Anyone who still says that electric cars aren’t as good to drive as petrol cars needs to drive the all-electric Audi RS e-tron GT, which can be a very refined five-seater luxury saloon, or a crazy zero emission racing car.
Audi’s first all-electric production car of recent years car was the e-tron SUV. There’s now another e-tron, the e-tron GT, which is an all-electric sports saloon, and there’s also the RS e-tron GT, as tested, which, with 598PS of power, 830Nm of torque, and a 0-62mph time of 3.3 seconds, should meet the needs of most drivers in the market for a performance car.
From certain angles, the Audi RS e-tron GT has hints of a Porsche Taycan, and that’s because both cars share the same platform. That means a big (93.4 kWh) lithium-ion battery in the floor, a body that’s wide and low, with four doors, five seats, and quattro all-wheel drive. There’s no hatchback, but at 350 litres, the boot is a reasonable size.
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Let’s cover the headlines first: the Audi RS e-tron GT has massive performance, with 598PS of power, 830Nm of torque, and a 0-62mph time of 3.3 seconds. It also has quattro all-wheel drive (and very wide tyres), so the huge power is delivered to the road very capably. The car is low and wide, with the battery in the floor – and there’s a carbon fibre roof and door mirrors – so there’s a very low centre of gravity. This means that the RS e-tron GT goes around corners as though it’s on rails – although there’s a slight rear-wheel drive bias to help make it more rewarding. And despite the large (20-inch) wheels and low profile tyres, the ride quality is very good.
Our week-long test included a drive from Manchester to York, York to the Lake District, a week in the Lake District, and a return trip to Manchester. The majority of the time the RS e-tron GT performed like a top of the range Audi luxury saloon, being very refined and comfortable on all roads including motorways (although those very wide tyres do create some noise). But if you find the right road, you’ll soon discover the benefits of this all-electric powertrain. Floor the accelerator and the response is instant and massive. There’s even an accompanying sporty soundtrack.
For the ultimate test, the RS e-tron GT was presented with the challenge of tackling the Wrynose Pass and the Hardknott Pass in the Lake District – two very steep climbs with lots of sharp bends – on the hottest day of the year. This route has been driven by Green Car Guide many times over many years, while testing a wide variety of cars ranging from petrol to diesel to plug-in hybrid and electric. The difference between a petrol and an electric powertrain was starkly displayed by a high performance off-road motorbike happening to be in front of the e-tron over the route having terminal clutch failure just before the top of the Hardknott Pass. In comparison the e-tron sped effortlessly up every hill with instant responses and huge levels of grip, with the 30 degree heat having no impact. For anyone still in any doubt, this is a perfect example of why electric cars are better than petrol cars.
At this point we should note that the RS e-tron GT weighs almost two and a half tonnes, so it’s more Le Mans racing car than agile sports car. It’s also very wide – almost as wide as most roads in the Lake District.
The RS e-tron GT interior is almost identical to many of the latest petrol-powered Audis, which in our view is a very good thing. This means that it’s high quality and high tech – including the digital instrument display, high definition central touchscreen, and head-up display. And unlike some other EVs, there are physical buttons – including for heating and ventilation – which again in our view is a good thing.
There are drive modes of Efficiency, Comfort (which is the default setting), Dynamic and Individual. There’s a small gear selector – a fashionable thing for car designers at the moment – with options of R, N and D, but no B for increased brake regeneration. There are steering wheel-mounted paddles to adjust the regen, but the change is only temporary.
One aspect of the car that didn’t prove ideal in the Lake District was the slightly over-sensitive collision avoidance system. This means that the car jams on the brakes itself if it thinks you’re going to hit something. When you’re maneuvering into a passing place on a very narrow road and the car slams on the brakes itself because it thinks you’re going to crash into a few blades of grass, and then it won’t let you move the car, it can cause chaos with other cars trying to squeeze past.
The official WLTP combined electric driving range of the Audi RS e-tron GT is 293 – 269 miles. After a week of mixed driving we averaged 240 miles on a full charge.
The RS e-tron GT has a drag coefficient of Cd 0.24, which is very aerodynamic (you would hope this to be the case with its low and sporty body style, despite the wide wheels), which aids the efficiency (slightly counteracting the car’s weight).
Like the e-tron SUV, the GT has two charging points. A CCS rapid charging port on the passenger side front wing and a Type 2 connector in the same location on the driver’s side. At a 270kW charger, Audi claims a 5% to 80% charge in just 23 minutes. An 11kW onboard charger comes as standard and a 22kW charger is available as an option. A full charge at a domestic wallbox, such as the MyEnergy Zappi in the photo, courtesy of Rightcharge, takes around 13.5 hours.
Electric cars do not charge at their maximum charge rate for an entire charging session – their charge rate typically starts off high with a battery with a low state of charge, then the charge rate decreases as the battery charge increases. See the charge curve for the Audi RS e-tron GT from Fastned:
The RS e-tron GT quattro 598PS 440kW Carbon Vorsprung, as tested, is the top of the range model, with a base price of £132,625. On top of this was the Daytona Grey metallic paint (£950), and options included the extended leather pack (£1,665), garage door opener (£250), air quality package (£240) and heated windscreen (£450). Our test car was an early UK production car and some of these options are not available to order on UK models, and the Carbon Vorsprung trim should also include the following options: RS design package (£1,890) and red brake calipers (£500). The total cost for our test model was £134,565. If you want to save some pennies there’s also the (non-RS) Audi e-tron GT.
With a price of £134,565, the Audi RS e-tron GT can’t be described as being at the more affordable end of EV options. However, let’s just ignore the price for a moment and take a look at the bigger picture. We need to move to cars with zero tailpipe emissions for the well documented reasons of climate change and local air quality. There are lots of excellent EVs on sale at more affordable prices. One of the more challenging target audiences to convert to EVs is the group of drivers who like performance cars. As our challenge of tackling the Wrynose Pass and the Hardknott Pass showed, the Audi RS e-tron GT, with its instantly available 830Nm of torque and quattro all-wheel drive, is more capable than petrol performance vehicles. For delivering an amazing driving experience that should keep the majority of petrolheads happy, with zero tailpipe emissions, the Audi RS e-tron GT is awarded a Green Car Guide rating of 10 out of 10.