast Club (G.V.B.C.). Effectively, this is a non-event event, a cars and coffee gathering in a remote space and a phenomenal route to get there. Scheduled as it is on Friday mornings when most people are presumably working, the resulting group who go are mainly creatives, whether designers and artists or car journalists. Motor Trend’s Johnny Lieberman is a regular. So too is The Late Late Show’s band leader Reggie Watts. We’d heard The Smoking Tire podcaster Matt Farah rave about G.V.B.C. on his show and messaged him for details. All that was left was to plug Newcomb’s into the RS e-tron GT’s navi.

This wasn’t our first time in an RS e-tron GT, but every other instance has been in urban traffic and hardly a test for the most capable version of Audi Sport’s first-ever EV model. Angeles Crest would put it to the test.

Based on the Volkswagen Group’s J1 architecture, the RS e-tron GT shares underpinnings with the Porsche Taycan. It’s a low-slung four-door with 637 hp and 612 lb-ft. of torque that’ll do 0-60 mph in 3.1 seconds.

As low slung as it is, it wears the mass of its batteries even lower. So, while it’s heavy at 5,126 lbs, it’s also incredibly flat and sure-footed thanks to quattro powered by electric motors at either end. We’ve found it’s about as fast as an RS 6 Avant, but its electrically delivered power is unleashed so unbelievably fast off the line that the GT will gain well more than a car length or two before the RS 6 is able to build boost and gather pace. In our experience, that lead can’t be clawed back until triple digits, which is lose-your-license speed levels anywhere in the U.S. and well beyond anything approached on the snaking turns of Angeles Crest.

Exiting the freeway, we found ourselves at a stoplight ready to climb into the hills. Before the light turned green, a modified Acura NSX and two modern Porsche 911 Turbos buzzed past in a line. We tucked in behind them, knowing they are likely very fast and capable in their own right and certainly more experienced with the road than us.

Climbing into the hills, the three leaders picked up pace and were surprised to see the comparably big Audi keeping pace behind them… and not just on the long straights where quattro and electric power would deliver more than enough velocity to rope them in. Even in the corners, the RS e-tron GT was flat and sure-footed.

Angeles Crest is analogous to Le Mans style racing with multiple classes. Here, in cars such as these, prototypes speeding past slower moving runners, where the camper van-lifer enroute to an Instagram shoot may be like a slower GT car, while construction trucks and bicyclists are much, much slower yet.

The winding roads go on almost unendingly, the cliffs nearby with drops well out of field of view. The Audi kept delivering, though it came at a cost of range and the pace combined with the car’s weight would begin to take their toll on the tires. This was a loaner, so we backed off in some of the corners and roped the other three cars back in on the straights.

Soon, Newcomb’s ranch rolled into view and we joined the crowd in the parking lot. We learned G.V.B.C. is neither a club, nor is there much opportunity for breakfast beyond a box of donuts and group coffee with donation jar. There was no Venmo or PayPal from what we could see, which was surprising. Given the tech-savvy nature of California, we were amazed this group still used money… even L.A. hipsters in Nixon-era Porsches.

Many were curious about the RS e-tron GT. Some hadn’t seen one before. A few were L.A.-based car journalists who recognized the “press car” tell of manufacturer tags. As with any good cars and coffee type of gathering, everyone was there to admire automobiles be they vintage or the newest of new, although we were the only EV that morning. There was no end to the good vibes on tap on Friday mornings at Newcomb’s though.

After a few hours of hanging out, it was time to head back the way we came, another incredible run, this time not chasing others but left to go our own speed. That’s probably just as well. We’d churned range in our previous climb, as one does in an EV on a hot day with seemingly endless full throttle sprints. Fortunately, once we’d regained a data signal, we found there were several high-speed chargers just a few miles from the freeway entry.