As electric vehicles take the world by storm, automakers take different approaches to electrification, all stemming from Elon Musk's priorities of high power and legit range to convert hesitant buyers into EV owners. Most brands seem stuck between cranking out stylish high-performance models or affordable commuter cars even though now, the Model 3 offers both at an impressive price point that paves the way for more consumer-friendly models hitting the market.
Audi definitely decided to take a similar route—as opposed to, say, Nissan with the Leaf or Mitsubishi with the i-MiEV—and today offers the luxurious e-tron SUV and e-tron GT sedan. The GT's highest-spec variant gets Audi's RS moniker, as the RS e-tron GT offers exactly the kind of styling and performance to compete with Tesla's Model S, Lucid's new Air, and even its Porsche Taycan sibling.
Still, the RS e-tron GT comes with a big price tag and a relatively low range estimate, so I found myself very excited to get behind the wheel and discover whether Audi mixed all the right ingredients required to cook up a popular EV in a stylish package.
A Design Worthy Of Iron Man
The RS e-tron GT first appeared in public as a replacement for Tony Stark's Audi R8 supercar in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With a futuristic exterior that received remarkably few revisions for the production version, the lowslung four-door almost looks like a coupe from far enough away. But the sedan layout tips a hat towards Audi's relationship with Porsche's Taycan, which adds multiple variants like the Cross Turismo and GTS to offer a few more options to buyers who need a more daily utility.
On paper, the RS e-tron GT's stats sound impressive: dual motors producing peaks of 637 horsepower and 612 lb-ft of torque at all four wheels, with a 0-60 time below 3.5 seconds and goodies like four-wheel steering, electronically adjustable suspension, and 800-volt architecture to ameliorate concerns about long charge times. But the 93.4 kWh battery cells contribute to a curb weight over 5,100 pounds, which combined with all the power on tap results in a relatively disappointing EPA range estimate of only 232 miles.
Impressive Driving Dynamics
Still, until most manufacturers can match or beat Lucid's 520-mile estimate, the target EV buyer will remain a city dweller, so 232 miles should be enough. And Audi clearly recognized that the RS e-tron GT's design, interior, and drive quality can potentially set it apart from competitors more than the range figures.
Climbing down into the cockpit, I cruised through Pasadena, made my way onto the 210 freeway, and headed up to the Angeles Crest for a few minutes in the corners. In town, the taut dampers, big wheels, and low-profile tires measuring 305-millimeters wide at the rear resulted in a surprisingly loud few minutes—EV development needs to focus on noise, vibration, and harshness more than traditional carmakers because no internal-combustion engine covers up the roar of the road, wind, and traffic.
But that instantaneously available torque and dual-motor setup made merging onto the freeway an absolute joy regardless, and I probably nixed many of my remaining miles just mashing the accelerator pedal (not throttle, right?) over and over again. A few minutes up the Angeles Crest, meanwhile, revealed how well Audi (or Porsche) tuned the RS e-tron GT's suspension. Despite weighing almost as much as my 2006 Cayenne with a twin-turbo V8 and true four-wheel drive, this four-door EV handles like the nimblest of 911 sports cars, with excellent steering feel, minimal body roll, and gobs of grip. Unbelievable.
Taking On The Taycan
To a certain extent, the RS e-tron GT targets Taycan buyers in a strange bit of sibling rivalry. I'd even venture to say that the Audi looks better from just about every angle when compared to a Taycan, though it doesn't make quite the same whooping noise under acceleration. Where the Taycan builds on Panamera styling (a dubious decision, no doubt), the e-tron's aesthetic features enough angular muscularity to hint at the forthcoming decades of performance potential that today's electric vehicles should spawn as battery and motor technology continues to progress.
Interior Design Makes A Big Difference
The Audi interior design is much nicer than a Taycan, too. Where Porsche went with an excessively minimalist dash and center console, the RS e-tron GT sports a few buttons along with its touchscreen—which is a bit small, to be fair. That flat-bottom steering wheel perfectly matches the horizontal dash, plus the carbon fiber used on almost every surface really hits home for the cyclist in me. I also prefer the e-tron seats to the Taycan, believe it or not.
Not Much Room For The Fam
But even though those bolstered and quilted leather seats up front match the rears at first glance, altogether, the entire interior feels just as cramped as a Taycan. I set the driver's seat to my preferred location at six-foot-one, then tried to sit in the back seat behind—somehow, despite the compact "skateboard" battery layout, this Audi offers very little legroom or headroom. (And especially so when compared to the vast canopy of a Lucid Air or the Mercedes-Benz EQS that I drove almost immediately afterward.) So far, the e-tron GT lineup does not offer any of the higher-roof versions available to Taycan buyers, probably a decision intended to nudge Audi fans towards the e-tron SUV.
A Legit Challenger In A Small Segment
Weird details like a small rear trunk, a tiny remaining range readout on the dash, and the surprisingly small touchscreen make me doubt whether the $140,000-plus RS e-tron GT can truly live up to its stunning design and startling performance. Will this model help to further propel mainstream adoption of electric vehicles?
Audi definitely scored a knockout that should help make EVs seem cool, but in terms of daily driveability, the performance of a track toy combines with disappointing interior space, meager range, and high price point to limit the RS e-tron GT's potential customer base. Hopefully, the design aesthetic highlights can filter down to lower-spec models in the future and make electrification more accessible to the masses—in the meantime, you can find anyone with an RS e-tron GT blasting around at top speed, grinning like Iron Man on his first flight.
Sources: youtube.com, audiusa.com, porsche.com, and lucidmotors.com.