Audi E-Tron GT, An EV Where The Letters Really Mean Grand Touring

In the realm of automobiles, the letters GT
traditionally mean “grand touring” or “grand tourer.” A GT is a car designed for long-distance, high-speed driving in style and luxury like a Mercedes-Benz SL or BMW 8 Series as opposed to being a more hard-core sports car like a Corvette or Porsche 911. Over the decades, GT has generally come to be more associated only with performance variants such as the Mustang GT, but there are still a number of vehicles that skew toward the classical definition. Among these are the lovely Lexus LC but one of the newest true grand tourers available today is the Audi e-tron GT.

Audi has been using the e-tron branding for electrified vehicles since the original R8-based battery electric concept that debuted in 2009. However, that electric sports car never made it to production. The first e-trons that went on sale were hybridized variants of mainline models. The brand’s first production BEV was the e-tron crossover that debuted in 2018 and went on sale the following year. That ur e-tron used a heavily modified version of the brand’s MLB platform that underpins all of its larger cars and utility vehicles.

In late 2018, a few months after debuting the first e-tron, Audi took the wraps off its first true purpose-built BEV, the e-tron GT. It shared a new architecture with the Porsche Taycan and is similarly sized and proportioned although it features a distinct Audi look and feel inside and out.

Unlike the smooth, sweeping surfaces of the Taycan, the Audi takes the brand’s design language and further emphasizes the muscularity. The creases in the body are sharper and more pronounced while the front end slopes down more than the utilities that are most common in the current Audi lineup. As a BEV, most of what would be the grille is closed off apart from narrow slots at the top and bottom for battery cooling. The lower segment is also dominated by the radar sensors for the driving assist.

The Suzuka Gray metallic finish on the test car I drove actually looks almost white under most lightning and combined with the black trim on the fascia and rocker panels, combines to give the car an almost Star Wars stormtrooper look. There is a small pop-up spoiler at the base of the steeply sloped rear window to provide some downforce (or at least lift reduction) at higher speeds. The spoiler can also be deployed manually through a control that is accessed by swiping down from the top of the infotainment screen.

Despite a side profile that is not radically dissimilar from the A7 Sportback, the e-Tron GT doesn’t have a rear hatch. Instead it has a small traditional trunk opening like the Taycan. The 11 cubic foot trunk will hold a pair of standard carry-on bags but not a whole lot else and the shallow opening limits the utility of the trunk. A hatch with fold down rear seats would definitely provide more flexibility, but for something like that, you’ll have to step up to the Taycan SportTurismo.

The Audi’s cabin is quite different from the Porsche and much more in keeping with the rest of the model line. It’s very nicely finished with the tester having the optional Napa leather. Like other recent Audi’s this one has gone away from the rotary MMI controller for infotainment and gone all in on a central touchscreen. This one doesn’t have the haptic feedback of other current Audis. There is no volume knob near the screen, instead there is a four way circular rocker just ahead of the cup holders for off, mute, forward and reverse. The flat top surface is touch sensitive and tracing a finger around the perimeter clockwise will increase the volume.

The back seat is relatively snug, compared to an A7, but there is adequate leg and foot room for someone around six feet tall to sit back there and the glass roof provides for enough head room even for those with longer torso proportions like myself. The e-Tron GT is prioritized for a couple on a weekend getaway, but can definitely handle two couples for a night on the town. While it is definitely more snug than the Tesla
Model S, it has the premium feel and fit and finish you would expect from one of the major German brands, something Tesla has never managed to do.

The platform of the Taycan and e-Tron GT utilizes the first 800V electrical architecture in a production model. This should provide for higher power output and charging capability as well as improved efficiency. All variants of this platform get dual motors, front and rear with a variety of power levels. The standard e-Tron GT gets 469-hp and 464-hp, placing between the two variants of the Taycan 4S.

With the boost mode enabled, the power temporarily jumps to 522-hp and the GT accelerates from 0-60 in about 3.9 seconds. While this GT certainly isn’t as quick as a Tesla Model S Plaid or a Lucid Air, there is more than enough performance available for any driving you might be doing on public roads. If you actually need more acceleration than that you should probably be heading to a track day and taking some other vehicle.

Putting the e-Tron into dynamic mode and doing maximum acceleration, you can actually feel one of the unique elements of this platform, the two-speed transmission at the rear axle. Typically, because electric motors have such a wide speed range through which they deliver maximum torque, starting at zero rpm, they only have a single-speed reduction gear. Porsche designed a two-speed system that gives enhanced low-speed acceleration and better efficiency at higher speeds. Under maximum acceleration, you can feel the shift happening, but under any other conditions, you would never know there are two gear ratios.

While that efficiency isn’t particularly apparent on the EPA label, under real world conditions, the e-tron GT does quite well. Much of the driving I did with the Audi was at highway speeds which are less than ideal for an EV. The official range estimate is 238 miles combined. However, over the course of several days that included lots of miles at 75 mph I matched that number and still had 32 miles and 9% charge showing on the range estimate. A driving cycle that included more urban and suburban lower speeds as well as opportunities for regenerative braking probably could have approached 300 miles.

Unfortunately, this is where I encountered an issue, not with the car, but with Electrify America. I’ve generally had a pretty good experience with EA charging, but a lot of my friends have experienced significant reliability issues. When I arrived with the Audi, my luck finally ran out. I pulled up to a 350-kW charger at my local station, hoping to experience the 270-kW charging capability of the Audi. The first charger was completely out of order, so I backed up and pulled up to the second 350-kW unit at my local station.

After I plugged in, I turned to chat with the owner of a Ford F-150 Lightning using one of the other four chargers. It turned out that he was only getting 35-kW (I previously charged a Lightning on that very same unit at 150-kW). After 10 minutes I turned to check the screen on the charger and found it was trickling along at just 5-kW. I decided to give up and go home and charge on my 9.6-kW unit in my garage. By morning the Audi was fully replenished, but public charging reliability or lack thereof is still a major concern in most parts of the country and network operators need to do better.

Despite the charging issue, the e-Tron GT is a marvelous car to drive. Despite its sporty, low slung looks, it’s actually very comfortable, even on the less than ideal pavement that mars much of southeast Michigan. It’s not Rolls-Royce smooth and supple, but it’s by no means jarring over level crossings and potholes either. As usual with EVs, the battery in the floor lowers the center of gravity and keeps body roll to a minimum. The steering is precise and actually provides some decent feedback under cornering when in Dynamic mode. It’s also quiet and there doesn’t appear to be any mode that generates any notable amount of synthesized sound beyond what is legally required at low speeds for pedestrian alerts.

The 2022 e-Tron GT I tested had a starting price of $99,900 and came out to a total of $118,740 including delivery and options. Audi hasn’t announced pricing for 2023 models yet, but they will likely go up to offset the increased battery prices caused by more expensive raw materials this year. Now that the Inflation Reduction Act and its revised clean vehicle tax credits are law, this Audi is no longer eligible for any federal incentives since it is built in Germany.

If you are looking for a true grand touring car that can over many miles in style and speed with your favorite companion while not using any gasoline, the Audi e-Tron GT is absolutely worthy of consideration.


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