Pure Dream Car
You have to give Audi credit for being one of the first luxury brands with an all-electric car. While BMW dabbled in electric with the i3 city car and the i8 plug-in hybrid sports car, it was Audi that dived head-first into electric driving with the e-tron SUV. Introduced in 2018 for the 2019 model year, the e-tron was a truly credible electric vehicle, and a truly credible luxury car – with decent range, spacious interior, and the build quality that high-end customers expected.
On sale now for four years, the e-tron (a revised version, the Q8 e-tron, is coming early in 2023) has been a success, upholding Audi’s reputation for solidity and high tech. But it’s hard to call it exciting: it’s an elegant, well-packaged SUV with decent performance, adequate range, and conservative styling. It ticks all of the boxes, but isn’t what you’d call a dream car.
The Audi e-tron GT, on the other hand, is pure dream car. It is long, wide, and sleek, like it’s a concept car that’s just driven off an auto show display. Even though it has four doors, its wide stance, huge wheels, and sleek roofline give it the proportions of a supercar. And then you look at the spec sheet and find out that up to 640 horsepower is on tap, with 0-60 delivered in just 2.9 seconds. The all-electric e-tron GT doesn’t just look like a supercar, it is a supercar.
A Porsche By Any Other Name?
Underneath its beautifully-designed skin, the e-tron GT – available in “base” form for a starting MSRP of $104,900 or the RS e-tron GT for a $142,400 MSRP before incentives – shares a lot of its with the excellent electric Porsche Taycan. Its key dimensions are the same, as are the basic suspension setup, the electric motors, two-speed transmission, and battery and charging system.
However, Audi has tuned all of the hardware for a very specific Audi-like feel that gives the e-tron GT a very different personality than the Porsche. While the Taycan is set up as a pure sports car, with very sharp steering, fairly firm suspension, and a super-responsive feel, the Audi e-tron GT is, as its name suggests, set up as a grand touring machine. Riding slightly higher, it’s a calmer, more comfortable car than the Taycan – and for most driving conditions, all the better for it.
Three things stand out about the way the e-tron GT drives. First, the ride quality is amazing. The four-corner adjustable air suspension, combined with the weight of the vehicle, smothers all of the imperfections in the road, especially in when in its most comfortable setting. Second, cornering grip is borderline astonishing: the huge wheels and tires and low center of gravity let the e-tron GT handle like a sports car even as it cruises like a luxury sedan. Third, the braking is amazing. Most of the time, the big Audi uses regenerative braking, only needing its giant four-wheel disc brakes when you push the pedal down really hard, but the transition between the two modes is seamless.
Of course, being an electric performance car, the e-tron GT is unbelievably fast. The “entry level” e-tron GT has 522 hp, driving through all four wheels, and gets from 0-60 mph in just 3.9 seconds. That’ll already blow most gasoline-powered sports cars into the weeds. Step up to the RS e-tron GT, and you get 638 hp, and the 0-60 time drops to just 2.9 seconds, fast enough to actually feel uncomfortable at full throttle. And the speed comes in such a seamless, silent rush – no screaming engines, no histrionics. You just blink and you’re there.
Tech You Can Use
Being a top-of-the-line Audi, you would expect the e-tron GT to be packed with technology – and it is. A full suite of advanced driver assistance systems comes standard. The adaptive cruise control system has a lane guidance feature, meaning the e-tron GT will not only maintain a safe distance from the vehicle ahead, but keep the car centered in your lane. Audi pre sense uses cameras and sensors front and rear to prevent collisions by automatically applying the brakes. Intersection assist uses sensors to detect cross traffic at intersections. And at lower speeds, parking assist and surround-view cameras make maneuvering this big car a cinch.
Inside, while the e-tron GT has the expected average of high-resolution screens (there’s a stunning 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster as well as a central touchscreen), the big story is actually ease of use. Connecting your smartphone wirelessly via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto is easy; there’s a wireless charging pad built into the console; and the infotainment system is simple to navigate. Best of all, instead of relying completely on capacitive touch controls like many modern cars, the e-tron GT actually uses physical switches and buttons for important functions like climate control, drive mode, and assistance systems. The steering wheel has satisfying switches for cruise control and audio, as well.
The e-tron GT’s technology extends beyond what you can see and touch. The biggest benefit for drivers may be its 800-volt electrical system. It not only means that there are fewer, and lighter, cables tying all of the car’s motors, batteries, and control units together; but also, it enables much faster charging times. The e-tron GT can charge at up to a maximum speed of 270 kW, which puts it near the top of the premium-car charts (though behind a couple of mainstream Korean models like the Hyundai Ioniq 5, which also uses an 800-volt architecture and can charge at 350 kW).
You will, unfortunately, need that charging speed if you are taking a long road trip. The e-tron GT is big, heavy, and fast – and the EPA estimates its range at a not-fantastic 236 miles in mixed use. That’s a fair bit less than Tesla promises from the Model S, and half of what Lucid claims its headline-grabbing Air sedan is capable of. Charging on a Level 3 fast charger will take the battery from 5% to 80% in just under 23 minutes. On the other hand, for most daily use, the e-tron GT’s range will be more than enough to do any set of daily tasks, and most owners will plug into a Level 2 charger overnight, departing the next day with a full charge.
Still an Audi Through and Through
If you can get over the less-than-optimal range figure, and can afford the six-figure starting MSRP, the e-tron GT is a very attractive package. It’s visually attractive inside and out, with all of the design and quality attributes you would expect from an Audi, just beamed in from the future. It is unbelievably attractive to drive – fast, comfortable, and with great handling and braking. And in comparison to the technically-related Porsche Taycan, it is actually financially attractive as well, with a much higher level of standard equipment bundled in from the factory.
The e-tron GT also offers buyers an easy transition from gasoline driving to electric driving for high-end customers. While it brings a lot of new to the table, there’s also a familiarity to its controls, to its Audi luxury and technology, and the sense of reassurance you get behind the wheel.
This is an impressive and deeply rewarding car to drive, and we suspect it would be a very rewarding car to own, as well.