By: Malcolm Hogan
In the brave new world of electric vehicles (EVs), there are a select few that have filled the coveted realm of sports cars. However, Audi has attempted to offer something that merges into the sports car segment with a 4-door, low-slung, luxury performance electric vehicle, the Audi RS e-tron GT. The Audi e-tron GT and RS e-tron GT are sleek sedans that elevate the perception of EVs by delicately combining luxury, sport, and performance, with the compromise being a smallish interior space that still proves to be comfortable with a luxurious theme.
Performance and Driving Character
Sharing a platform with the Porsche Taycan, the Audi RS e-tron GT is sure to be a stunner in both design and what lies underneath its close-to-the-ground aluminum body. The futuristic looks are properly backed by exceptional performance from its two motors, one at each axle, to offer up a new form of Quattro all-wheel drive. Total power output comes to 590 horsepower and 612 lb-ft of torque with a boost mode that momentarily offers 637 horsepower, which is activated by simply launching the vehicle by firmly pressing the brake and then fully press the accelerator, and then release the brake. Zero to 60 mph comes on fast, as quick as 2.9 seconds in tests when using that boost mode.
There is a two-speed transmission at the rear axle that seems to shift when it wants for no apparent rhyme or reason other than limiting the rpm of the electric motor. From my experience, the transmission shifts for efficiency to enable a higher gearing ratio for the use of just the rear motor at higher speeds, while it may hold the lower gear at lower speeds for better acceleration as I often felt it downshift upon accelerating from a rolling slow speed. The RS e-tron GT also has a rear steering system that feels more on the natural side versus other systems that I’ve experienced to virtually shorten the wheelbase and ease slow speed manuvers.
The driving dynamics are excellent and the low-slung proportions and low ride height through the air suspension lend assured handling and stability at high speeds. The ride quality is also just as good – as it feels somewhat exotic but never feels overly firm, even in the Dynamic drive mode with the adaptive dampers set in their firmest setting. The air suspension does well to automatically lower the vehicle earlier in Dynamic mode or by simply reaching highway and interstate speeds, just as the rear motorized spoiler will rise to the occasion at higher speeds but can be manually raised or lowered through the infotainment drag-down quick access menu.
The Audi RS e-tron GT doesn’t have a one-pedal drive mode but you can adjust the braking regeneration through steering wheel paddles going through about 3 modes. There’s hardly ever any drivetrain drama or wheel spin as the Audi RS e-tron GT just grips and goes without fail. The assured feeling may be deceptive at times and could be trouble for some who take advantage of such a feeling – that may remind you of its heft at just over 5,000 pounds. However, the way in which the RS e-tron GT handles that weight feels like it disappears until you put it into a hard turn at speed. Braking is strong with the standard rotors, while a carbon-ceramic option is available.
One particular characteristic that cannot be overlooked is the sound that the Audi RS e-tron GT makes. There’s an internal sound that can almost be muted, and there is an external sound to warn pedestrians at lower speeds that cannot be adjusted, which is the loudest I’ve experienced in a modern EV. There’s no way of turning off the sounds and it seems more natural than I expected considering how loud it is where it mimics a futuristic hum and somewhat of a whirling growl just as you come to a stop.
Electric Consumption and Efficiency
Just like the Audi RS e-tron GT’s platform mate, the Porsche Taycan, there’s the use of 800-volt architecture. The battery, an 83.7-kWh lithium-ion pack, gets you an EPA-estimated range of 232 miles. However, that mileage varies where I saw an estimate of 254 miles after a full charge here in hot 96-degree Florida weather where the battery may have been ideally conditioned. Moreover, from my calculations, I was able to extend that estimated range by driving conservatively around town, where I could have ended up with just over 260 miles if I kept with my soft driving style.
The Audi RS e-tron GT is one of the faster charging vehicles on the current EV market, where it tops off at a rate of 270-kW using a 350-kW DC fast charger. That permits charging from a 5% state of charge up to 80% in just 23 minutes. Using a home 240-volt Level 2 charger at 40 amps, you’ll be able to charge up at a rate of around 9.2-kW to 9.6-kW and leaving you with a full battery in 10 hours or less.
The EPA estimates of 79 MPGe city, 82 MPGe highway, and 81 MPGe combined equate to about 2.35 miles per kWh to 2.45 miles per kWh.
One new trick that Audi added for the 2023 model year is the RS e-tron GT gets two charge ports, one on the driver’s side just behind the front wheel being reserved just for Level 1 or Level 2 charging via a J1772 connector. On the passenger’s side, in the same opposite location, you have a port with the capability for a Level 3 charge connected through a CCS plug, which makes it convenient for pulling into charging stations or parking at home. You cannot open both charge doors at the same time, as one will lock when the other is open.
Interior and Technology
The cabin of the Audi RS e-tron GT is somewhat like a cockpit but still manages to offer seating for 5. The front seats, which are heated, are exceptional in comfort and support, even though they have a fixed headrest. The front seats also have 4-way power lumbar and thigh extender area. The rear seating is a far depart from the front as they prove to be very low, pushing your knees kind of high. The ingress and egress access for both the front and the back is horrible, especially if you are a taller person. I found myself constantly hitting the A-pillar and part of the B-pillar getting in the RS e-tron GT, and doing the same in the back is only worse. However, once you get into the vehicle up front, there’s quite an inviting space where all the controls are easy to reach, and your driving position is optimal for a low-slung vehicle.
The materials throughout are premium and luxurious, while you have generous carbon fiber trim and Alcantara in the right places. The infotainment system, mimicking other newer Audi vehicles, uses a single 10.1-inch touchscreen that’s mostly easy to use with just a short learning curve. The system is mostly responsive to inputs and nicely integrates wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The wireless smartphone charger under the armrest is rather small, and some larger phones may not fit in addition to the space getting very hot causing my iPhone to stop charging until it cooled off. The automatic climate control has a full array of physical buttons and toggle buttons that fit the expected “Audi” tactile sound and feel of other controls throughout the vehicle and the rear seating are has its own temperature control with outboard heated seats.
A color head-up display and Audi’s virtual cockpit gauge cluster complete the expected interaction for the driver, which may be an aged system but remains up-to-date from its initial forward-thinking design that integrates Google maps.
There’s not much storage in the cabin of the RS e-tron GT, and the rear cargo area opened through a power trunk lid is just 11 cubic feet. Though, there is a usable frunk (front trunk) with 9.2 cubic feet of storage space.
All the expected active safety features are included on the Audi RS e-tron GT, which include the highlights of blind-spot monitors, lane keeping/centering, lane departure warning/mitigation, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with emergency braking, pedestrian detection, rear cross-path detection, and a trick 360-degree camera system with a 360-degree surround view that can be modulated through the touchscreen to view different angles simulating a drone view.
Where things get a little ‘shocking,’ is in the price of the Audi RS e-tron GT, which comes to the as-tested level of $152,440 for my nicely equipped test vehicle. The starting price is $143,900, which is a big departure from the base price of the less powerful, lower trim-level Audi e-tron GT at the MSRP of $104,900. Such a price level is well above some EV competitors but much lower than the platform-sharing Porsche Taycan, which puts the Audi RS e-tron GT in an interesting place that may be quite attractive for performance and luxury EV enthusiasts.