Every once in a while, something truly magical comes along and disrupts an entire industry, pushing the envelope of what’s possible. Think iPhone, Walkman, or even the first motorcar. And now, Audi’s done exactly that with its latest electric saloon.
The RS e-tron GT is not the very first electrified saloon car for the masses. It's not even the first electric Audi – that title goes to the e-tron SUV which we reviewed last December.
But in many ways, this grand tourer is far more than just an e-tron variation. It's a culmination of the very best that the company has to offer, with sprinklings of Porsche-derived components (up to 40%!) that supposedly makes it a proper category-disruptor, and some say, a true Tesla killer.
Or is it?
The Proof's in the Pudding
Carefully scrutinise every millimetre of the low-slung RS e-tron GT and chances are, you'll reach one conclusion: that this is a serious machine designed to meet your expectations of what a S$700,000 luxury car should be, and then blow past it.
Every line, crease, and vent on the sleek sheet metal is there to serve a purpose – to channel air to the right places and allow the car to slice through wind as efficiently as possible.
Two controllable air inlets positioned just below the headlights, for instance, open up during spirited driving to draw air in and keep the brakes as cool as possible. Air curtains positioned on the sides (pictured above) help to channel air to the wheel arches and optimise ventilation there.
The resulting drag coefficient is a startlingly low Cd 0.24, making it one of the most slippery mass-production cars in the world.
Apart from its Teutonic levels of obsession towards aerodynamics, the RS e-tron GT is also a visual spectacle. Its widened wheel arches are almost comically-proportioned, giving the impression that it's hugging the road even at standstill, further accentuated by the streamlined and low-riding silhouette.
HD Matrix LED headlamps with laser lights come as standard for this RS model, along with full LED tail lights and a light bar that sweeps across the rear fascia. For added pizzazz, both front and rear lights also come with dynamic lighting sequencing and dynamic indicators.
It also has what Audi calls a Singleframe, essentially a textured front grille piece that sets it apart from all the other humdrum-looking EVs.
This particular press car, decked out in a dystopian shade of Daytona Grey Pearl Effect, comes with a set of 21-inch five-double spoke wheels wrapped around in 265/35 and 305/30 R21 Goodyear rubber front and rear respectively.
Not so incognito are those massive tungsten carbide-coated steel brakes with bright red calipers peeking out from behind the wheels. Stopping power is assured (more on driving dynamics in a bit), but you can also opt for ceramic brakes should you wish, for just S$31,000 more.
Chump change if you can put money down on this electric luxobarge in the first place, really.
Maintaining the Status Quo Inside
Those expecting a futuristic cabin will be almost disappointed to know that the RS e-tron GT comes with a relatively muted interior. Almost, because it's pretty flipping comfortable to be in, regardless of whether you're the driver or passenger.
The upholstery is a dizzying mix of supremely plush Nappa leather and Dinamica microfiber. Fit-and-finish is simply superb and expected from a range-topping Audi, with plush materials used in abundance and zero creaks to speak of.
The front seats, which Audi calls "sports seats pro", feature 18-way adjustment and a honeycomb pattern. We definitely approve of them, as they are comfortable enough to sink into after a long day's work, while still firm enough to hug you securely when you want to tackle 99 Bends at enthusiastic speeds (Editor's note: for legal reasons, we neither did this nor condone speeding).
The cockpit is standard Audi affair, with a flat-bottomed leather sports steering wheel, Audi's virtual cockpit display and MMI Navigation Plus with MMI touch dominating your view. And just like other Audi models we've tested this year, the switchgears for all key controls are tactile, easy to reach, and idiot-proof.
In other words, you'll get used to the car in no time flat.
The ISOFIX-equipped rear seats, though designed to accommodate three passengers, are best suited for two due to the raised and narrow cushion in the middle. While headroom and legroom are relatively decent and roomy compared to the high flooring found on other electric cars like the Tesla Model 3, our expectations were not met.
Which brings us to our main gripe: the interior space is just a bit cramped compared to other luxury cars of similar dimensions. Despite its A8-like proportions outside, the interior is closer to that of an RS 3. If the rear bench was simply wider, this would've been the undisputed EV premium saloon champion in terms of passenger comfort.
Visibility is also not the best, with the rear window looking like a narrow slit when viewed through the rear view mirror.
The silver lining is that the RS e-tron GT comes with a panoramic glass roof as standard, which immediately brightens up the interior. You can opt for a carbon roof for about $21,000 more (again, loose change for the target demographic), but a glass roof is infinitely cooler in our eyes.
There's also a pair of AC blowers behind, ensuring that the rear occupants stay cool and comfortable in our harsh climate.
Despite its fastback-like design, the RS e-tron GT is still by all definitions a saloon car. The bootlid opens up to reveal 350 litres' worth of available cargo space, and more once the 40:20:40 split rear seats are flattened.
Pop the remarkably light bonnet open and you have even more space to play around with; 85 litres in total. There, you can also find cable accessories, an emergency triangle, a fluid reservoir, and a Porsche-branded toolkit.
An Electrifying Drive
How does the RS e-tron GT drive, then?
As it turns out, quite brilliantly. With 440 kW (590 horsepower) and 830 Nm of torque on tap, you can reach 100 km/h from a standstill in just 3.6 seconds, thanks to its two-speed rear axle-mounted transmission. With Boost Mode enabled, that power increases to 475 kW (637 horsepower), while maintaining the same amount of torque. It's a smidge faster off the line as well, with 0 - 100 km/h timing of 3.3 seconds. Top speed is capped at 250 km/h regardless.
Power comes from twin electric motors; each one residing on an axle. The 93 kWh battery providing the juice is located under the passenger compartment, ensuring that the car's centre of gravity remains ultra-low and bringing the resulting weight distribution to almost 50:50.
Speaking of which, the RS e-tron GT is mind-bogglingly stable when tackling corners fast. Body roll is practically non-existent, allowing you to simply glide through the corners at unspeakable speeds while not spilling your beverage.
Mighty impressive for a vehicle weighing over 2.3 tonnes and just a touch under five metres in length.
You can also select from a quartet of driving modes through the MMI display, with each one altering the driving dynamics ever so slightly – but just enough that you can tell. With Efficiency mode on, for instance, the car hunkers down through its three-chamber adaptive air suspension in order to minimise wind resistance as much as possible.
Steering input is precise regardless of the mode that you are in, and the quattro system does a bang-on job in keeping the car in line at all times. After driving it in both intensely dry and wet conditions, we found the RS e-tron GT very assuring to pilot as it made minced meat out of challenging road surfaces.
It also comes with an acoustic/heat-insulating windscreen, which helps to keep NVH levels to a bare minimum. The only sound we heard was the gentle whisper of the wind outside while cruising at expressway speeds.
Audi has also given the RS e-tron GT a synthetic electric whining sound, partly to announce to pedestrians of its presence, and also to give back to drivers some of the engine noise and sensation that we're all used to hearing in ICE cars.
Safety in Numbers
Being a flagship model, you'd expect the RS e-tron GT to be chock-full of safety features. And you'd be right.
Apart from the usual airbags (six in total), stability control management and brake booster, this RS model also comes with Audi pre sense basic and front. This means a small suite of active safety features present, including lane departure warning and pre-collision warning, with the radar sensors hidden just below the Singleframe element up front.
ISOFIX mounting points can also be found throughout the car.
Beam Charge Me Up, Scotty!
Covering all its bases, the RS e-tron GT comes equipped with two charging ports – one on either front fender of the car. The left side comes with a CCS Type 2 port, while the right side is strictly for AC. The Audi is supports up to 270 kW fast-charging (and 11kW AC), and a full charge took us about an hour to accomplish.
During our test period, we clocked 3.7 km/kWh on average, with approximately 407 km of real-world range. It is not too far off the official estimate of about 5.2 km/kWh, and we believe that if driven sensibly, it is capable of achieving that.
Regenerative braking is possible by flicking the paddle shifters, although any range recovered is marginal at best.
Setting the Standards for the Future
So, is this finally the one to kill Tesla off and lead the pack in the EV space?
Yes and no. While prices are indeed prohibitive (it's either this or a delicious slice of real estate, depending on how pragmatic you are), this is more of Audi flexing its muscles and showing industry watchers that they're every bit as capable of adapting to an EV-centric future as the Silicon Valley
nerds disruptors, but with even more style and substance thrown in.
The RS e-tron GT has demonstrated itself to not only be fast on straights and around corners, but also be well-built with proven state-of-the-art technologies that only legacy carmakers can achieve. Only time will tell what the future holds for EV cars, but as of right now, we can already prepare a tombstone with Tesla's name on it.
|Audi RS e-tron GT Specifications|
|Price: $710,940 (with COE)||VES Band: A1|
Twin AC Synchronous Electric Motors
590 bhp (637 bhp with Boost Mode), 830 Nm
3.7 km/kWh (official: 5.2 km/kWh)
3.6 s (3.3 s with Boost Mode)
270 kWh (max for DC)
11 kWh (max for AC)
4,989 mm x 1,964 mm x 1,414 mm
350 litres (85 litres in front)
Muhammad Mu'tasim (@mutasimdrives), ACube Creative (@weareacube) & Sean Loo (@cookiesncremee)
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