Today, I had the chance to pick up a new Audi RS E-Tron GT, the start of a week-long review.
After collecting from South Melbourne, I used the trip to Wodonga as a great opportunity to get familiar with the vehicle, test its range and efficiency and reflect on my first impressions of the all-electric performance sedan.
My trip started in Brighton, South of Melbourne and ran 345 km down the Hume Freeway. When I first got in the car, it was fully charged and the display read 370km of range. Typically you’d want to leave some percentage of margin with an EV range estimate, with a 25km buffer, I was up for the challenge.
From the outside, the design choices made by Audi are certainly bold, there’s no mistaking this is not your average Audi, denoted primarily by the aggressive front end, showing that EVs don’t have to look boring and the lack of a grill, can be an opportunity to rethink the front end in a new way.
The front end is complemented by the now famous Matrix LED headlights from Audi, but it’s the lower bar that may be the biggest controversial design feature.
There’s lots of technology in this car, including lane keeping and adaptive cruise control, which I was really impressed with, this may not be as capable as Autopilot, but it’s pretty close, to be honest, and offered the same great benefits of lowering the mental fatigue on a longer drive.
To enable this functionality, Audi uses a single camera mounted to the front windscreen, combined with a long-range radar and laser scanner which are housed in the lower bar. I imagined these would be prone to collecting bugs and perhaps that is the case, but amazingly after today’s drive, it was pretty clean down there.
Around the rear, we get a really nice lightbar that extends the full width of the car, featuring the chevron design that looks fantastic when illuminated. The lower portion of the rear bar houses a massive diffuser, working in conjunction with the rest of the car to improve aerodynamics.
When it comes to the interior, it’s a very different approach to Tesla’s minimal design, delivering on the preferences of many for some physical buttons. The toggles on the dash to control the AC aren’t bad and actually pretty easy to reach, however the buttons on the wheel are very hard and clicky, appearing cheap in a car that’s anything but.
The steering wheel looks great and feels great when it comes to the textures used. The flat-bottomed wheel certainly looks sporty, helped by the RS bade at the bottom, I feel the size should be ~10% smaller in diameter to make it feel even sportier. This would also help reduce the turning required to make quick adjustments.
The centre console contains a number of items that feel a little retro to me, but those coming from ICE vehicles would feel quite progressive. There’s the start/stop button which feels unnecessary, and a drive selector stalk, which thankfully is pretty small and natural to use during 3-point turns.
It is a surprise that Audi went with a glossy piano black finish, particularly after another automaker tried that, got feedback from customers and moved away from it. I think Audi (and others could learn from that). This looks really nice and premium in photos, but is a pain to live with.
There are some really nice finishes in the car, with carbon fibre being one of my favourite materials, the optional pack to include CF on the dash and door trim makes this look incredibly premium. The headliner and doors get the Alcantara treatment creating a black, professional, comfortable feeling inside the cabin.
Finally, we have to talk about the massive glass roof. When I first saw the e-tron GT at the launch event, it had a colour-matched, painted roof, but this review unit has a sensational glass roof that provides an open-air feeling of space inside the car while giving rear passengers a fantastic look at the world above them. From overhanging trees on country roads to the stars of the night sky, a glass roof is amazing, but I am yet to test how the tint is on a sunny day.
The RS badge at Audi is reserved for their most performance-focused vehicles, so to see Audi use it on their first ground-up EV sedan shows you the direction of the company and the performance of this car is nothing short of amazing. With up to 475kW and 830Nm of torque, RS e-tron GT is capable of an impressive 0-100km/hr time, matching the Tesla Model 3 Performance.
While I was really in range mode today, there were a couple of times like freeway entrances that asked for the throttle pedal to get some love. I’ll do some more sporty driving through the week, but so far, it’s the closest thing I’ve felt to my Model 3 Performance in terms of acceleration and put simply, this is an absolutely ridiculous performance.
Practically performance is most useful for launching off the line and when you do that, with this much power, you’ll want to make sure the traction control system is equally impressive. Performance is also handy in real-world driving to efficiently perform overtakes.
Range, Efficiency and Recharging.
On a single charge, the RS e-tron GT is rated for 433 km (WLTP), a perfectly acceptable range, compared to alternatives and increasing charging options.
Audi achieves these numbers from a 93.4 kWh battery, (85.0 kWh usable). Thanks to an 800V architecture, the car can charge to 80% in just 23 minutes and if you need a quick burst, can add 100km in just 5 minutes.
As with all EVs, the vast majority of charging will be done at home, made possible thanks to an included AC charger included in the car. Audi includes the home charger with the car and offers dual-charging AC on one side and DC on the other.
When I got home and plugged in, I already had a Tesla home charger, so tried that first, it worked, just plug in and the charging starts. To stop it, just press the button and wait for it to turn white.
I then had a thought, what if I try to connect the Audi charger to the top section (AC) of the DC port at the same time? It turns out Audi doesn’t support dual-AC charging which prevents you from attempting it. You can only open one charge door at a time.
Having driven a couple of hours I stopped at Euroa, but when I arrived, I didn’t need to charge, so didn’t, just grabbed lunch and was on my way.
Audi Drive Select allows you to select the balance of performance and efficiency that you prefer. Today, I spent most of the trip on efficiency, which helped reduce the energy consumption to 21.3 kWh/100km and allowed me to get home with 29 km remaining (beating the original 25km estimate).
With a 93 kWh battery pack, the car is clearly not as efficient as my Model 3, but if it can drive from Melbourne to Wodonga, that basically doesn’t matter. That is of course, until you go to charge on AC and realise just how big that battery is. The bigger the battery, the longer it takes and the estimate I got was a massive 56 hours to recharge. After diving through the menus, I worked out how to display the details of the charging data. Audi, please make this easier.
One thing that Audi really missed the mark on is the size of the slots for phones in this car. I have a Pixel 7 Pro which has a 6.7″ display and while large, is not uncommon today. The slot Audi carved out for phones on the top of the console and in the armrest are both too small to fit my phone – turns out size does matter. This is a really big omission and left my hanging a charging cable out of the centre console to the phone on the passenger’s seat. Compare that to other cars where 2x large phones happily sit in a wireless charger without issue, Audi messed up here.
For all the efforts Audi made to make this thing aerodynamic, they fell short on one important area – door handles. It is clear that interruptions to the airflow over the vehicle create drag and therefore reduce range.
This not only means owners get fewer km than they otherwise should, but it also has the compounding factor of requiring a larger battery, with more cost and weight, which may also require even more battery cells to achieve a targeted range figure.
Expect Audi to resolve this in a future revision, it’s a quick, easy win. Polestar 2 also fell foul of this and if you take a look at future vehicles like the Polestar 3, they’ve already ditched the handles from the Volvo parts bin and done what Audi should do, go with flush door handles.
Having driven the Audi RS E-Tron GT for a day, I have to say, I’m really impressed. There are many different decisions made by Audi engineers but the resulting package is a seriously amazing car.
Sure, I don’t love every aspect of the car, I do like that Audi does things differently. Having experienced artificial sounds in an EV before with the Jaguar I-Pace, I thought I’d hate it in the GT RS, but actually, I really came to enjoy it.
I love that they have ‘Hey Audi’ as a hands-free, button-free option for voice input, but let’s be real, the default Audi software is still pretty garbage and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are the real saving grace there.
On the software side, I’ve been able to set up an account and preferences, but have yet to be unable to pair my phone with the car as a key, something recently released but requires the VIN and some secret car code that I don’t have. Back to the keyfob for now, which feels like a step into the past, not the future.
When it comes to storage, the boot is pretty decent, although the subfloor is tiny. The frunk is actually one of the most generous on the market, with space for a small suitcase or easily accommodating a couple of backpacks. Nice job on the packaging of the electronics here Audi.
The technology is better than I was expecting and while not necessary with Autopilot as it jumps to the current speed zone, in the Audi, the heads-up display is really convenient. After a few hours in the seat, I found it comfy and the electronic seat and wheel allowed for great positioning for an enjoyable drive. The cup holders and brilliant.
The performance of the electric vehicle powertrain is on show for all to see here, it’s absolutely crazy and this is so clearly the way of the future for performance-focused vehicles. If you want this one with the Audi badge, start saving, it doesn’t come cheap.