Audi RS e-tron GT 2021 Drive Review : A Little RS-pect [COTY2021]
Singapore - Respect isn’t easily earned. There are the hustle-bustle-fluster-bluster types that need to be the centre of attention… and then you have the quiet eyes-of-the-storm that put their heads down and get things done amidst the tumult – the type that treads quietly but carries a big stick.
Out of the menagerie of brands under the Volkswagen Group that spans Skoda and VW to glitterati like Bugatti, Lamborghini and Bentley, Audi has shot to the moon with the e-tron GT tour de force.
The e-tron GT is an all-electric, grand-touring four-door coupe sportscar that is silent, sophisticated and boasts shocking, pin-you-in-seat performance.
A pal with a 600+hp C63S who popped by during the shoot was rendered momentarily speechless when we took him for a quick spin – his parting message, “Bro, I want to sell my car…!”
There’s a ‘regular’ e-tron GT quattro (530hp/640Nm), but we’ve decided on the more potent RS e-tron GT (if you’re wondering, it’s also a quattro) to include in our 2021 Cars of the Year.
This crackling bolt of white lightning is tuned to produce 440kW/598hp (Boost gives 475kW/646hp) and a mental 830Nm (like all EVs, this is available from standstill!).
On-paper stats are 0-100km/h in 3.5secs and a 250km/h top speed, all of which is wrapped-up in a stylish four-door coupe body. Now how’s that for a big schtick?
But let’s digress for a moment: Audi hopes for its ‘e-tron’ moniker to enjoy the same ubiquity as its legendary ‘quattro’ tag, albeit applied to its electric vehicles.
The SUV from 2019 that first wore the ‘e-tron’ name was called just that – e-tron (like the original Audi Quattro, if you recall). Since then, the e-tron range has seen the addition of the e-tron Sportback crossover and now, the e-tron GT.
As Singapore moves from ICE to EV, we’re seeing several varieties of EV adopters. Naturally, there are niche-within-niches (the bespoke EV platform purists for instance), but the different groups can be broadly distilled into two camps: empirical and emotional.
This author is so deep in the ‘emotional’ camp I have a permanent building instead of a tent. I can’t treat a car as an appliance enough to be able to buy something based on tech stats alone – what next, self-driving cars and no more steering wheels? Oh snap!
If empirical comparisons are all you’re after, the nature of rapidly evolving technology is such that the next new EV will always be better, faster and more efficient…. just like any smartphone, fridge or washing machine – and just as disposable.
Cars to us are more than mere beasts of burden… and if you’re reading this magazine, you’re likely of the same mind. What can I say? We carry enough automotive baggage from our misspent youth to look for the silver lining in any car brand’s foray into the brave new world of electric vehicles.
For good or for ill, every marque injects its brand’s essence into its EVs and this makes us warm and tingly inside. As a petrolhead, there’s plenty to celebrate because this represents the car industry’s big push into the ‘new’, as opposed to rolling over and playing dead like the horse-and-carriage when automobiles supplanted them.
The low-slung and sleek RS e-tron GT is hunkered-down to the ground and is indubitably Audi, with quasi-exotic looks that are as magnetic as the car is electric.
You won’t mistake this for an anonymous appliance that fades into the local car-scape like a wallflower.
The RS exudes a brooding predatory presence, is hella stanced on gorgeous 21-inch aero-blade rims and boasts a subtly taut musculature that isn’t OTT or overly tarted-up, even as it slowly seduces your eyes and draws your gaze to linger over its sleek silhouette.
It doesn’t wear its EV credentials like a heart on the sleeve for the benefit of smug, virtue-signalling owners and we’re glad it doesn’t.
With all the greenwashing these days, there’s more focus on a car being electric, as opposed to elevating the car-maker.
Tesla has the sort of brand recognition any brand will kill for because to common folks, EV equals Tesla, even though the car brands familiar to us (like Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche) have started their electrification offensive.
There’s no doubt the Teslas ‘deliver the goods’ (metaphorically and literally) in a clinically competent manner, with a minimalist cabin, engaging UX and in-car entertainment to boot. This is exactly what some folks are after – a deconstructed car with none of the perceived ‘baggage’.
As a petrolhead, it’s far cooler to experience what a traditional car brand’s vision of a sporty EV is. Avid car nuts are happy to pay for the emotional quotient and connection to their favourite car brands.
In fact, it’s not unlike the first time we caught the life-action Transformers movie, or any one of the MCU films, where you gawk in awe as your 80s comic-book heroes are brought to life.
Let’s agree to disagree: don’t be one of the guys who argues that a tuned <insert tuned car of choice here> can out-drag an exotic car – if I want an exotic and I’m prepared to pay for it, I don’t think I’m going to be deterred by chat group vultures throwing shade at it.
The RS e-tron GT includes all the visual elements fans of the Audi brand will appreciate, and this sort of identity is solid gold to people prepared to pay for it.
The interior is fresh and all-digital, yet oddly familiar and reassuring at the same time and it is this sense of familiarity that anchors us to the legacy of the brand.
You sit sportscar-low in the RS and the first thing you realise when you set-off is how ‘small’ it drives compared to how big it looks.
For a car with a kerbweight that tips the scales at 2.3-tonnes (pretty par for the course for most EVs these days), there’s no inertia thanks to the instant responses of the electric powertrain, even as all-wheel steer imparts the agility of a car with a much shorter wheelbase than the RS’s 2900mm.
The point to Audi’s ‘RS’ models isn’t just about the straight-line HODL performance, but in the way they acquit themselves in the corners.
Driving enthusiasts will understand that paper tech specs tell only a small part of the story. It’s like reading the summary written by someone who has only read the back-cover of a richly textured novel.
With the RS, it’s only when you turn a wheel in anger that you realise it acts as a conduit between driver and road.
It amplifies the commitment of the focused driver and transforms it into devastating acceleration that is beautiful in its violence.
Getting used to the immediacy of the on/off throttle pedal won’t take long and you’ll quickly realise having great power/torque on tap comes with great responsibility.
In ‘Boost’, this translates to 646hp and a gobstopping 830Nm pretty much from a standstill as thought is instantly translated into brutal, shocking forward motion.
Needless to say, it is not just a drag-sprint hero to serve as fodder for inane click-baity videos, because the steering is tuned to deliver precise, incisive cuts that allow one to carve into corners with surprising aplomb.
The weighting of the controls are spot-on, because such tactile feel to the driver’s touch-points – from steering to paddles to pedals – makes all the difference in a proper performance car, as opposed to a car that is merely tuned to be fast.
The RS’s S$600k on-the-road price-tag is in the Taycan 4S’s ballpark, but the Audi is closer to Taycan Turbo in terms of performance. However, don’t be mistaken into thinking the e-tron GT lives in the Taycan’s shadow.
After a few rounds with the all-electric RS e-tron GT, we discover it has carved out a distinct identity within the Audi family, is comfortable enough in its own clothes as a five-seater sporty grand tourer and deserving of more than a little RS-pect!
PHOTOS Zotiq Visuals
Audi RS e-tron GT
Battery 93.4kWh, Li-Ion, 800V
Electric Motor 598hp/830Nm
Electric Range up to 472km (WLTP)
0-100km/h 3.6secs (3.3secs Boost)
Top Speed 250km/h (electronically limited)
LxBxH 4989 x 1964 x 1396mm
Kerbweight (DIN) 2347kg