The RS e-tron GT is the fastest ever Audi. Jonathan Crouch takes a look.
Ten Second Review
Audi's RS e-tron GT takes its RS performance brand into a fresh, electrified era. Though the price is high and most of the core technology here is shared with this car's Porsche Taycan Turbo cousin, it's all been delivered with a distinctly Audi feel and character. Sixty is a blink of an eye away, yet you're in a planet-friendly EV. And it's all been delivered with a very Ingolstadt-style dose of that 'want one' factor.
Once exclusively reserved for throbbing petrol powerplants, Audi's RS badge can now be found adorning a car with no fossil fuel addiction at all - this one, the RS e-tron GT. It's the fastest of Audi's two offered e-tron GT models and a direct Ingolstadt interpretation of this car's close cousin, the Porsche Taycan Turbo.
Most of the same technology is inevitably shared between the two cars but this Audi has its own distinctive look and feel, which for many will set it apart. In real world terms, this is the fastest car the brand has ever made. It's also the flagship model in the company's growing e-tron EV range. Both are reasons, should you need them, to take this car very seriously indeed.
Get ready for lots of numbers. The RS e-tron GT uses a 238PS front motor, with another at the back offering 456PS. You can't simply add those figures together to get its total output (because the two motors never reach power together). That total figure's actually quoted at 598PS - or, for a two second burst when you need acceleration, 646PS. Which, for reference, is 34PS less than this car's identically engineered development cousin, the Porsche Taycan Turbo.
Assuming you're up for a few more figures, you'll want to know how fast this recipe makes this RS. Well, think 62mph in 3.3s. Which is pretty impressive for something weighing in at 2,347kg in kerb weight. Audi has differentiated this car from its Porsche cousin wherever it could, which in terms of drive dynamics means a different feel to the steering. All that weight gives it a different feel from other Audi RS models but because the mass is low and centrally placed, the car still corners with conviction. Whether there's enough of a real world performance advantage here to justify the considerable price premium over an ordinary e-tron GT quattro is another question. Various drive modes adjust steering weight - and of course ride comfort too, via the adaptive damping system.
Design and Build
There isn't much visual differentiation between this RS model and a standard e-tron GT quattro. Matrix headlamps are fitted to RS variants - but you can also have those on top 'Vorsprung' versions of the standard GT. Your best bet is to look at the wheels, which on the RS e-tron GT are bespoke 21-inch designs in either platinum grey or gloss black (depending on version). Otherwise, the aesthetic recipe is shared with both versions of this Gran Turismo-style EV design. Which means a long wheelbase, a wide track, large wheels and a low-lying silhouette which together deliver beautifully balanced, sleek and aerodynamic proportions - the drag coefficient is a slippery 0.24Cd. The dimensions are certainly those of a classic Grand Tourer, with a 4.99-metre length and 1.96-metres of width but a height of just 1.41-metres. At the front, the inverted colour scheme of the Singleframe grille provides a clue to the unorthodox powertrain at the car's heart.
Inside, travellers in the RS e-tron GT enjoy an upgrade to 'Front Sport Seats Pro' sports chairs with 18-way adjustment, ventilation and massage capability, the facings treated to full perforated fine Nappa leather upholstery. Previous R8 owners will recognise the strong 'monoposto'-style driver focus. The upper section of the light, lean instrument panel with its pronounced three-dimensional look forms an elegant arc, and the display of the standard Audi virtual cockpit plus stands freely within it. The driver and front passenger sit low in the cockpit separated by a wide centre console which houses the gear selector switch, its compact design emphasising the sense of space and providing a precise haptic control experience.
The rear seats offer sufficient space even for adults, who are able to sit lower and position their feet in what is known as a 'foot garage' thanks to a recess incorporated in the design of the battery pack running beneath the passenger compartment, which effectively compensates for the tapering roof line. Their luggage can be stowed in the rear load area, providing a volume of up to 405-litres, and in a second luggage compartment beneath the bonnet offering a further 81-litres of space.
Market and Model
Prices for the RS e-tron GT quattro start at around £111,000; compare that to around £80,000 for the standard e-tron GT quattro model. If you're set on the RS but want more kit, there's a 'Carbon Black' version available for around £125,000 and a top 'Carbon Vorsprung' variant offered for around £133,000. You can go mad with options of course Many RS owners will want to consider the gloss carbon styling package and also a full carbon fibre-reinforced polymer (CFRP) roof and CFRP exterior mirror housings.
Numerous driver assistance systems are either standard or available at extra cost. The Audi pre sense front and Audi pre sense basic safety systems are standard, as is the lane departure warning system, while other key technologies, including adaptive cruise assist, intersection assist and surround view cameras, are bundled into 'Tour', 'City Assist' and 'Parking Assistance packages. The assist package plus comprises all three and is standard for the e-tron GT 'Vorsprung' and RS e-tron GT 'Carbon Vorsprung', which also add a night vision assistant and a head-up display.
A driver assistance highlight is the remote park assist plus feature that forms part of the parking assistance package. It enables the driver to manoeuvre the car into and out of a parallel or bay parking space by simply pushing a button, and without needing to be seated in the vehicle. From outside, the process can be activated and supervised via the myAudi app on a smartphone. By keeping the corresponding button pressed, the car will roll into the space, making multiple manoeuvres if necessary, and once in position will switch off the drive system, activate the parking lock and lock the doors. Brilliant.
Cost of Ownership
The clever 800V electric system here doesn't help driving range much. This is WLTP-rated at 280 miles, 15 miles less than the standard e-tron GT quattro. Which isn't especially impressive when you consider what a rival Tesla Model S Plaid can manage (390 miles). Charging ports for the 93.4kWh battery can be found behind both front wheels, each side featuring AC connectors, with a DC socket on the right side. As you'd expect, there are two charging cables, a Type 2 Mode 3 AC cable for your garage wallbox and a Type 2 Mode 2 cable for domestic and industrial plugs. The e-tron GT can charge up 11kW AC as standard. There's an optional on board charger available to increase that to 22kW.
At a sufficiently powerful DC terminal, this electric GT can achieve a peak charging capacity of up to 270kW, allowing it to take on board enough charge for a journey of up to 62 miles in just over five minutes. Charging from 5 to 80% state of charge takes less than 23 minutes in ideal conditions from a rapid public charger. Accessing and paying for electricity while on the road can be easily taken care of using the 'e-tron Charging Service', which provides UK subscribers with one RFID payment card that is accepted at a vast number of charge points operated by 18 suppliers across the UK and Europe, and offers a choice of two fixed price charging tariffs.
The ultimate EV can't be very far from what's on offer in Audi's RS e-tron GT. Sixty from rest as fast as a superbike. Cabin luxury to rival a limousine. And an 800-volt electrified powertrain charging system under the sculpted body panels, with technology lifted direct from Audi's Le Mans-winning racecar. If the Ingolstadt brand could have capped all of this with a Tesla-style extended driving range, then all would have been perfect.
As it is, the 283 mile figure on offer here is the kind of thing it's possible to get from a little Korean EV compact crossover these days. And you're unlikely to approach that kind of return very often, such is the temptation here to constantly exercise this e-tron RS model's astonishing reserves of power. So the range is a disappointment. And the asking price might limit this car to lottery winners. But even so, it's an astonishing technological achievement. And, in its own unique way, one of the most desirable Audi RS models ever made.