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2022 Audi RS E-Tron GT first drive review: More of a good thing

Audi's 637-horsepower RS E-Tron GT isn't much more than a reskinned Porsche Taycan Turbo, but that's hardly a bad thing.

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The RS E-Tron GT is Audi's quickest production car.

Audi

The Audi RS E-Tron GT is really stinkin' good, but that should hardly come as a surprise. Peel back the E-Tron's skin and you'll find the same all-electric guts as a Porsche Taycan Turbo. If that's not a recipe for success, I don't know what is.

All E-Tron GT models use the same powertrain, consisting of a 93.4-kilowatt-hour battery pack, dual electric motors and a two-speed transmission. But while the base car produces an admittedly healthy 522 horsepower and 472 pound-feet of torque on overboost, the RS GT cranks that up to 637 hp and 612 lb-ft. That allows the RS E-Tron GT to hit 60 mph in 3.1 seconds, which actually makes it Audi's quickest production car, leaving even the R8 V10 Performance -- a car that's nearly 2,000 pounds lighter -- in its dust.

Outright quickness is part and parcel of the EV experience, and Audi is far from the most impressive in this regard (hello, Tesla). But along some of my favorite roads draped across the Santa Monica Mountains, the E-Tron GT absolutely shines. This car is more exciting to drive than any other new EV -- aside from the Taycan, anyway.

Putting the RS E-Tron GT in Dynamic mode, the dampers stiffen as the air suspension hunkers down and the power delivery gets more aggressive. The wide stance and ultralow center of gravity keeps this thing flat as pancake through hairpin turns, the torque-vectoring tech shuffling power left and right, getting all that instant thrust down to the tires with the most grip. The E-Tron GT's optional rear-wheel steering virtually shortens the wheelbase, just like it does in Audi's RS6 Avant and RS7 Sportback, and this thing dives into corners with the fluidity and precision of a maestro's baton. Even on the occasional wet patch of pavement, the RS E-Tron remains wholly unflappable.

Is it exactly like the Taycan? Not quite. Crucially, the Taycan's steering is a lot better, with a more progressive buildup of weight and a whole hell of a lot more feedback. The Porsche also feels ever so slightly more buttoned-up while pushing hard, though I suppose that could also be a demerit if you err on the side of hooliganism. Conversely, the RS E-Tron GT manages better driving range: The EPA says you'll get 232 miles per charge, compared to the Taycan Turbo's 201.

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The E-Tron GT offers very little in the way of lift-off regenerative braking, a performance characteristic it shares with the Taycan. You can use the paddles on the back of the steering wheel to increase and decrease the amount of lift-off regen, though the differences are so subtle that it's hard to really feel a difference. Also, the operation is wonky: You press the left (minus) paddle to increase the amount of regen while the right (plus) paddle reduces the extra assist. That seems backwards, yeah?

That's not to say there isn't any regenerative braking, it's just not the one-pedal driving style many EV drivers like. When you hit the brakes, the car slows via regen until you exceed 0.3 Gs of braking force, at which point the mechanical stoppers take over. Speaking of which, the RS E-Tron GT comes standard with the same surface-coated friction brakes as higher-end Taycan models and more powerful carbon-ceramic units are optional, though I can't really imagine needing them.

Take the RS E-Tron out of Dynamic mode and the car more strongly emphasizes the GT part of its name, delivering a balanced, cosseting ride. I can feel the occasional bit of harshness, but I'll chalk it up to my tester's optional 21-inch wheels and low-profile tires. The standard 20-inch setup likely won't make a major difference, but hey, every millimeter of tire sidewall helps.

You can opt for red leather, or go totally leather-free.

Audi

The E-Tron Sport Sound piped into the cabin doesn't feel out of place in Dynamic mode, with a low-end growl reverberating in the seats to nicely accompany the futuristic electro-whirrs from the electric powertrain. But I do wish you could turn that sound off completely -- even in its quietest setting, you'll always hear that noise. It's a personal preference, I know, but I love the pleasant serenity of a hushed EV interior. Then again, I also like blasting my tunes over a bangin' stereo. Current recommendation: Nothing drowns out gimmicky piped in Sport Sound like Canadian pop-punk.

Aural preferences aside, the E-Tron GT's interior is typical Audi fare. It's a little busy, but all the switchgear and climate controls are easy to locate and operate. The sliding gear selector on the center console is kind of weird the first few times you use it, but once you've got the muscle memory down, it's a cinch. The little audio touchpad on the right side of the console, however, is something I don't think I'd ever get used to or actually use, especially when there's a scroll wheel for volume and two buttons to move through audio tracks within easy reach of one's right thumb on the steering wheel. I guess it's more for passengers than anything else, but it's still sort of finicky to use. What's so wrong with the tried-and-true volume knob, you guys?

As for tech, Audi's vibrant and reconfigurable Virtual Cockpit is housed on a 12.3-inch screen behind the steering wheel and there's a 10.1-inch screen in the dash running the latest MMI infotainment tech. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are part of the package, but sadly, you can't get the E-Tron with the Taycan's super-cool passenger display. Womp womp.

The RS E-Tron GT starts at $140,995 including destination.

Audi

As a whole, the Porsche's interior just feels ever so slightly nicer, both in terms of design and materials. The Taycan models are also priced higher than their E-Tron GT counterparts, to the tune of about $10,000. The base E-Tron GT will set you back $100,995 while the RS kicks off at $140,995 (both of those prices factor in $1,095 for destination but exclude any federal or local tax incentives).

Oh, and if you're wondering why I've gone this far without mentioning the E-Tron GT's exterior styling, it's because I'm honestly not a fan. The front is way too busy for me, the taillights are oversized and the whole thing just sort of looks like a Taycan with a bad body kit. But hey, to each their own and I know I'm in the minority. Besides, design is always subjective. Underneath that love-it-or-hate-it skin, the E-Tron GT is aces all the way.