Audi’s first-ever performance electric Gran Turismo is an outright stunner. But can the e-tron GT match this show with its go?
Want to know the easiest way to make a petrolhead lose their mind? Just tell them that electric cars are exciting to drive and then, watch the world burn. As amusing as it may be to regular folks, it really riles petrolheads up when EV enthusiasts (Tesla trolls, in particular) claim that an EV can be as thrilling as a big-burly V8 or V12-powered car. Sure, it might as well be the case, but only if you were born yesterday. For someone who’s grown up drooling over the noise and drama of ICE-powered cars, switching to electric cars is like being asked to change faith – it won’t be easy.
Interestingly, not only trolls but even carmakers these days claim that EVs can offer similar levels of fun and excitement as a high-performance ICE vehicle. Take the all-new Audi e-tron GT for instance – it’s a fast four-door coupe, which runs purely on electricity, and according to its maker, it’s the Gran Turismo of the future. In subtle terms, this is a car that’s set to replace the likes of the thrilling RS 7 Sportback as and when the sun sets on petrol power.
Big shoes to fill, no doubt! But don’t you think that Audi is getting ahead of itself? Can its first low-slung performance EV really be as engaging to drive as its petrol-powered siblings? It’s time to find out.
Dressed to Kill
If a car’s aesthetics matter to you more than its components, the e-tron GT can be considered a winner already. The man behind the design of the e-tron GT, Audi’s design boss Marc Lichte, claims that it’s the most beautiful car he’s ever designed. I must say that I can’t disagree with him. Just look at it – it’s sensational!
The e-tron GT shares its underpinnings with the Porsche Taycan. Both cars are based on Volkswagen Group’s J1 electric architecture, but in terms of design, they couldn’t be more different. The e-tron GT is unmistakably Audi – low, wide, long wheelbase, short overhangs, muscular haunches, and a curvaceous derriere. Other standout design elements include an inverted Singleframe grille, active air inlets, cutting-edge Matrix Laser headlamps (optional), 20-inch aero wheels, a sloping coupe-like roofline, a wide rear diffuser, an extendable spoiler, and a seamless taillamp cluster, which runs across the width of the rear end. Audi says that its design is a classic case of form following function. They even say that it’s the most slippery Audi on sale today, with the lowest drag coefficient (0.24). All of that might be true, but the only thing that I know is that it’s a head-turner. Wherever you go with it, jaws drop, knees go weak, and it makes everyone with a smartphone turn into a paparazzi in no time.
Surprisingly, the interior of Audi’s future GT isn’t quite as futuristic as you’d expect. Instead, it’s a conventional Audi design, with similar toys and gadgets that are seen in the company’s regular cars. The dashboard is tilted towards the driver, and there’s a familiar 10.1-inch infotainment touchscreen, along with a 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit digital driver display. Both screens are of high quality and, as always, work flawlessly. The HVAC controls are all physical buttons and not touch-operated as offered in the likes of A7 or Q8. Quality levels and overall fit-and-finish are impeccable.
The sport seats at the front are body-hugging and supremely comfortable. It’s a low car, but you can sit here comfortably for long hours and cover ground without any hassle – a true GT in that sense. The space at the back is neither great nor bad. The legroom is more than adequate, but the slanting roofline, small windows, and upright seats make it not as comfortable as a sedan. It gets a glass roof as standard, which comes without any liner, which means that despite the three-zone air-conditioning, the inside can get pretty toasty on a hot day – a carbon fibre roof is optional, though. The boot space is respectable at 405 litres, and you also get an 85-litre frunk.
Audi ships the e-tron GT in two flavours – the one on test here is the ‘standard’ version, while there’s also a more hardcore RS version. Both the versions come fitted with a 93.4kWh battery pack (83.7kWh usable) and feature a motor at each axle. In the ‘basic’ e-tron GT, the front motor puts out 235bhp, while the rear motor is good for 429bhp. However, the total power output isn’t a matter of a simple mathematical calculation – in normal driving, the system generates 469bhp and 630Nm to save juice and to get you as close to its claimed range of 500kms in the real world. However, the electronics can bump up the power and torque to 523bhp and 640Nm in Dynamic mode (available only for 2.5 seconds) to propel the car from nought to 100km/h in just 4.1 seconds. Sounds great on paper, but how does it translate on the road?
As soon as the e-tron GT starts moving, you notice that it’s a hefty car. And that’s indeed the case – tipping the scales at 2.3 tonnes, it’s one heavy bruiser. However, as we’ve come to expect from EVs, despite weighing as much as a small planet, they’re pretty quick in a straight line. And the GT is no exception to the rule – it’s stupendously quick, and the way it gathers pace is simply mind-numbing. Pin the throttle pedal to the floor, and the world outside blurs faster than you can blink. The ferocity with which it shoots forward can even hurt you physically – you’re quite literally slapped by g-forces.
What’s more, the rear motor is paired to a two-speed gearbox with a low-ratio first gear. When the system detects full-bore acceleration, it engages first gear automatically for maximum acceleration. You can even sense the transmission kicking into action with a mechanical bang – it’s as if the rear axle gets a shot of adrenaline every time you mash the go-pedal. And while there are no burbles or crackles, the e-tron GT does produce synthesized spacecraft-like noises through its speakers.
Now, while the e-tron GT’s turn of speed is remarkable, what really boggles your mind is the way it tackles corners. Thanks to its low-slung body and near 50:50 weight distribution, the e-tron can be chucked into corners comfortably. The steering is precise and direct if a little lifeless. Grip levels are amazing, and it definitely lives up to its quattro heritage. However, the eco-compound Pirelli Cinturato P7 rubber starts protesting when you subject it to increased lateral forces. That said, what surprised me the most was the fact that the e-tron GT doesn’t have any traits of regular Audis, despite its weight – the front-end doesn’t have the tendency to understeer or get out of shape during hard cornering. I can, in fact, stick my neck out and say that barring the R8, the e-tron GT is the best-handling Audi that I’ve ever driven!
That being said, I must add that there’s no masking its weight all the time. Even though it defies physics, for the most part, you can feel its weight shifting around furiously under hard braking. That’s not to say the standard setup of steel brakes and regenerative braking is weak, but given its mind-numbing acceleration and immense bulk, breaking its momentum requires a complete recalibration of your mind.
What I adore about the e-tron GT the most is that it doesn’t pretend to be the last word in terms of driver engagement. It’s a precise handler, but none of that comes at the expense of comfort – just like how it’s the case with every fast Audi. Courtesy of the optional three-chamber air springs on our test car, the e-tron GT’s ride quality felt stellar on all kinds of surfaces – be it good, bad, or ugly roads, it wafts along beautifully. And then there’s the refinement – well, it’s exemplary. The cabin remains eerily silent, so much so that, at times, you feel you’re in a vacuum space.
The e-tron GT is silly fast, exquisitely stunning, utterly comfortable, and, most importantly, profusely engaging to drive. I wasn’t expecting it to be that good, really. And I may be getting a bit too carried away here, but the e-tron GT is very possibly the best Audi that I’ve ever driven! The way it’s been engineered, the way it drives, and the way it delivers the goods – it feels quintessentially Audi. But at the same time, it also marks a tectonic shift in the way we’d see and perceive high-performance cars in the future. It’s not just a giant leap into the future but also a promising one.
As for whether electric cars are exciting to drive, well, after driving the e-tron GT, all I can say is that changing the mode of propulsion won’t make much of a difference as long as established carmakers such as Audi and Porsche don’t forget to infuse their EVs with their usual magic. And by the looks of things, that’s how it’s going to be.
- Charging & Range
Based on the same 800-volt charging system as the Taycan, the e-tron GT allows for ultra-fast charging – it can be charged from 5 – 80% in just 23 minutes using a 270kW DC charger. The trouble is that you are unlikely to find a DC public charger of more than 50kW anywhere in the country. And with such a charger, it’ll take around 1.5 hours to get the batteries juiced up to 80% of their capacity. Home charging options include an 11kW AC charger, which takes 9.5 hours for a full charge, and a 22kW AC charger, which reduces the charging time to 5 hours and 15 minutes. Audi claims 500kms of range on a full charge, but with a heavy right foot and in real-world driving conditions, 350 – 370kms will be a more realistic figure.
- Audi e-tron GT
Motors: Dual Synchronous
Battery: 93.4kWh Lithium-Ion
Transmission: Two-Speed (rear-axle) / Electric All-Wheel Drive
Peak Power: 523bhp
Peak Torque: 640Nm
Range: 500kms (claimed)
Price: ₹1.80 Crore (Ex-Showroom)
X-Factor: Audi’s first-ever low-slung performance EV redefines electric motoring, with its gob-smacking looks, mind-blowing performance, and sportscar-like handling.