Audi has just revealed its new performance flagship and it's electric. Also, there are two of them: Meet the 2021 Audi E-Tron GT Quattro and its sportier sister, the RS E-Tron GT tuned by Audi Sport.
The E-Tron GT's striking shape is no surprise; we got our first look at the low-slung, four-door coupe in concept form at the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show -- heck, we were even able to drive the prototype. The production car sticks remarkably close to that vision, with the same muscular shoulders and lean, mean profile.
The electric sedan beats the Byton K-Byte and Faraday Future's FF 91 to the market, taking its place in Audi's growing stable of electric vehicles -- including the E-Tron SUV, the upcoming Q4 E-Tron and their respective Sportback variants -- later this year. Of course, the GT will have to face the seemingly unbeatable threat that is the Tesla Model S' superior range, bringing to the challenge the promise of more upscale, luxurious details and almost ridiculously fast charging.
2021 Audi E-Tron GT Quattro and RS E-Tron GT make production-ready debutSee all photos
Battery and range
The E-Tron GT formula starts with a 92-kWh battery, 85 kWh of which is usable (the rest is kept in reserve to preserve longevity). The battery pack is mostly flat, making up the floor of the car, save for a pair of what Audi calls "foot garages," two small recesses in the pack behind the driver's seat that improve rear passenger legroom and, as a result, headroom as well.
Audi estimates that the E-Tron GT will cruise for up to 238 miles per charge based on the US EPA cycle, while the RS E-Tron GT will go 232 miles. Final EPA estimates aren't available yet, but we bet they'll be close to Audi's claims.
Look closely and you'll notice that the E-Tron GT features charging doors on both of its front fenders, each housing a SAE J1772 standard AC port capable of 11-kW charging at home or public chargers (Audi will add an option for 22-kW charging sometime after launch).
The passenger side, however, is also home to a standard CCS DC fast-charge port that can accept up to 270 kW at ultra-high-speed stations like those offered by Ionity in Europe or Electrify America here in the US. Under optimal conditions, the E-Tron GT can add up to 62 miles of range in just 5 minutes through this connection, rapid charging from 5 percent to 80 percent in under 23 minutes. To do this, this electric grand tourer makes use of active cooling before and during charging to balance speed and battery health.
The E-Tron GT's standard Quattro electric all-wheel-drive powertrain features two motors. Up front is a 175-kW unit and a 320-kW motor powers the rear wheels. The rear motor is particularly interesting, as it connects to the wheels via a two-speed transmission -- a rarity among electric cars. This allows Audi to use a short ratio for launch control and sporty driving or a taller gear for more efficient driving and high-speed cruising. (Corporate cousin Porsche uses a two-speed gearbox for its Taycan, too.)
Full power can be shifted to either the front or rear motor under certain conditions -- for example, when passing over a patch of ice, but most of the time, it blends the two for a net total output of 350 kW -- about 469 horsepower and 465 pound-feet of torque. However, for short bursts of power -- such as during launch control -- output can be temporarily boosted to a total of 390 kW (523 horsepower), allowing for a 0-62 mph (100 km/h) sprint of just 4.1 seconds.
The higher-performance RS E-Tron GT features the same front motor, but upgrades to a more powerful 335-kW rear motor and a higher system output of 440 kW -- about 590 horsepower and 612 pound-feet of torque. Its boost output is also higher, at 475 kW (637 horsepower). The RS also features a standard rear-axle differential lock -- optional on the base model -- to boost rear wheel traction.
Unsurprisingly, the more powerful RS E-Tron GT sprints more quickly to 62 mph than the standard model -- taking just 3.3 seconds -- and has a slightly higher top speed of 155.3 mph versus 152.2 mph for the regular E-Tron GT. GT features the same front motor, but upgrades to a more powerful 335 kW rear motor and a higher system output of 440 kW -- about 590 horsepower and 612 pound-feet of torque. Its boost output is also higher, at 475 kW (637 horsepower). The RS also features a standard rear-axle differential lock -- optional on the base model -- to boost rear wheel traction.
The more powerful RS E-Tron GT sprints more quickly to 62 mph (100 km/h) than the standard model -- taking just 3.3 seconds -- and has a slightly higher top speed of 155.3 mph versus 152.2 mph for the regular E-Tron GT.
||Audi E-Tron GT||Audi RS E-Tron GT|
|Front motor||175 kW (235 hp)||175 kW (235 hp)|
|Rear motor||320 kW (429 hp)||335 kW (449 hp)|
|Total power||350 kW (469 hp)||440 kW (590 hp)|
|Total torque||630 Nm (465 lb-ft.)||830 Nm (612 lb-ft.)|
|Boost output||390 kW (523 hp)||475 kW (637 hp)|
|0-62 mph (100 kph)||4.1 s||3.3 s|
|Top speed||245 kph (152.2 mph)||250 kph (155.3 mph)|
Audi believes that a big part of the E-Tron GT's performance "feel" is what you hear, which is why its engineers spent a lot of time tuning the electric car's generated sound.
All electric cars are legally required to make some sound at low speeds to help pedestrians and the visually impaired hear them coming, but Audi has boosted the E-Tron's front-mounted external sound generator a bit above the legal minimum to give the car sportier presence. Inside, the car's rear speakers are used to create a similar sense of futuristic power for the driver and onboard passengers.
The E-Tron GT and RS E-Tron GT can be upgraded with a optional Sport Sound upgrade that adds a second sound generator to the rear of the vehicle for an even louder tone inside and out while operating at low speeds (no more than is legally allowed in the places it will be sold), and that soundtrack is further enhanced by the Bang & Olufsen premium speakers inside.
The E-Tron GT features adaptive dampers as standard equipment, but the car can be upgraded with an optional three-chamber air suspension that can raise the ride height by 20mm or or lower as much as 22mm from the base level to deliver comfort, performance or aerodynamic gains depending on speed and drive mode. The air suspension is standard equipment for the RS model. Both versions of the E-Tron GT can also be upgraded with optional all-wheel steering, which aids stability during high-speed lane changes while also reducing turning radius at lower velocities.
Like all EVs, the E-Tron GT makes extensive use of regenerative braking. Pressing the brake pedal activates first up to 0.3 g of regeneration, recapturing up to 250 kW of energy while slowing. When you press harder on the pedal -- during emergency stops or dynamic driving -- the friction brakes come into play with fairly beefy hardware. The E-Tron comes standard with steel discs, but can be upgraded to the RS's standard tungsten-carbide-coated rotors with 10-piston calipers on the front axle. Both models can also be upgraded to 16.5-inch diameter carbon ceramic brakes if you've just got money burning a hole in your pocket.
Electric gran turismo
The GT stretches 196.4 inches long from nose to tail and rides on a 114.2-inch wheelbase. Overall, the electric car is about the same size as Audi's A7 sedan, which is the gas-powered model that this car most closely mimics in proportion and mission. However, the E-Tron GT is a touch wider at 77.3 inches and it's lower, even with a 56-inch panoramic glass roof. The E-Tron GT is also four-door liftback, though the E-Tron's 14.3 cubic-foot rear cargo capacity is much smaller than the A7's 24.9 cubes. Fortunately, there's a 3.0-cubic-foot storage frunk under the hood to make up some of the difference.
The E-Tron was designed to look good, but also to be as aerodynamic as Audi's engineers could make it. A motorized spoiler sits at the tail end, deploying from closed to two positions based on the driver's needs -- a flatter, drag-reducing angle for efficient driving or a higher angle of attack that boosts stability during dynamic driving. Active front aerodynamics, a flat undertray and a mostly closed-off version of Audi's signature single-frame grille conspire to produce a remarkably low drag coefficient of just 0.24 -- on par with slippery Tesla's Model S and just a touch higher than the Porsche Taycan Turbo's 0.22 Cd.
In Europe, Audi's adaptive Matrix LED headlamps and Audi Laser Light high beams will be optional equipment. Here in the States, we may get the Laser Lights -- Audi currently offers the tech on other vehicles, including the R8 -- but the legal status of the Matrix beams is still a big question mark. Out back, LED tail lights are also standard, greeting drivers along with the headlamps with unique welcome and departure animations when the car is locked or unlocked.
Cabin and safety tech
Putting its best environmentally friendly foot forward, the E-Tron GT comes standard with a leather-free interior with upholstery made from "predominantly" recycled materials -- though leather packages are an option.
Central on the dashboard is a 10.1-inch, single-screen version of Audi's MMI Touch infotainment suite, a departure from the dual stacked screen setups found on Audi's higher-end gas cars, like the A8 L. The system features haptic touch feedback and boasts a web-connected version of MMI navigation. The latter incorporates a few EV-specific tricks, including searching for free charging stations, routing trips based on the shortest, fastest charging stops at DC charging points and triggering thermal preconditioning of the battery pack as you approach a charging station to optimize charge time.
Also standard is a 12.3-inch version of Audi's Virtual Cockpit Plus digital instrument cluster, which can be augmented by an optional head-up display.
Being Audi's new electric-performance flagship, we expect the full might of the automaker's active driver aid and assistance tech will be brought to bear. Audi's Pre Sense suite will be standard with optional "Tour," "City," and "Park" packages adding adaptive cruise, Remote Park Assist Plus (which is said to work with the driver outside of the car), night vision, 360-degree surround cameras and more.
The new E-Tron GT will be built on the same assembly lines as the R8 mid-engined supercar at the Audi Böllinger Höfe near Neckarsulm, Germany, which is interesting because the two models have totally different powertrains. Both the 2021 Audi E-Tron and the RS E-Tron GT will hit the market simultaneously in Spring of 2021. Audi says the E-Tron GT will start at $99,900 (before destination or any federal tax credits) for the Premium Plus model, while the Prestige will cost $107,100. The high-performance RS version will start at $139,900.