It’s no surprise that Audi’s quickest car wears an RS badge, as those two letters stand in for “RennSport” or “Race Sport” by way of English translation from the original German. What’s more interesting is that the holder of the crown isn’t the hottest flavor of the automaker’s mid-engine R8 supercar, but rather a fully-electric grand tourer that adds an extra set of doors to its sibling’s spaceship aesthetic.
More than just a packet of consonants plastered on the back of a battery-powered interstellar rocket, the 2022 Audi RS e-tron GT isn’t just the best Audi you can currently buy, it’s also one of the strongest across-the-board choices for anyone seeking top-end transportation with personality, style and grace. This astonishing automobile is proof that the maturation of electric vehicles is upon us as luxury badges emphatically demonstrate that there are reasons well beyond range as to why you’d want to go gas-free.
As long as you’ve got the scratch, that is.
Light on Its Feet, Less Temperamental Than Tesla
Much of the initial wow factor associated with the RS e-tron GT is derived from the dual-motor wallop delivered by its electric drivetrain. Managing the front and rear axles and married to an 85-kWh battery, the system delivers a nominal 590 horsepower. On top of that, an overboost function harnesses the full might of the vehicle’s cooling system to perk things up to 637 horses and 612 lb-ft of torque for 2.5 of the 3.1 seconds it officially takes the Audi to reach 60 mph when using its launch control system.
If those numbers seem absurd it’s because they are. While not quite as quick as the mightiest model Porsche Taycan (that shares the e-tron GT’s 800-volt platform), it’s well within an eye-blink in real-world testing that drops the actual timed run below the three-second mark. Consider, too, that despite being a second slower than the 1,020 horsepower Tesla Model S Plaid, the e-tron requires none of the theatrics associated with that vehicle’s Drag Strip mode launch control (which requires up to 15 minutes of battery conditioning before engaging). Simply hold the brake and flatten the go-pedal in Dynamic mode and the Audi is away — over and over again, too, thanks to the GT’s excellent thermal management.
Catapult party tricks eventually wear out, but the overall effect of the RS e-tron GT’s instant-on torque never does. Underneath the right shoe lies a bottomless pool of pound-feet that can be plunged into at any point, rewarding the driver with the kind of responsive, reality-bending thrust more often associated with plus-size circus cannons. Combined with the vehicle’s two-speed transmission, its all-wheel drive system (which instantaneously shuffles power delivery from one wheel to the another to maintain traction and stability), and the RS edition’s standard rear-axle steering, the e-tron GT betrays almost none of its 5,100 or so pounds of curb weight.
Even in corners its bulk is largely obscured, concentrated as low as it is in the chassis (with the vehicle’s overall ride height two inches shorter than the gas-fired RS7 sedan). It’s primarily when braking from the terrifying top speeds easily reachable by the Audi that its true heft is revealed, especially on the winter tires my test vehicle was outfitted with. I was asked to learn a new language to communicate with a car whose every move was couched in an envelope of electrons, but that’s part of the fun of engaging with a new culture — one that will eventually work its electric anthropology into the lives of drivers at every rung of the pricing ladder.
Restraint Where It Matters
If the Audi RS e-tron GT were merely exceptionally quick — a hallmark of luxury EVs — it might not have made as strong an impression. Fortunately, the rest of the package is equally formidable.
Visually, the RS e-tron GT cuts a gorgeous profile, more graceful than its Taycan cousin yet still sufficiently malevolent to convey the firepower carefully coiled under its sheet metal and glass. Furthering the sensation that the GT is something special: the motion-activated, context-sensitive digital symphony of sound that rises and falls both inside the automobile (to tickle the auditory canal of the pilot) and outside (to keep pedestrians apprised of the Audi’s presence). It’s a whirring cloud of vaguely electrified industrial pan-pipe musings, running from bass clef to treble as speeds increase.
Inside, the e-tron’s environment is upscale without being overwhelming. Forget wraparound screens, gesture controls or augmented reality. Instead, the GT presents a pair of LCD panels (driver cluster and center stack) matched with buttons and toggles for the climate controls and steering wheel buttons that can engage with nearly everything else (with the only misstep being the do-everything circular multi-function touch controller on the console, which is easily bypassed).
In addition to its design restraint, the cabin itself is comfortable front and rear, provided your torso is short enough to scrape under the car’s plunging roofline at the back. With decent storage space under its hatch and a useful, although brief “frunk” ahead of the windshield, the e-tron GT lives up to its grand touring name by providing excellent accommodations on longer trips.
The car’s power pack also facilitates extended sojourns, provided you can find a station that takes advantage of the Audi’s 270 kW max charging speed. If properly plugged, the battery can add just over 60 miles of driving distance after a mere five minutes of charge time, or 23 minutes to 80% full from near-empty. Your experience will vary, but even on relatively slow 7 to 11 kW chargers I had no difficulty keeping the e-tron GT topped up around Montreal, nor navigating a 250-mile road trip in colder weather through mountainous terrain.
More Money, Less Range, But Not a Dealbreaker
A road trip was indeed a positive experience despite all-out range being one of the few weak spots on paper for the RS. Fully-charged, it’s officially rated at 232 miles by the EPA, which I easily matched even when driving on high rolling resistance rubber. While it’s more than enough range for the demands of real-world driving, it’s still well below the 350 miles promised by the Mercedes-Benz EQS, or the 405 driving miles for the Tesla Model S.
Undercutting its rivals on range, the RS e-tron GT also manages to overshoot them on price. With a starting ask north of $140,000 (before adding tens of thousands in optional gear), the RS trim is close to 40% pricier than its base model as well as several of its chief rivals, with only the top trim Taycans surpassing its window sticker.
Whether that matters to you depends entirely on how you plan to use your electrified steed. If long-distance drives are regularly on the menu, greater range is of course more convenient, but if you’d prefer to fly from one city to the next it hardly matters whether you’ll occasionally be forced to stop for a charge a little earlier than the Silver Star crowd or Teslarati.
The Audi asks for a decision based on its compellingly comprehensive persona, which is grounded in its overall driving experience rather than tethered to how long you can hypermile before having to pull over and get on the grid. The era of luxury BEVs courting customers past the limits imposed by their battery packs and aero profiles has begun, and the RS e-tron GT is right there in the front row.
This article was featured in the InsideHook newsletter. Sign up now.