Ever been on one of those roller coasters where a sign warns you to keep your head pinned against the headrest? Well, the 2022 Audi E-Tron GT RS needs a sign like that, and we have the headache to prove it. It took us four good stabs of the accelerator—and four slams of our skull against the headrest—before we learned our lesson, partly because we’re slow learners and partly because it’s hard to wrap your head around how quickly the Audi E-Tron GT can accelerate from virtually any speed.
Audi claims a 0-to-60-mph time of 3.1 seconds for the 590-hp E-Tron GT RS (an overboost feature bumps output to 637 horsepower in short bursts), but as is so often the case, that number doesn’t tell the whole story. Its 3.1-second time isn’t just mash and go, mind you, as its Quattro all-wheel-drive system lets the rear end skitter around a bit before it digs in. But it’s when you hammer the throttle while on the move—no matter if you’re going 15 mph or 50—that the rush of its 612 lb-ft of on-demand torque really hits you. (Quite literally, in our case.) As in its Porsche Taycan cousin, there’s a two-speed transmission at work back there, though we’ll be darned if we could ever feel it shifting.
This is as good a time as any to mention that the E-Tron GT RS we were driving was a European-spec prototype; Audi, like any competent drug dealer, wanted to give us a quick taste before sales begin in earnest. When the U.S.-spec car arrives later this year, it’ll carry a price tag of roughly $140,995 (we say roughly because Audi hasn’t finalized the destination charge for 2022). Accompanying it will be the non-RS model, the E-Tron GT Quattro, with 522 horsepower, 464 lb-ft, a 0-to-60 time of 3.9 seconds, and a price tag of about $101,995. And perhaps less risk of a concussion.
Head-Banging Good Drive
For all the head-banging, we had a hell of a good time during our short drive in the E-Tron GT RS. As thrilling as the acceleration is, the car is no less amazing or amusing in the curves, taking the same dignified approach to fast driving as other sport-tuned Audis and playing it back in fast motion. The finger-light steering belies the 5,000-plus-pound weight of the E-Tron GT. A good chunk of its heft is concentrated in the 93-kWh underfloor battery pack, but the upshot is that weight helps lower the car’s center of gravity. With optional four-wheel steering to further improve its stability (which we’re betting it probably doesn’t need), the E-Tron GT RS flies through the curves with maximum grip and minimum fuss before rocketing onto straights like, well, like a rocket.
The experience is enhanced by a piped-in soundtrack, complete with a grumbly idle. I’m not sure the digitized noises are necessary, but they do lend the driving experience a sort of sci-fi unreality—are we really jetting through the curves this quickly, or are we having a dream about the world’s most intense driving simulator? (If it was a dream, you were all in it!)
Ride? Yep, that’s pretty good, too. The E-Tron GT is home to Audi’s first three-chamber air-suspension system, which the company says allows for greater differentiation between Comfort and Sport modes. We didn’t notice all that much of a difference—we were a bit preoccupied with clinging onto the steering wheel for dear life—but we thought it delivered what air suspensions do best, which is to maintain comfort and poise while delivering physics-defying handling behavior. That said, a good, hard bump sent the suspension up to the top of its travel. We’ve driven plenty of cars over that same bump with less drama, but we can’t all be perfect, can we?
The only other imperfection noted during our brief drive of the E-Tron GT RS was its brake-pedal placement and overall feel. The pedal itself is mounted so high that we could slide our foot sideways off the accelerator and right underneath the brake, which also has very abrupt travel. Lowering the brake pedal, or increasing its travel length, would give a more consistent feel between it and the accelerator. But then again, the last Audi with a low brake pedal got 60 Minutes all up in a tizzy.
Range Needs More Range
And then there’s the issue of range. Both E-Tron GT models share the same 93-kWh battery pack. Audi estimates a range of 238 miles for the plain ol’ GT and 232 miles in the RS we drove. (The company is awaiting official EPA ratings.) Considering the type of driving the E-Tron GT RS invites—foot to the floor, skull into the headrest—hitting those numbers won’t be easy unless you take it easy. We’ll have to wait for our first full test of a U.S.-spec car to get a true sense of its range.
Now, 232 miles is probably fine for most EV owners. With home charging, it should ensure at least a few days of driving between electric fill-ups. And it’s worth noting that the E-Tron GT is capable of utilizing 800-volt, 270-kW fast charging, which Audi says will juice a dead battery to 80 percent in a little over 20 minutes. (Electrify America, Audi’s charging-gear partner, supports 800-volt charging at its public stations.) Still, the E-Tron GT is supposed to be Audi’s halo car, and that means it needs bragging-rights numbers, like the 300-to-400-mile—or more—ranges achieved by some Teslas. To paraphrase an executive from another EV-focused automaker, if your range number doesn’t start with a three, you’re not in the game.
Model Looks Like a Model
That’s too bad, because aside from the medium-length tether, everything about the E-Tron GT is halo-worthy. The cabin is high end in materials and execution, and unlike some other EVs, it doesn’t look like it was pulled from a booth at the Consumer Electronics Show. No orientation needed; if you can work the controls in any other Audi, you won’t have any problems in the E-Tron GT. And can we talk about the exterior styling for a second? The E-Tron GT RS is a great-looking car in pictures, but in person it’s a real jaw-dropper, an RS7 with a swimsuit model body. The few times I slowed down enough to make the E-Tron GT more than a passing blur, people turned, gazed, pointed, and smiled (presumably at the car and not me).
Our responsible journalist side needs to also address the elephant in the room, which is the GT’s close relation to the Porsche Taycan. Having no doubt been asked this question about a jillion times, the Audi PR person had a sensible answer: These cars weren’t developed in a vacuum. Audi doesn’t deny the ties that bind them but asserts that the cars are tuned for different audiences, with the Taycan (especially the Turbo S) aimed at the performance market, the E-Tron designed to be more of a grand tourer, and the RS model splitting the difference. For what it’s worth, this author thinks the Audi is the better-looking car. (The Taycan looks like its mascara is running.)
Hopefully the U.S.-spec car won’t differ too much from the one we drove, because we loved our first experience in the Audi E-Tron GT RS. Driving it was an absolute delight, like a nice soak in a hot bath, including the part where you forget to test the water with your toe and scald your foot and then the timer that stops the bubbles after 15 minutes. All Audi needs to do is talk to its corporate colleagues in Crewe about getting some of those nice, soft pillows that Bentley attaches to its headrests. That, and 350 miles or so of range, would make the E-Tron GT RS the perfect sporty electric car.
2022 Audi E-Tron GT RS Prototype Pros
- Blistering acceleration
- Phenomenal handling
- Drool-inducing styling
2022 Audi E-Tron GT RS Prototype Cons
- Short range
- Suboptimal brake pedal placement and feel
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