CALABASAS, California – The 2022 Audi E-Tron GT won’t go on sale in the U.S. until sometime this summer, but last week we had the opportunity to drive a German RS E-Tron GT version from Ingolstadt’s predecessor production fleet (above pictured). Audi has high hopes for its new luxury sedan and calls it a headlight car for its E-Tron sub-brand for electric vehicles. And yet it’s impossible to discuss the E-Tron GT without mentioning the Porsche Taycan.
When the idea of modern electric cars first hit the market around the turn of the century, auto managers practically fumed about how simple (and therefore inexpensive) a car could be. Ideas like selling a single skateboard chassis to customers that they could ride on sw bods from sports cars to minivans was openly discussed. Two decades later, the market has not shifted to cars that can be changed like Lego bricks. In fact, brand identity is more important than ever, especially at the expensive end of the market.
Both the E-Tron GT and the Taycan were developed in parallel on the platform known internally as the J1 platform. They have a lot of hardware in common, starting with an 800-volt system (as opposed to Teslas’ 400-volt system) that reduces charging times and the weight of the 93 kWh battery in equal measure. Both share a heat pump that uses coolant lines to transfer heat from high voltage electrical components to the batteries to keep them working at the ideal temperature.
The similarities don’t end there. Both cars use the same underlying architecture with two electric motors and therefore AWD. Both have a rear axle with an electronically lockable differential and e-torque vector. Porsche calls it PTV, Audi calls it Quattro 2.0, but it’s all just branding. Both have rear-wheel steering and three-chamber air suspension which, according to Audi, has 60% more volume than the other air springs, which allows greater variation between the modes.
Despite the many similarities, the Audi differs quite well from the Taycan. As a super high-tech machine, the Porsche is at the forefront of the electric revolution. The Audi comes closer to a traditional car and shares the difference between a traditional ICE luxury sedan like the RS7 and the future of the Taycan.
First and foremost there is the styling. The Taycan is slimmer than one war of stars Stormtrooper helmet and is as much a departure from the Porsche norm as you can get these days. The E-Tron GT is much more aligned with the rest of the brand portfolio. As with other Audis, there is an appearance of a grille, even when filled with diamond-textured plastic. We dig the muscular shape of the fenders and rear hips, and the spaces in between are filled with dramatic character lines and curves. An RS7 immediately looks flat.
Part of that is the fact that the E-Tron GT is 2 inches from the height of the RS7 and is 1 inch wider. The only Audi with a lower roofline is an R8. Sure, if you relax your pupils like you’re staring into a magical eye poster, you can see Porsche-like curves in the rear three-quarter view, but it wouldn’t be absurd to say the E-Tron GT looks better. Head of Design Marc Lichte calls it “the most beautiful car I’ve ever written”.
However, it’s the interior where the E-Tron GT really makes itself an art. The first thing you’ll notice is that the lower MMI screen of high-end Audis is no longer there and is being replaced by physical buttons for climate control. Below that there is another row for driving mode, traction control, parking cameras and the like. As chic as touchscreens are, we actually prefer the Audis (you know, the happy ones) that had knobs and buttons around. Ironically, here it’s the E-Tron GT that sticks to tactile switchgear, while the Taycan is doing so well that you’d expect Max Headroom to show up and sell you a new Coke.
The cabin itself is a beautiful setting that plunges you into decadent materials. Dinamica imitation suede is standard and there are six different shades of Npa leather if you wish. We should note that Audi has told us that the Arras Red leather you see on our RS E-Tron GT tester is slightly different from US production. The interior feels more intimate than that of an A7 and cocoons you in a smaller space. The driver and navigator don’t mind, but passengers in the back seats may feel a bit cramped. It is not the legroom that is sufficient due to the rear footwells due to the negative space in the battery pack, but the sloping C-pillars that can penetrate your temples.
Audi is understandably valuable for the Daytona Gray RS E-Tron GT that we tested. During our drive through the winding Santa Monica Mountains, handlers were ahead and behind us in separate vehicles. Although short, our spin showed some interesting properties.
The car rolls out with a friendly, technical wail similar to that of the Taycan, or with some kind of hovering mode of transport in a science fiction film. But crush the pedal and the start is nothing short of immediate. It’s a cliché to say that acceleration is pushing you against the seat, but it does. With 637 horsepower and 612 pound-feet to t, the RS E-Tron GT goes from 0 to 60 in just 3.1 seconds (the non-RS has 522 horsepower and 464 pound-feet and takes 3.9 seconds).
But that doesn’t mean it’s turbulent. A fast ICE sports car like the Nissan GT-R NISMO growls as it scratches the asphalt. You can feel the crunch of metal and the swirling of machines around you. The RS E-Tron GT, on the other hand, simply picks up the pace as if it were floating on a beam of light, with only slightly louder hum and wind noises.
Most surprising, however, is the steering behavior of the RS E-Tron GT. Given the relaxed feel of the A6 and A7, a certain amount of drive-by-wire blurring was expected. Instead, the steering returned feedback that, for lack of a better term, was Porsche-like. Thanks to a heavy battery in the floor, which sucks the center of gravity far down, body roll is imperceptible.
The RS is equipped with ceramic brakes (16.5 inches at the front, 16.1 inches at the rear) that, despite a curb weight of 5,139 pounds, bring it to an effective stop without fading. We didn’t get a chance to test that the 16.1-inch front and 14.4-inch rear steel brakes do the same for the non-RS’s 5,060 pounds. That’s still a lot of bulk and prevents the RS E-Tron GT from making the raw connection to the road you would get from a real sports car. On the flip side, the E-Tron GT is likely to blow this sports car away in any quantifiable metric. We couldn’t drive it at freeway speed either, or even on the freeway at all, but we believe the mass (along with the all-wheel steering) will actually give the RS a sense of supreme stability at sustained cruising speed, just like a proper GT should.
In half an hour of spirited driving, we saw the range drop from a nearly full charge of 220 miles to 160 miles, even though the actual distance traveled was only 19 miles. Although Audi is waiting for that EPA To confirm its maximum claimed range of 232 miles (238 for non-RS), the reality is that the range of the E-Tron GT’s irresistible acceleration forces is being reached at an alarming rate. This could be a turn off for some buyers, especially on a car billed as a GT (and if Tesla can start with a claimed 412 miles).
When you need to charge, the E-Tron GT has two ports. There is a standard J1772 AC power connector on the driver’s side and a 270 kW CCS1 DC power connector on the passenger side, which can be 80% discharged from the battery in around 20 minutes. Imagine being able to park in parallel without pulling the cable over the car!
The E-Tron GT starts at $ 99,900 (before target fees, which were not announced for the 2022 model year). The RS adds $ 40,000. However, there are places where a Tesla Model S prevails – significantly more storage space with a trunk of 26.3 cubic feet compared to the 14.3 of the Audi (not to mention a 5.3 cubic foot frunk of the 2.9 of the Audi), the 1.9 seconds claims 0-60 time for the $ 144,490 Plaid + three-engine, which also has a maximum range of 520 miles. But for those used to traditional cars, it’s the unquantifiable areas like interior feel and steering behavior that give the Audi an edge.
The Taycan actually seems closer to the Model S in spirit, which brings us to our final point. Yes, Audi and Porsche have different identities, but it seems that they were accidentally switched. “Crazy Friday” Style. Audi was always that lead by technology Brand and Porsche the traditional driver choice. Here, the E-Tron GT with its cabin layout and muscle car design seems to be more driver-oriented, while the Taycan takes on the role of the spaceship. Not that we’re complaining. Considering the price and the features, the E-Tron GT fits perfectly into the sweet spot between the basic Taycan and the 4S, while the RS E-Tron GT lies between the 4S and the 4S turbo. In both cases, the Audi strikes the perfect balance, and considering its more car-like charm, it’s arguably the one you have to get.