2021 Audi e-tron GT | PH Review

We've driven the 646hp RS, now it's the turn of the 530hp 'base' model in Vorsprung trim

By Sam Sheehan / Wednesday, May 12, 2021 / Loading comments

The new e-tron GT is probably the most important car Audi currently makes. It is as much the flagbearer for the brand’s future design language as it is electric drive technology, and to say it’s got off to a tremendous start would be an understatement. To these eyes, the e-tron GT absolutely nails the muscle-to-elegance ratio (imagine if it was a two-door!), and looks like it is hammering down the autobahn even when parked up. The car shares much with the Porsche Taycan, yet it manages to look authentically Audi. And that’s important, because these are very different cars from behind the wheel.

With no rear-drive, single-motor variant like the Taycan, the e-tron GT starts just over nine-grand higher at £79,900, but that does buy you a ‘quattro’ machine with a peak of 530hp and 472lb ft of overboost-rated torque. It delivers a 4.1-second claimed 0-62mph dash and, thanks to the two-ratio system at the back, a top speed of 152mph, leaving it trailing the RS model by seven tenths and 3mph. But outside the pub debate or YouTube comments section, those numbers remain strong by anyone’s real-world measure. Range is competitive, too, with a claimed 280 miles for the non-RS car – although Tesla’s ‘Long Range’ rival remains the clear leader here with 379 miles.

Still, any range anxiety to come from our real-world evaluation of the 800-volt e-tron GT – where we drove a car from Inverness for 600 miles to London in two days – related entirely to the still relatively scarce charging infrastructure, not the car’s calculated battery life. With so much torque available, it’s easy to drive economically and still be among the quickest cars on the road. But find yourself needing to top up with a conventional 43kW charger, and you’ll need to stop for over four hours to take the 93.4kWh battery from 5-80 per cent. Find one of the Ionity 350kW chargers to let the Audi top up at its maximum 270kW, and a 5-80 per cent top up takes just 22.5 minutes. Although to put the latter’s rarity into context, we encountered only two on our journey. 

Handily, travelling between them in the cosseting GT is very easy going. The interior is wonderfully thought out, with less pizazz than the Porsche’s but the sort of functionality that makes it feel enormously familiar in about 30 seconds. Partly, that’s because it is, with the digital screens using software and front-end features any present-gen Audi driver would recognise. But it’s also to do with the smart layout of controls, with physical interior climate buttons, a rotating volume knob on the steering wheel and sliding gear selector that’s more satisfying to use than it looks. It helps, too, that you sit in comfortable seats with a sports car-aping angle, and not by accident. Remember, the J1 underpinnings were co-developed from day one with Porsche.

If there’s a complaint about the Audi’s character, it’s that jumping into a car with such a feast for tech feels very uneventful. Then again, who are we to complain about a car this responsive, this refined and this capable of shrinking around you, especially when all-wheel steering and a plethora of visibility enhancing exterior cameras – all fitted as standard to Vorsprung models – are in place. The all-wheel steering is an especially worthwhile addition because it ensures the e-tron GT’s agility and manoeuvrability far exceed its dimensions. Same goes for the air suspension also there by default on the Vorsprung (base cars get conventional adaptive suspension), which not only broadens the car’s abilities across a range of speeds and scenarios, it also helps to ensure that maximum range by lowering the ride height in efficiency mode for better aerodynamics. This is a slippery car, with a drag co-efficient of just 0.24 – although it’s beaten by the Taycan (0.22Cd) and Model S (0.21Cd) for class honours.

In its default comfort mode, the e-tron GT feels perfectly setup for everyday use. With no WLTP-forced short shifting or gearbox hesitation, you’re given the full power and torque potential (the former peaks at 476hp short of overboost) from the off, while lifting off sees the car coasting instead of decelerating with regen. Even in the most aggressive regenerative setting (achieved by clicking the upshift wheel paddle), the deceleration is weaker than rivals, so your driving style remains pretty conventional. The ride, too, is forgiving enough to ensure this near 2.3-tonne machine can deal with broken surfaces like a much lighter car. It’s noticeably firmer over potholes and speed humps in efficiency mode, yet on the motorway the lower setting proved comfortable enough while eking out a handful of additional miles. 

It is here that the e-tron feels like it differs from the RS model and even the Taycan; you feel like you’re getting the most from the car when moseying and watching actual miles drop in tandem with the estimated range. In fact, at times, and even at motorway speeds, the quotation gently underplays what the car is capable of – lulling you out of range anxiety and into a sense of confidence that you’re going to get where you’re headed. If you’re on a long drive like ours, Audi’s sat nav automatically recommends chargers that are on your route – although for now, of course, this only serves to show how little of the UK’s rapid charger network is beyond the motorway network. That said, for most people, a plus-200-mile real-world range will be more than enough for 95 per cent of journeys.

It goes without saying that a more rambunctious level of intent will have the predicted distance tumbling. But this will need to be sustained – quick blasts down slip roads or to beat the traffic away from lights will not have much impact. Several minutes of hard driving does. Doubtless the effort of cooling itself has something to do with this – there’s plenty of power-hungry hardware dedicated to this job alone – either way, in much the same way as a B road consumes super unleaded, so it eats kilowatts. Fortunately, the commensurate reward is much the same, too: the ultra-precise accelerator is connected to such a tractable and consistently rapid powerplant that pressing it never stops being satisfying. Mated to enormous grip and poise from a chassis with 305-section rear tyres (our pre-prod test car wears RS 21-inch wheels – see spec) ensures bounteous cross-country pace. It stops short of the genuine engagement the Taycan conjures up, but you won’t want for confidence, ever. 

Factor in effortlessness and refinement and those looks and the in-built practicality that comes with a 4,990mm-long car, and the e-tron GT makes a rock-solid case for itself. At no point did we miss the extra 116hp of RS overboost, because 530hp is plenty when its immediately available. Perhaps you’d be hard pressed to describe the experience of driving it quickly – which is another way of saying the car isn’t memorable in the way its Porsche-built sibling manages to be – but you’ll find it hard to care when the intervening miles between here and there are being caressed away so easily. It is among the most rounded EVs you can currently buy. And when you have to live with a car long term, and potentially spend time in it while it charges or stare at it patiently from a Starbucks, that counts for a lot. 


SPECIFICATION | AUDI E-TRON GT VORSPRUNG

Engine: Permanently excited electric motor, one per axle, 93.4kWh battery
Transmission: Single-speed (front) twin-speed (rear), all-wheel drive
Power (hp): 530 (launch control overboost, otherwise 476)
Torque (lb ft): 465 (launch control maximum)
0-62mph: 4.1sec
Top speed: 152mph
Weight: 2,276kg (EU unladen)
MPG: N/A (280-mile range)
CO2: 0g/km (driving)
Price: £106,000 (Vorsprung starting; price as tested £112,350, including Kemora Grey metallic paint* for £950, e-tron sports sound for £500, 21-inch 10-spoke Trapezoidal aero alloys** for £1,740, extended leather pack for £1,665 and locking rear differential** for £1,495)

* Not on car pictured, obviously.
** These won’t be offered on final UK-spec models (this is an early right-hand drive press car) outside of the RS range. With these non-UK options removed, price as tested is £109,115

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