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New 2021 Audi RS e-tron GT review

Nick Francis

02 Mar 2021

1/9
Audi is giving the Tesla Model S something to think about with the new performance-focussed RS e-tron GT. But does Audi’s new electric grand tourer do enough to take the fight to Elon?

PROs:

+ Blistering performance

+ Razor sharp handling

+ High tech cabin


CONs: 

- Lower range than Tesla Model S

- Much less boot space than the Model S

- Expensive at £110,950




New 2021 Audi RS e-tron GT rapid review 


The new Audi RS e-tron GT is the first fully-electric car from the brand to wear the hallowed RS badge, built on the same platform as its stablemate and fellow neck-snapping EV, the Porsche Taycan. That places it firmly as a rival to Porsche’s electric grand tourer, but it’s also up against stiff competition from the popular Tesla Model S Plaid.


We are entering an age when performance electric cars are becoming plentiful and varied, and while Tesla stole a march on the competition, cars like the RS e-tron GT offer enticing 0-62mph times and battery ranges, only they come with a familiar and trusted badge front and back. 


Arguably better looking than both the Tesla and the Porsche, the RS e-tron GT and the ‘standard’ non-RS version, launched at the same time, have an elongated 5-metre body which has clearly been honed and sculpted in the wind tunnel to maximise aerodynamics and reduce drag – crucial elements of optimising battery range. It stands just 1.4-metres tall and nearly 2-metres wide: supercar-like dimensions moulded into an aggressive, muscular stance. 





The honeycomb ‘radiator’ grille can be optioned in the same colour as the body of the car – an Audi first – which adds to the fuss-free design, although you’ll spot the camera and sensor bank peeking out from beneath the grille like a slightly bashful frog. At the back the seemingly-obligatory strip light is flanked by funky-looking blade-shaped LEDs. 


Anyone hoping for something out of the Audi norm from the interior will be disappointed, the cabin of the RS e-tron GT is very similar to that found on Audis which still run on petrol, like the RS7. That’s no criticism though, as the cabin is incredibly premium and loaded with materials which make you want to run your fingers across surfaces like you’re stroking a Persian cat, and a leather-free design package can be optioned for those who can’t stand the thought of sitting on a former farm animal. 


Like all new Audi’s the cockpit focusses heavily on the driver, with the layout and ergonomics all designed with ease of reach in mind, and the build quality is every bit as good as you would expect for a car which costs more than a lot of apartments.  


Audi’s tried and tested 10.1-inch infotainment screen is partnered with a 12.3-inch digital driver display. The resolution of both screens is as good as it gets and operating the system is slick and intuitive. The driver display toggles though views of sat nav guidance, media, phone and car information via a button on the three-spoke steering wheel, and you can maximise or minimise the rev counter and speedo. 





Some people may lament the lack of Audi’s familiar rotary dial but the tiles are big and easy to hit on the screen and the response is lightening quick. 


Grand tourers aren’t known for their practicality but because of the lack of engine with the RS e-tron GT you get an 85-litre ‘frunk’ to compliment the 490-litre boot, which, combined, is around the same as the Porsche Taycan but way down on the Tesla Model S’s 894-litres. Passengers get plenty of legroom though, thanks to scoops made in the battery (which is stored in the belly of the car) to accommodate feet. A neat touch which makes a big difference. 


With a frankly astonishing 0-62mph time of 3.3-seconds the RS e-tron GT is a lot of fun to drive, especially in a straight line. Two electric motors, one on each axle, produce 590bhp which can be hiked via a boost mode for 2.5-seconds to 637bhp, and torque stands at 830Nm. Audi’s new electronic Quattro system is bordering on failsafe, it’s hard to think of a car which grips the road quite as well.


Audi says the RS e-tron GT is good for a range “in excess of” 280 miles, which is nowhere near the 390 miles of the similarly-priced Tesla Model S Plaid. Fitted with an 86kWh battery (93kWh gross), the Audi can be charged to 80% of capacity in just 23 minutes but only if you can find a 270kW charge point. Using a standard 11kW charger you will need to leave the RS e-tron GT topping up overnight for a full charge. 


While the RS e-tron GT loses to the Tesla when it comes to the on-paper stats it exudes swagger and altogether feels more special than a Model 3. It also has the Tesla licked on build quality, and coming in cheaper than the Porsche Taycan Turbo and Turbo S we expect the RS e-tron GT to be a big player in the performance EV space. 


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New 2021 Audi RS e-tron GT interior and infotainment 


The RS e-tron GT’S interior is very much the same as most large, modern Audis, only the drive selector is a flat switch rather than a chunky knob, and there is just one touchscreen where in other models there is a second to control the climate. Buyers can opt for a package which removes the leather from the upholstery and replaces it with various sustainable materials.


Like an expensive German car should, the RS e-tron GT offers a real sense of occasion upon entry and everything feels like it’s been design with the driver in mind, including the slightly angled infotainment system. It spacious and comfortable and it’s slathered in soft-touch materials throughout.


While the design isn’t as flamboyant as something from Mercedes, it’s far more opulent than the minimalist approach of the Tesla Model 3, plus you get a normal steering wheel with the Audi. 


The third generation of Audi’s MIB infotainment system is slick, intuitive and responsive, and it’s bristling with tech such as a sat nav which both learns the driver’s preferred routes as well as receives live traffic updates. An embedded modem enables Car-to-X communication as well as offers live news and weather updates. Depending on the trim level, it also hosts a 360 degree ariel view parking camera, which is extremely useful on a car of this size. 





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New 2021 Audi RS e-tron GT practicality and boot space 


With a combined 575-litres of space split between the front and back storage areas the RS e-tron GT is surprisingly practical in this area, although it’s no match for the Tesla Model S’s 800-plus litres. That said, 575-litres is more than Audi’s own RS6 estate car. 


It’s not as roomy inside as the Tesla either, but passengers won’t struggle for legroom thanks to Audi’s ‘foot garages’ – scooped out sections of the battery to accommodate feet. Head room could be cramped for very tall passengers thanks to the sloping roofline. 


A wide dashboard allows for a long glovebox and the door bins are big enough for quite a lot of clutter, and the storage cubbies on the driver’s console will hold a phone and the keys – although we found the keys slid out when going around corners with, er, intent. 





New 2021 Audi RS e-tron GT battery, motors and driving


Once again the RS e-tron GT loses out to the Tesla when it comes to performance. It covers 0-62mph in 3.3-seconds while the Tesla does it in a claimed 2.1-seconds. The Audi’s range of “in excess” of 280 miles is not only vague, but also well short of Tesla claimed 390 miles for the Model S Plaid. 


But when it comes to having fun the Audi beats the Tesla for our money. A new electronic Quattro system which can continuously split the torque between the front and back motors every few thousandths of a second offers staggering levels of grip. We are hard pressed to think of a car which corners with such confidence, and when coupled with the RS e-tron GT’s razor-precise steering response it adds up to a very impressive car. 


If anything the RS e-tron GT could be criticised for being too good at keeping the car shiny side up, driving purists will surely want to consider the rear wheel drive Porsche Taycan - which is around £35K cheaper but over 2-seconds slower from 0-62mph - in order to get some over-steery thrills. But it seems silly to mark a car down on being too good at cornering, and Audi must be commended for taming such immense power to the point that anyone can drive it without feeling intimidated. 


In the Efficiency drive mode front wheel drive is prioritised to conserve power, and how much the car recuperates energy on the overrun can be dialled up or down via paddles mounted on the steering wheel. In Dynamic mode the all-important boost mode can be used, which adds 2.5 seconds of an extra 47bhp and bumps power to an overall 637bhp. 






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