2021 Audi E-Tron GT Concept Drive | Charging ahead

In Europe, politicians are pushing European carmakers to keep new electric offerings coming, and the Germans are sick and tired of being told that Tesla has outclassed them with their high-performance sedans. In this environment, Audi has come out swinging with the fully electric E-Tron GT, based on a platform that’s shared with the upcoming Porsche Taycan. Slated for a launch in late 2020, it was shown in concept form at the Los Angeles Auto Show two weeks ago, where we had the opportunity to take it for an extended spin, escorted by two motorcycle cops – to protect us from traffic and potential speeding tickets.

The design of the E-Tron GT concept is nothing less than stunning; really, this is what an RS7 should look like (but doesn’t). It’s 195.3 inches long, 77.1 inches wide and just 54.3 inches tall – its proportions are extreme, and so are the details. The head- and taillights boast the latest LED and laser technology, there is an “inverted” closed grille, a full panoramic glass roof, and it sits on 22-inch alloys shod with 285/30 rubber. Instead of fake exhausts, there is a brutally styled rear diffusor.

The good news is that almost all of it will carry over to the production model. When it comes to market, the hood, which serves as an aero element on the concept, will be closed, and the 22-inch wheels will be replaced with 21-inch rims. You will be able to replace the glass roof with a carbon-fiber roof. Beyond that, the concept is reality. And to us, it looks more exciting than the soft-edged Porsche Taycan, its closely related sister model.

Audi E-Tron GT

Ferdinand Piëch, the overlord of in-house competition, would enjoy the battle. Yes, the Porsche Taycan is the top-level iteration of this platform. But the E-Tron GT is not just an Audi; it is developed by the Audi Sport performance division, formerly known as Quattro GmbH. Their other standalone model is the R8. You wouldn’t think they will really take a back seat to Porsche, would you? Sure, they agreed to keep a distance to the Porsche Taycan, which Porsche says will make 600 horsepower. So Audi Sport, for now, is settling for 590.

Settling behind the wheel of the E-Tron GT, we note that the ultra-futuristic cockpit has taken yet another step forward from the E-Tron crossover SUV that we recently drove at the press launch in Abu Dhabi. The steering wheel has assumed a nearly hexagonal shape, the center console is elevated, the gear selector a sliding object. The paddles on the steering wheel adjust the regenerative braking rate in three levels.

Thanks to the fabric seats, Audi – in politically correct fashion – speaks of a “vegan interior;” the renunciation of real leather is praised as a “clear statement of automotive modernity”. Whatever. The fit and finish is stunning, and we are assured there will be natural leather options on the production model as well. Altogether, the interior resembles an R8 for four.

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Time to drive: The 590 horsepower and 656 lb-ft of the production car, coming from one front and one rear electric motor, are not fully on tap in the E-Tron GT concept. But there was no disappointment when we pressed the accelerator: This concept car accelerates with great urgency, the E-motors whirring audibly, exactly as Audi designed it. When it comes to market, it will crack 60 mph in less than 3.5 seconds, despite weighing more than two tons. Top speed will be governed to 149 mph, keeping a symbolic distance to Porsche’s 162 mph.

The power is transmitted to all four wheels through a one-speed transmission, and torque vectoring functions optimize traction and corner turn-in. With its 800-volt system, Audi promises at least 250 miles of range, probably more. Push it hard, and that figure could shrink to below 200 miles. That’s still a tough pill to swallow, but the E-Tron GT will have access to a fast-charging network that is shared with the Porsche Taycan – and will leave Tesla’s superchargers in the dust.

The E-Tron GT’s electric rush comes without the slightest delay. It is a different sensation from whipping an RS7 through the gears, screaming to the redline. But it is similarly exciting, equally fast at least into lower triple-digit speeds – and it validates the preconceptions of the future instilled in us by the science-fiction movies we absorbed as kids.

Audi E-Tron GT

Electric cars typically put their batteries below the passenger cell, and that’s why many of them are designed as crossover SUVs. Porsche and Audi put the batteries in front and behind the passengers, so the driver sits extremely low. And that’s why the E-Tron GT and Taycan can be even lower than an A7 or Panamera. Still, there’s room for a 3.5 cu ft front and 15.9 cu ft rear trunk.

Escorted by two motorcycle cops and a Q7, we finish our exhilarating 45-minute drive wondering what role a car like this will play in the future of individual mobility. In our rapidly electrifying present, the upcoming Audi E-Tron GT has a good chance of taking a top spot among the competition – and of giving the Porsche Taycan a good run for the money.

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