Audi RS E-tron GT evaluate: electric extravagance

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I received’t mince phrases: the 2021 Audi RS E-tron GT is fingers down among the finest electric automobiles I’ve ever pushed. It’s beautiful, refined, extremely highly effective, however additionally it is very, very costly.

The E-tron GT is the right instance of why generally it pays to be a part of a world conglomerate just like the Volkswagen Group. Rather than attempt to cram its pre-existing EV structure right into a sportier bundle, Audi merely borrowed the one utilized by its sister firm Porsche for its first all-electric sports activities automobile, the Taycan.

The result’s every part an electric sports activities sedan is meant to be: quick, opulent, and a bit cussed in its adherence to conventional design. While some electric automobiles are simply high-end computer systems within the form of a automobile, the Audi E-tron GT is concerned with being a automobile first. There’s no oppressively big touchscreen, no undercooked semi-autonomous security system, nothing that ought to give anybody with a sufficiently big checking account any purpose to pause earlier than clicking “yes” on a purchase order.

Some would argue that the E-tron GT is only a rebodied Taycan, they usually’d be completely proper. And what’s mistaken with that? The Taycan can be a improbable electric sports activities automobile. They had been developed alongside one another and share a powerful 800-volt structure that permits fast charging. The E-tron GT’s twin electric motors — one within the entrance axle and one within the rear — allow between 522 and 637 horsepower relying on the mannequin and an progressive two-speed transmission that makes for breathtaking take-offs.

But all that magnificence and energy don’t come low-cost. The Audi RS E-tron GT, which begins at $140,000, is costlier than the Taycan, the Tesla Model S, and the Mercedes-Benz EQS. It’s additionally pricier than the Audi RS7, which is an opulent velocity demon in its personal proper. As far as I can inform, it’s costlier than most luxurious EVs, a section that’s rising quickly.

Normally, after I get a loaned automobile, I attempt to combine it into my on a regular basis life: taking the youngsters to high school, groceries, errands, and so forth. But the E-tron GT demanded a distinct tact. It’s not that I couldn’t convey myself to sully the backseat with a automobile seat or let my youngsters wipe their soiled sneakers on the seatbacks. Rather, it was as a result of the E-tron GT is a complicated driving machine and calls for to be handled with respect.

Stand on the accelerator, and you’ll see why. The RS E-tron GT boasts 440kW, or about 590 horsepower, and in overboost mode, that quantity jumps to 637 horsepower. It can dash to 60mph (100 km/h) in 3.3 seconds — not as fast as 2.2 seconds boasted by the Taycan Turbo S, however actually spectacular when you think about the E-Tron GT weighs over 5,000 kilos.

I’ve pushed sufficient EVs that the joys of near-instantaneous torque has misplaced a little bit of its shine. Nonetheless, the RS E-tron GT managed to get my blood pumping each time I stomped on that accelerator: the skittering sound of fall leaves blasting out from below the again 21-inch tires, after which a whoosh as I used to be shoved again into the leather-based seats. (Artificial leather-based and microfiber are additionally obtainable as an choice.)

The steering felt correct, and the slight physique roll felt mandatory to present the driving force a great sense of the highway. The RS will get torque-vectoring and rear-axle steering as commonplace, whereas base mannequin homeowners might want to cough up an additional $6,000 for these options. The wedge-shaped physique dealt with itself ably on particularly curvy roads, and the brakes had been extraordinarily environment friendly at hauling the Audi down from velocity — which is nice as a result of, when driving this automobile, you have a tendency to make use of the brakes loads.

Unlike some opponents, Audi doesn’t provide one-pedal driving that’s usually provided in most EVs. The most regenerative braking, which is activated by plus- and minus-paddles on the steering column, doesn’t sluggish the automobile down that a lot. The result’s an electric sedan that drives imperceptibly from a traditional gas-powered one, which might assist win some followers who’re skeptical about shifting to battery energy however might disappoint followers of one-pedal driving.

One of the smartest options is the power to regulate what Audi calls the “listener experience,” which is one other approach of describing the bogus sounds the automobile makes at low speeds. Electric automobiles are legally required to make an exterior noise so different highway customers can hear them coming. Audi took what might have been a uninteresting process and made it quirky. Among the sound samples used had been a mannequin helicopter and a didgeridoo.

It’s not not possible to select the sonic nuances whereas driving the E-tron GT, however the total impact is form of misplaced. You’re left with a digital whirring sound that isn’t that dissimilar from quite a lot of different EVs I’ve pushed not too long ago. And my mind shouldn’t be thus far gone as to want it over a V10 engine roar.

The E-tron GT makes a man-made sound at low velocity.
Photo by Phil Esposito / The Verge

RS interprets from the German Renn Sport, which accurately means racing sport.
Photo by Andrew Hawkins / The Verge

There are two charging ports, one on both facet.
Photo by Phil Esposito / The Verge

When charging the Audi RS E-tron GT, you inevitably run into the identical issues as you’d with each electric automobile that isn’t a Tesla: the dearth of a proprietary community of EV chargers. That mentioned, the E-tron GT doesn’t lack in choices. There are connections for alternating present on each side, and on the proper, there’s additionally a connection for direct present.

Audi advertises 232 miles of vary on a full battery, which falls far wanting different equally priced luxurious EVs, just like the Model S (412 miles), EQS (350 miles), or Lucid Air (520 miles). I didn’t deal with any steep hills, so presumably, the E-tron GT’s battery drained at a standard charge whereas I had the automobile.

Audi claims that its 800-volt system allows ultra-fast charging. Just 5 minutes on a high-speed charging community like Volkswagen’s Electrify America, and the E-tron GT will recuperate 100 kilometers, or 62 miles, of vary. As all the time, the corporate is assuming a charge of cost that usually exceeds what most chargers, even quick chargers, truly dole out.

Audi doesn’t have its personal charging community, like Tesla.
Photo by Andrew Hawkins / The Verge

It took a number of days of driving to empty the battery beneath 40 p.c. I charged it as soon as at dwelling utilizing the 120-volt outlet in my storage, solely including a pair miles of vary after a full eight hours of trickle charging. I additionally charged it at a public DC quick charger, the place it took 42 minutes to cost from 45 p.c to 80 p.c. That was at a 45kW charge — lower than half the marketed high charge of 150kW.

It ought to be famous that Audi doesn’t have its personal charging community, like Tesla. But the automaker is providing a few workarounds, together with three years of complimentary DC quick charging by way of VW’s Electrify America. (There’s that synergy once more!) Audi E-tron GT prospects may also get discounted in-home charging installations by way of a partnership with EV charging supplier Qmerit. Still, it received’t be sufficient to assuage any of the charging nervousness many EV-hesitant automobile patrons expertise.

The micro-suede steering wheel is unbelievable.
Photo by Phil Esposito / The Verge

The rear-facing digicam additionally affords a cool 3D rendering of the automobile.
Photo by Andrew Hawkins / The Verge

There is a whole lot of carbon fiber on this automobile.
Photo by Phil Esposito / The Verge

To step contained in the E-tron GT is to enter a well-recognized world. There’s a touchscreen show and bodily buttons for the HVAC system. The air vents are actual air vents. There’s a middle console, gear stalk, and different bodily touchpoints that will appear quaint in an EV world dominated by Tesla. This shouldn’t be an aggressively minimized EV inside, neither is it one designed to overwhelm the senses. Sure, there’s a whole lot of carbon fiber — perhaps an excessive amount of? — however the total feel and appear of the inside is modern and compact.

Front-seat area is beneficiant, however the cockpit is noticeably slender, and the view out the again window is restricted. I feel I could have pulled a muscle making an attempt to get out and in of this automobile, due to the low peak and smallish door openings. The RS mannequin comes with black leather-based sport seats with pink stitching, which actually hug your physique and are designed with 14 totally different adjustable settings, local weather management, therapeutic massage features — you title it. The steering wheel was lined in a delicate suede that was completely dynamite to the touch.

One of the odder options is the inclusion of a touch-sensitive knob to regulate the quantity on the middle console between the seats. Tim Stevens from Roadshow likens it to the notorious click-wheel on an iPod, and I’ve to agree. But whereas he discovered it awkwardly positioned, I grew to actually prefer it, to the purpose the place I missed it whereas driving different automobiles. Of course, you possibly can nonetheless management the quantity from the steering wheel, nevertheless it appeared like a pleasant contact for passengers who might wish to skip tracks or alter the quantity with out having to futz with the touchscreen.

The Audi RS E-tron GT is an unbelievable automobile to drive, full cease.
Photo by Andrew Hawkins / The Verge

The base mannequin E-tron GT comes with a glass roof that may’t be opened and isn’t tinted sufficient to dam the solar. The RS model that I drove, nonetheless, swaps that out for an all-carbon-fiber roof. The automobile already ideas the scales at 5,000 kilos, so it looks as if Audi went with the carbon fiber to save lots of a bit little bit of weight.

The 10.1-touchscreen runs on Audi’s completely serviceable MIB3 software program, which wirelessly helps each Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. One of my favourite options was the backup digicam, which features a 3D rendering of the automobile to assist navigate these particularly tight parking areas. Otherwise, the infotainment system was fairly bland. I preferred the built-in nav system — the directional cues had been simple to observe, and the map itself wasn’t overly cluttered — however contemplating it runs off of a Google API, there was no compelling purpose to not simply run Google Maps by way of CarPlay as an alternative.

I used to be not impressed with the parking help function that’s imagined to information the automobile right into a parking area with restricted enter from the driving force. The interface was opaque, and finally, I gave up on making an attempt to make it work. The driver-assist system was fantastic, although you’ll should pay $2,250 to get superior options like lane-keep help and adaptive cruise management. And why would you need some software program driving your RS E-tron GT for you anyway?

Audi is getting into a really crowded section.
Photo by Phil Esposito / The Verge

It’s been almost a decade because the Tesla Model S kicked off the EV race with its swish mix of technological effectivity and addictively enjoyable driving fashion. Since then, the remainder of the auto business has piled into the posh EV section, bringing their very own distinctive fashion whereas making an attempt to enhance on Tesla’s well-established points with fit-and-finish.

In addition to the refreshed Model S Plaid (launched this yr), we’ve bought the Mercedes-Benz EQS, Jaguar I-Pace, Polestar 2, and Porsche Taycan, which is the non secular cousin to the E-tron GT. Other automobiles slated for imminent launch embrace the Cadillac Lyriq, BMW i4, Lexus LF-Z, and Lucid Air.

The luxurious electric market is clearly in overdrive, and the RS E-tron GT is the newest instance of the kind of refined driving machine you may get with sufficient cash within the financial institution. It doesn’t beat Tesla on vary, nor does it do a lot to enhance on the Taycan, which is available in a barely cheaper bundle.

What it does provide is a design that’s solely Audi. It’s a cultured, villainous entrant to the posh EV market, and it units the stage for extra to come back.

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