There has been a surge in EV demand recently. And if you didn’t know, the premium Tesla Model Y has dethroned the humble Toyota Corolla as the highest-selling vehicle globally for Q1 of 2023. That’s a first for an EV! This means that people are spending more on vehicles and electric mobility is gaining favour.
Speaking of EVs, not all are overtly practical save-the-world-type crossovers. There are a few that are designed to capture the essence of driving like the Audi RS e-tron GT. Yes, it produces no tailpipe emissions and if you charge it from a grid powered by renewable sources it too can be remarkably ‘green’. But we’re here to find out if it’s the ultimate electric grand tourer that money can buy.
Design & aesthetics
The e-tron badge is shared with its electric SUV siblings. This, however, is a near-5 metre long, low-slung swoopy sedan cleverly disguised as a 2-door coupe. And there are also plenty of details to banter about during boardroom breaks, for example, the matrix headlamps have powerful laser technology to light the way ahead and the animated rear light strip reminds one of the flashing red light on KITT from the popular 80’s show, Knight Rider. And since it doesn’t need radiator cooling or produce exhaust fumes, being an EV, the ‘Singleframe grille’ upfront has been replaced with a hexagonal textured panel and the rear valance gets a clean look, void of exhaust pipes. It even has dual-tone 21-inch wheels that are aero optimised.
While it shares the platform with the Porsche Taycan, they are completely distinguishable. Some may prefer Porsche’s aesthetic, while others Audi’s typical, clean, and understated visual. Too understated, I reckon, especially for something that starts at Dh624,900. But some colour correction can raise spirits. Just opt for a bright shade like the Vegas yellow (bright lemon yellow) and it will display all of its body’s cuts and curves elevating its look further.
The GT sits low to the ground, so deliberate antics to slide into the seat are required. You got to watch out for the pointy dashboard piece too else you’re bound to knock your knee sometime. Inside it’s a familiar scene if you've driven Audis before. The black base interior gets highlights in the form of an ambient light system, contrast red stitching that goes on the dash and seats, and red seat belts. And there is a fair dose of carbon-fibre and alcantara trims to keep the feeling rich. The electrically adjustable body-hugging sports seats and the chunky 3-spoke flatbottom steering borrowed from the RS6 are a big plus but the view out the back is dismal, and the B-pillar blocks your sight out the passenger side, so visibility isn’t perfect.
Expectedly, it gets a very vivid 12.3-inch digital driver’s display with lovely customisation options and while the central 10.1-inch infotainment screen can be considered large in isolation, it is dwarfed by the ginormous screens of EVs today. Where the Taycan falters with its fancy schmancy digital controls, the well-damped physical switchgear for the HVAC and driving modes controls in the GT come across as a win. What I do have a problem with is the placement of the central air-con vents. The top of the dash is always preferred to the location under the screen — the draft just hits better.
The rear is an acceptable space even for 6-footers in the outboard seats with adequate knee and just about enough headroom. But the middle seat is best reserved for preadolescent kids or handbags.
Overall, it’s a cosy and charming environment but it could do with a few gizmos like pop-up speakers and screens, etc. considering its positioned as the pinnacle lifestyle EV. And it's not like Audi hasn’t done it before.
Powertrain & performance
The RS e-tron GT is fully electric, so there isn’t a supplementary gasoline engine like in a hybrid and no solar panels either like in the Lightyear 0. What it has is a 93 kWh Li-ion battery which is hooked up to dual synchronous electric motors, one for each axle. To get it charged you can open a flap on either of the front-side fenders and connect the ports to an AC or DC charger using one of the many cables provided.
Easy, practical? Not quite! In the real world, things aren’t as simple. You see, adding to the long list of psychological conditions of the technological era is a new one, range anxiety. The fear of running out of electric juice and not knowing where the next charging station is, can be daunting. It’s nothing like getting to a petrol station somewhere close by and getting a tank full in minutes. There is a fair bit of planning involved. But the GT manages this condition well. Firstly, it can deliver a claimed range of 472 km (on a good day), which is quite acceptable. Secondly, if you can get yourself to a rare, but available 800V DC charger and you can go from 5% to 80% in just 22.5 min; or 5 mins for 100 kms in case you’re in a hurry. But what’s most common is the 11kW AC charger and that would get you to the brim in a few hours, a duration you can write off as weekend shopping. You could also charge it off a domestic wall socket which would take about 10 hours. According to Audi’s website, there are 56 charge points on the 149 km route to Abu Dhabi, but I suggest downloading an app like Plugshare and/or joining an EV community on WhatsApp before you do the long haul.
Now, it's time to focus on its performance credentials. This thing is built to rip as are most EVs by default. Engage launch control and all you need is 3.3 seconds to get to a ton and it will continue to accelerate at a violent rate, just a whisker behind the Taycan Turbo. This is remarkable considering it weighs a staggering 2,345 kg. And thanks to the low centre of gravity and the tractive quality of the quattro all-wheel drive system you can zip around corners and switch lanes with confidence. While you engage its throttle during your antics, it even makes an interesting “whoosh” sound that graduates with speed — very spaceship-like. The regenerative braking is less intrusive and has a lot more finesse than other EVs. But of course, for proper shredding of speed, you always can rely on those tungsten-carbide-coated discs.
But even when you’re coasting down the highway with the drive mode set to ‘Comfort’, it’s a pleasure to ride in quite unlike gas-powered supercars of the same calibre. The adaptive air suspension is not only able to adjust ride height but manages to soak up all the tarmac irregularities well. The sound insulation is also top drawer.
Features & practicality
While it's a sleek sporty sedan it does have adequate space to lug your belongings. The charging cables do eat up some of the 350 litres of boot space, but then you also have the frunk with an extra 85 litres. In the boot, there is an elastic floor net to keep things stationary and a 12V socket for charging devices. The glovebox is of an average size and the central cubby is small but you do get 2 cupholders. And the doors can just about hold a Prime energy drink.
Where safety is a concern the e-tron has your back. It's got ISOFIX child seat anchors but getting it stalled is a minor hassle because of its ride height. It also comes with parking sensors, a 360° display, blind sport warning, and adaptive cruise control, making low-speed maneuvers and highway travel easy.
The panoramic glass roof is fancy. And I had my doubts about how much heat it lets into the cabin. But rest assured, the car remained relatively cool even after leaving it under the sun. And that kind of insulation paired with an efficient 3-zone climate control system, ventilated seats, and massage functions makes it a rather comfy cabin. As for entertainment, the booms from the Bang & Olufsen system are a good way to get over the lack of the V8 rumble and you can stream those tunes via Bluetooth. But they need to rework the awkward wireless charger location. And if anything falters, you have a 5-year/75k km warranty to fall back on.
As the global EV markets get crowded with crossovers and impractical hypercars, Audi has brought to the scene the RS e-tron GT, a competent grand tourer that shines on the drag strip and around tracks, as it does in terms of reasonable practicality, space, and features. While it executes typical Audi virtues of build quality and user-friendliness, it lacks some in the aesthetic department and that’s only because at around Dh700,000 price, I want to be awed not content. Also, somehow it seems to play second fiddle to the Taycan. Ask anyone! But if you choose to drive one home, make your 4-person family (not more) travel light and you have a DC charger in your vicinity for keeping the EV ownership experience a luxurious one.
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