Audi has had a long Grand Tourer history — the current RS 7 being one of its finest. The latest is the electrified RS e-tron GT. From the long hood and raked carbon-fibre roof panel to the tight bustled tail, it looks fast even when sitting still. The fact it is the most powerful production car the company has ever released underscores both the look and the potential beneath.
Key to the RS’s performance are the two electric motors. The front motor works with a single-speed transmission to produce 235 horsepower; the larger rear motor has a two-speed transmission and rips out 450 hp. When both are working together the motors combine to deliver 590 hp and, more importantly, 612 pound-feet of torque from rev one.
The hidden plusses are two-fold. First, as the motors each drive an axle, the RS e-tron GT has an electric quattro all-wheel-drive extension. More importantly, when the launch control system is engaged it goes into an overboost mode. This sees the output rise to 637 hp.
Engaging what affectionately became known as Warp Drive brought the GT’s very best to the fore. Unlike many launch control systems, which require a convoluted sequence of button punches to engage, the e-tron’s is simple — select Dynamic mode and that’s it. Now, press the brake, mat the accelerator and, when you’re ready for a roller coaster ride, lift off the brake. Technically, the overboost mode is only active for 2.5 seconds, but, boy, does it ever get the job done!
The rear motor’s two-speed transmission is key to both the outright and overall performance. When launch control is engaged it selects the 15.56:1 first gear, which delivers that snap acceleration. The rest of the time it uses the 8.16:1 second gear, which gives it longer legs and improves the range.
When Warp Drive is engaged the RS sprint to 100 kilometres an hour in 3.3 seconds. The impressive part is the manner in which it literally leaps off the line. It’s enough to make the P265/35R21 front and oversized P305/30R21 rear tires chirp on takeoff!
Along with Dynamic mode come Efficiency, Comfort and the mix-and-match Individual mode. The latter allows the driver to tweak the sound the GT makes. There are Subdued, Balanced and Dynamic modes. Rather than mimicking the techno swoosh many EVs employ, this thing elicits more of a rumble. It is discrete in Subdued, noticeable in Balanced and louder in Dynamic. The soundtrack is relayed through two inside speakers and two outside speakers.
The motors get their juice from a lithium-ion battery that’s rated at 93.4 kWh. As with the Porsche Taycan, the RS e-tron GT uses an 800-volt architecture. This allows super-fast charging when connected to the right DC outlet: a 5 per cent to 80 per cent charge using the GT’s maximum 270-kW charging capability takes 22 minutes. Plugging it into the more common 50-kW charger ups the time to about 1.5-hours. It needs it to be plugged in overnight when using a Level 2 charger.
While Audi says the RS e-tron GT has a driving range of 373 kilometres, that proved to be a conservative number. A full charge routinely had the “distance-to-empty” readout within the gauge cluster showing up to 450 km. The plus is the driving range drops in a real-world manner so what the range readout says is pretty close to what the driver can expect to attain.
The disappointment is the fact there’s no real one-pedal drive. While the driver can ramp up the amount of regenerative braking through the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, even when set to its most aggressive setting it feels fairly benign. The other oddity is one must pull the “minus” paddle to increase the amount of regen. On the plus side, the brake pedal feel is one of the best to be found in an EV — it is crisp and devoid of the usual numbness.
The GT’s ride is Grand Touring all the way. The three-chamber air springs and adaptive dampers change according to the drive mode selected. Running up through the modes not only firms the damping it changes the ride height, which improves the handling and helps the aerodynamics.
Throw in the 50/50 front-to-rear weight distribution, the low centre of gravity and e-torque vectoring, and the GT points into a corner in a razor-sharp manner — much of the steering feel is down to the four-wheel-steering. While it only turns the rear wheels by 2.8-degrees, at speed the design sharpens the turn-in response. As with the Porsche Taycan, the rear-steer also helps to mask the RS’s 2,330-kilogram mass, so it feels much lighter on its tires. When puttering about town the rear steer works to decrease the turning circle.
Inside, the cabin is best described as a finely crafted cocoon. From the body-hugging front seats and flat-bottomed steering wheel to the carbon-fibre accents, it shines. It also brings recycling into play with many of the materials being derived from reused or sustainable materials. If the owner wants vegan-friendly they can have it, however, the Nappa leather option is worth the money.
The latest technology is also in place. Audi’s 12.3-inch virtual cockpit is customizable. It ranges from a look that includes the driving range, speed and power consumption to a full-on map that pushes the other information out to the corners. Infotainment comes via a 10.1-inch screen. The setup is easily mastered and works with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and a proud Bang & Olufsen sound system.
For a pair of rear riders there’s plenty of head- and legroom in the heated outboard bucket-like seats. Avoid the middle position — it beats walking in the rain, but it’s far from comfortable. At the back end there’s a 405-litre trunk; under the hood there’s a spot for the charger cables.
Finally, the demanded safety aids are all in place. The long list includes all the usual helpers along with a parking assistant and laser-based headlights. At night the latter make the road ahead look like it is bathed in sunlight.
The 2022 Audi RS e-tron GT is very fast, it has a realistic driving range and it’s sumptuous in all it does. Judging by the reaction to this Grand Tourer during my time with it, this could very well be the new EV halo car.
Base Price/As tested: $182,650/$189,940