Audi e-tron GT combines comfort, technology and performance
David Roy takes Audi's "first fully electric sportscar" the e-tron GT for a spin and ponders whether it's worth paying 'Porsche money' for a vehicle which shares the Taycan's underpinnings…
THERE'S something about the letters 'GT' that quickens the pulse of any car enthusiast, writes David Roy.
It's a Pavlovian reaction to the motoring world's shorthand for 'grand tourer', a boot lid suffix indicating an enticing combination of long-haul comfort and exciting performance.
Now, Audi are bringing the concept firmly into the 21st century with their all-electric e-tron GT quattro, a sister vehicle to the Porsche Taycan which shares its underpinnings.
Although Audi describe the e-tron GT as their "first fully electric sportscar", it's the 'GT' designation that really nails what this luxurious, dual-motor, 2+2 plug-in is all about.
While many EVs can suffer from a slightly harsh ride quality thanks to the stiffer suspension required to lug around weighty battery packs, the e-tron GT serenely glides you along highways, byways, Autobahns and A roads in leather upholstered, acoustic glazed, air suspension-cushioned comfort.
Then, when you plant the quiet pedal, the car makes an electronically generated spaceship-esque whooshing sound and everyone inside is suddenly pinned firmly to their seatbacks as the active rear spoiler pops up to deliver the extra downforce required to safely reach a top speed of 152mph.
With 0-62mph achieved from a standing start in a bracing 'Boost mode'-assisted 4.1 seconds, the e-tron GT is definitely no slouch - and the RS-badged variants are almost a full second quicker off the line, maximising the low-range potential of the e-tron GT's two-speed transmission on the rear axle. This feature ensures these cars never run out of puff, even at high speed, and their electric quattro all-wheel drive regulates torque distribution continuously.
The range extends from the 'basic' e-tron GT quattro (from £82,865 OTR) through the fancier e-tron GT quattro Vorsprung (from £108,965) and on to the RS e-tron GT quattro (from £113,915). The latter can be further enhanced by selecting the Carbon Black (£127,505) or range-topping Carbon Vorsprung (£136,305) trims.
On the subject of 'range', Audi claim the e-tron GT is capable of a channel-hopping friendly 298 miles on a single charge under WLTP conditions. Its real world driving figure is likely to be somewhat closer to 200 miles, so for longer journeys you'll need to take full advantage of the onboard Audi navigation system's ability to plot routes via charging points.
The 93kWh battery pack is capable of charging at 270kW and these super-fast charging points can provide an 80 per cent charge in around 30 minutes. However, they are thin on the ground: 50kW chargers will get the job done in 90mins.
Last week, I got to take a Vorsprung edition for a short spin. Audi are predicting that this trim level will account for 80 per cent of all UK e-tron GT sales, and it's certainly a well-specced option.
Going 'Vorsprung' adds the likes of (deep breath) an electrically adjustable heated steering wheel, heated/ventilated electric fine Nappa leather sports seats 'pro' with pneumatic bolster and massage function, premium B&O sound system, all-wheel steering, electronically controlled adaptive air suspension with continuously adaptive damping, Matrix LED headlights, night vision assistant, head-up display, parking assistance with surround view cameras and Remote Parking Pilot (a 'party trick' whereby the car can park itself without you even needing to be inside at the time), City Assist traffic detection and a Tour Pack with adaptive cruise control/assist, active lane assist, efficiency assist, turn assist, swerve assist and traffic sign recognition (gasp, wheeze and fall to the floor) to the standard e-tron GT's already lavish spec.
Is all that worth the extra £25k you'll pay over the sticker price of a standard e-tron GT? Well, you could just get a standard e-tron GT quattro and add the £8,190 cost-option Comfort and Sound Pack plus which includes the Matrix LED headlights, premium sound system, sports seats 'pro' and – most importantly – the adaptive air suspension.
You really want the latter for the super comfortable and stable ride it creates, soaking up speed bumps and potholes with ease, although sadly the 'driving on rails' experience created by the all-wheel steering package is not available as an option – for that, you'll need to pony up for a full-on Vorsprung or RS model.
A panoramic non-opening sunroof helps lighten up a smart looking and intentionally monochromatic cabin space swathed in soft-touch black leather upholstery (non-leather is available as a £2,580 option) and, on the Vorsprung and RS versions, carbon fibre dash trim. Annoyingly, the top-specced RS versions are only available with an opaque carbon roof clad in a light-sucking black headlining.
As you would demand from a GT car of this nature, the sporty looking front seats are actually super comfortable even as they hold you firmly in place. Driving position is excellent, giving you a clear view over the front of this low-slung four-door coupe that's neatly framed by a wheel arch bulge on each wing, although I found that with the seat pushed back to accommodate my 6ft frame, e-tron GT's prominent B-pillars did occasionally interfere with side-on visibility at junctions.
While Audi are marketing the e-tron GT as a five-seater, don't be expecting to fit three people in the back without complaint: the middle seat is extremely uncomfortable, at least for a human adult. Happily, the other two rear seats are much better, being heated and offering plenty of leg and knee room – although those over 6ft may find their heads doing battle with that sloping rear roofline on corners.
Boot space is rather limited at just 336l in the rear (the Tesla Model S offers 744l of storage), though the 'froot' at the front does offer an additional 81l of luggage capacity.
Once underway with only a low level of road noise and the electric whine of the twin motors as your soundtrack, it's easy to pretend you're driving a Batmobile, though the e-tron GT's sleek yet pleasingly subtle 'soap bar' styling makes it look more like something Bruce Wayne might drive when not fighting crime, especially when finished in our test car's lowkey shade of Daytona Grey metallic. If you really want to turn heads in one of these, you'd best opt for a bright paint job like Tango Red metallic (a £950 cost option) or one of the even jazzier Audi Exclusive paint finishes (£4,275).
The car's cockpit tech is similarly unshowy, with all driver info delivered via a centrally mounted 10.1-inch touch screen and the 12.3-inch virtual cockpit display behind the steering wheel. Audi's onboard computer and navigation systems are pretty easy to navigate via the responsive touch screen and a selection of voice commands, and the car is Apple Carplay and Android Auto-ready.
Fans of old-skool controls will appreciate the push buttons located below the touchscreen for adjusting cabin temperature, heated seat settings, traction control and drive mode (selectable from 'comfort', 'efficiency', 'dynamic' and 'individual') - although having the latter mounted on the steering wheel itself would be better.
The flappy paddles behind the wheel are not linked to gears: they actually control the re-gen braking settings, which can be adjusted to provide a maximum engine braking effect equivalent to -0.3g. That's not quite enough to facilitate full-on 'one pedal' driving, but it does make driving such a heavy car – 2,347kg, to be precise ¬– feel that bit more manageable.
To be honest, you don't notice that bulk when driving: the e-tron GT's lithium-ion battery is located under the floor between its axles, giving it close to 50:50 weight distribution, and the quattro regulated all-wheel steering makes it feel extremely grippy and precise even during enthusiastic cornering.
Throttle response is nicely measured for such a powerful car, making it very driveable at low speeds around town, but a quick poke of the right foot quickly reminds you there's 523hp on tap from those twin electric motors.
While the e-tron GT Vorsprung was extremely comfortable and pleasant to drive, it didn't really get my pulse racing in the way I'd expected. The 'hotter' standard RS edition rated at 646hp might be the one to go for, if you have the means, for a slightly more noticeably potent blend of performance and comfort.
However, since by that stage you're paying 'Porsche money' at north of £110k, the question arises: – wouldn't you be better off just buying a Taycan – another fine looking GT - to take advantage of those legendarily solid Porsche residual values?
Decisions, decisions, decisions…
AT A GLANCE: Audi e-tron-GT
- Price (OTR): from £82,865 / Vorsprung edition from £108,965
- Engine and drivetrain: Twin electric motor, 93.4kWh battery, all-wheel drive
- Power & Torque: 523hp / 472lb ft (in 'Boost' mode)
- 0-62 mph: 4.1 secs (in 'Boost' mode) / RS e-tron GT: 3.3 secs (in 'Boost' mode)
- Top speed: 152 mph
- Maximum electric range (WLTP): 296 miles / Vorsprung edition: 298 miles
- Combined electric power consumption (WLTP): 21.6-19.9 kWh/100
- Benefit in Kind: 1 per cent
- Emissions: 0g/km
- Euro NCAP rating: Five stars (Porsche Taycan, 2019)