After being caught napping on electrification by a certain American brand, Europe’s major car manufacturers are finally getting up to speed on EVs.
Everywhere you turn there are announcements about battery development, new EV-specific production lines and the phasing out of combustion engines, including from Audi.
The Ingolstadt brand was actually one of the faster-responding premium brands, launching the e-tron SUV in 2018. Since then it’s added the smaller Q4 e-tron and plans to have 20 all-electric models in its range by 2025, with the e-tron GT the latest to join the line-up.
Unlike Audi’s mainstream EVs, the e-tron GT doesn’t share its underpinnings with other regular VW Group cars, instead it uses the platform and drivetrain developed for the Porsche Taycan.
So while most of Audi’s electric offerings are variations on the SUV theme, the e-tron GT is a sleek, muscular four-door grand tourer with an emphasis on performance and luxury.
The e-tron GT looks like the kind of concept car you might see in a film set in the near future. Almost impossibly large alloys fill the swollen arches, a long low bonnet stretches out over a unique take on the Audi Singleframe grille, and a slippery coupe-like roofline dips towards the full-width rear light bar.
The futuristic feel is more than skin deep, too. One of the most striking things about the e-tron GT is the noise it makes. All EVs have a faint buzz from the motors but Audi employed sound engineers who spent thousands of hours designing a unique synthetic sound for the e-tron.
Using information including throttle position, motor speeds and the car’s ground speed, the e-tron sport sound system creates an “engine” noise that is piped into the cabin and rises and falls with a spine-tingling electronic hum unlike anything else I’ve driven.
For all the space-age looks and starship whizzing, the e-tron still sets plenty of store in the traditional values of a four-seat GT. The seating position is low-slung and you feel wrapped up inside the car but there’s plenty of space for four and long distances can be tackled in comfort. The main boot offers a usable 405 litres and there’s another 81 litres of occasional space under the bonnet.
While rivals like the Tesla Model S are all about minimalist gimmicky interiors, the e-tron GT blends a modern feel with traditional Audi qualities. There are digital instruments, an illuminated dash logo and a 10.1-inch central touchscreen but still physical controls for the likes of heating systems, all finished with Audi’s typical knurled metal detail and exemplary fit and finish.
For now, Audi is offering only two variants of the e-tron GT, compared with the 14 body and drivetrain combinations of the Taycan. Trim levels aside, your choice is simply between the regular e-tron GT quattro and the RS e-tron GT.
Both cars feature all-wheel-drive with a motor on each axle and both use the same 86kWh battery pack. In the standard quattro car, the two motors produce a total of 469bhp (523bhp on the 2.5-second “overboost”) and 464lb ft torque, good for a 0-62mph time of 4.1 seconds.
That, frankly, feels face-meltingly fast enough. The instant surge as the electronics do their thing is properly breathtaking, especially accompanied by the almost alien tune of the sport sound system.
If that’s not enough, the RS wrings more power and torque out of the setup by retuning the rear motor. Maximum regular output is 590bhp, boosted to 627bhp for brief bursts, and torque is 612lb ft. That will get the RS e-tron GT to 62mph in just 3.3 seconds.
Our test car featured the locking rear diff - a £1,500 option but standard on the RS. Having not driven a regular car it’s impossible to say how much difference it makes to the handling but with it, the e-tron’s ability to grip into and power out of corners is staggering and enough to rearrange your innards. The steering feedback is lacking - as in most Audis - but the way the e-tron moves is precise, immediate and wholly befitting the fast grand tourer brief.
On a full charge, Audi says the e-tron GT will do 298 miles. That’s some way behind the very longest range cars on sale now but the Audi has the benefit of 270kW charging capability. At full speed, that will add 62 miles of charge in just five minutes.
The e-tron GT starts at around £82,000 but our range-topping Vorsprung car comes in at £108,030. There’s no escaping the fact that’s a huge amount of money but the e-tron GT is a hugely impressive machine.
Its range might not be earth-shattering but its futuristic design, spacious premium interior and breathtaking performance mark it out as something special.
Audi e-tron GT quattro Vorsprung
Price: £108,030; Motor: Dual synchronous motors 175kW/320kW; Battery: 86kWh; Power: 469bhp (523bhp on overboost); Torque: 464b ft (472lb ft on overboost); Transmission: Two-speed, all-wheel-drive; Top speed: 152mph; 0-62mph: 4.1 seconds; WLTP range: 298 miles; Consumption: 2.9-3.1 miles/kWh; Charging: Up to 270kW