Audi e-Tron GT: Expensive but brilliant, staggeringly desirable electric car
The Tesla Model S feels leaden-footed compared with this incredible driving experience
Now we just have to hope that Audi’s new-found magic electric touch can spread to the more affordable models that will wear the e-Tron badg
Model: e-Tron GT
Date Reviewed: April 7, 2021
It’s the lightness that gets you, that draws you in, and that reveals to you a glimpse of a world that you thought, but hardly dared believe, might be possible.
When I say lightness, I don’t mean the Audi e-Tron GT as a car itself. In fact, it’s as porky as a prize winner at Sausagefest, sitting at the kerb with 2.2-tonnes pushing down on its tyres. No, Audi’s new electric car is not light.
Its steering is, though, and that’s what I wasn’t expecting.
When you approach the e-Tron GT - a car that Audi’s head of design Marc Lichte reckons is the most beautiful he’s ever penned - your brain sort of automatically goes ‘electric A7’. You know it’s electric because there’s no real grille to speak of, and instead a lightly dimpled plastic plinth upon which the four-ringed badge perches. Your brain then shuffles through the taxonomy of the rest of the shape and goes ‘yup, that’s an A7.’
Except it’s not. Park an e-Tron GT next to an A7 Sportback and the e-Tron’s driver would be looking up at the A7’s wing mirror. It’s wider and lower than the A7, and makes that car suddenly, unexpectedly, seem bulky and slab-sided. Lichte and his team have, in the e-Tron GT, created a car that takes the A7’s four-door coupe as its genetic starting point, but mixes in a lot more TT Coupe than you might expect, leading to a shape that’s leaner, curvier, and downright sexier.
It helps that, underneath, there’s a new purpose-built electric car platform. Well, nearly-new. In fact, it’s the VW Group ‘J1’ electric car platform, which Audi has co-developed with Porsche, and which is already in service under the Taycan. In fact, under that sensuous skin, the e-Tron GT and the Taycan are pretty much identical twins.
There’s an electric motor at each end, giving ‘quattro’ four wheel drive (natch), and in between them is a big 93kWh battery, of which 83.7kWh is available to the driver on a full charge. Audi reckons it will go for as much as 488km before you’ll need to find a charging point again, which is decent, but seems a bit low-ball next to Tesla’s efforts.
However, Audi has compensated with the rapidity of the charging system. Also co-developed with Porsche, it can pump 800-volts into the e-Tron GT’s battery, topping it up to 80 per cent full (assuming you can get to one of the massively rapid 350kW Ionity charging points) in just 22-mins.
With both motors turning and (not) burning, the e-Tron GT has 350kW at its disposal, which equates to 475hp for those still counting in shillings. Except it doesn’t – actually, in “Boost” mode, the e-Tron GT quattro has a whopping 390kW, or 530hp, available, along with as much as 640Nm of torque. That gives it stunning performance. Stamp on the accelerator, and it will sprint to 100km/h in just 4.1 seconds. Audi will sell you, if you ask nicely, a still more rapid RS version of the GT, with 645hp, but honestly? There’s no point. This standard e-Tron GT is quite simply as fast and as furious as you would ever need a road-going car to be.
The lightness, though? Oh yes, that. Flick the little switch (and it’s still a proper tactile, real button thank god) marked Drive Select and dial up Dynamic mode. This sharpens up the e-Tron GT’s reflexes, stiffens the (optional) three-chamber air suspension, and tenses the electrical system’s electro-muscles, ready for performance. What it doesn’t do is add loads of fake weight and heft to the steering, which is what I was expecting it to do. Rapid Audis of old – and here I’m thinking back to the first generations of A7 and the A5 Coupe – did that, loading on the steering weight until you could barely turn the wheel.
Not the e-Tron GT. Like a Le Mans racing car, in which steering efforts are kept deliberately light so as to make them less tiring for drivers pounding around for 24 hours at a time (and let’s not forget that Audi has won Le Mans 13 times…) the GT’s steering is light and effortless, even in Dynamic mode.
It’s also not big on feedback and feel, so don’t go expecting this to be a high-kilowatt Lotus Elise, but it is incredibly accurate, direct, and incisive. And it makes the whole car, all 2.2-tonnes of e-Tron GT, feel lighter, more agile, dartier, and more engaging as a result.
All of the Audi quattro touchstones that you expect are there – traction, stability, that reassuring feeling of weight on the ground – but with those now comes an eagerness to change direction (aided by torque-vectoring between the rear wheels) that we’ve not really felt in any other electric car, up to this point. Tesla may be able to provide you with longer range on one charge (and its brilliant Supercharger network of charging points too, of course) but it can’t make any of its cars dance like this. Nor can it get anywhere near Audi’s level of cabin fit, finish, and quality.
As for the rest of the e-Tron GT, it ticks an awful lot of boxes. It’s tolerably roomy (with extra space for rear-seat passengers’ feet scooped out of the battery structure), has an acceptable boot (even if it’s a separate boot, rather than the A7-like hatchback we’d have preferred), and an extra 81-litres of space in the “frunk” under the bonnet.
The only drawback, really, is that it’s also €102,379 for this one. Or €140,376 for the RS version. Which means I’ll have to buy a Euromillions ticket again this week. You also won’t get one until July, because production is still gearing up, and at this price level, there’s unlikely to be any SEAI grant knocking €5,000 off the sticker (Audi Ireland, unsurprisingly, says it’s pretty sanguine about that fact).
It may lack the attention-grabbing nature of a Tesla, and then there’s the fact that a basic, rear-wheel drive, smaller-battery Porsche Taycan is actually quite a lot cheaper, but the Audi e-Tron GT arrives as not only a staggeringly desirable electric car, but one of the first that’s actually more fun to drive than many of its petrol equivalents.
Arguably the Porsche is still the sportier steer, and yes it can be had more cheaply, but only with reduced range, a “mere” 408hp, and without the advantage of four-wheel drive. If you want a two-motor Taycan with the big battery, then the Porsche is actually pricier than the Audi.
Maybe it’s a personal thing but, having grown up on west Cork roads, I’d always want the four-wheel drive model in this type of car, the one with maximum grip and capability. A rear-drive Taycan would still be a fantastic thing, but I’d always feel it was a lesser car than it could be.
The Tesla can offer you more interior space and much more claimed range, but cannot get even close to the e-Tron when it comes to overall quality, nor the driving experience. A Model S, good car though it is, feels leaden-footed to drive compared to the Audi.
Now we just have to hope that Audi’s new-found magic electric touch can spread to the more affordable models that will wear the e-Tron badge. That journey starts later this year with the Q4 e-Tron SUV.
Lowdown: Audi e-Tron GT quattro
Power: 350kW twin electric motor powertrain putting out 475hp (530hp on Boost) and 630Nm of torque (640Nm on Boost) with a two-speed automatix transmission and four-wheel drive.
CO2 emissions (annual motor tax): 0g/km (€120).
kWh consumption: 21.6kWh/100km.
WLTP range: 452-488km
0-100km/h: 4.5 seconds (4.1 seconds on Boost).
Price: €102,379 as tested.
Verdict: Pricey? Yes. Worth it? Oh yes.