After just a few miles behind the wheel of Audi's latest grand tourer, you'll wonder why we ever started burning gas in the first place.
Sometimes when I'm writing a car review, I like to keep my cards close and let the merits of the machine reveal how good (or bad) it is as I go. Sometimes, though, I'm lucky enough to come across a car so good there's no point in burying the punchline. So it is with the 2022 Audi RS E-Tron GT. This thing is fantastic, one of the best cars on the road today, and if you're lucky enough to have the budget to match, buy one with confidence.
It helps that the E-Tron GT is itself very, very closely related to another superb machine: the Porsche Taycan. You could call them identical twins if not for the fact that they look almost nothing alike. But I'll cover aesthetics in a bit. How this Audi drives is far more important.
Let's start with the numbers. While using the same basic architecture as the standard E-Tron GT, the RS offers significantly more power: a whopping 637 horsepower and 612 pound-feet of torque when running in overboost, dropping to a still-outrageous 590 hp after 2.5 seconds. That's nearly enough time to get to 60 mph; a 3.1-second 0-to-60 sprint makes this Audi's quickest car.
And yes, you feel it, even if the drama of a launch in the GT is a bit lacking. At any speed with no time wasted waiting for downshifts, this thing just flies forward with remarkable smoothness, rarely indulging in a hint of wheelspin. The traction control is so good you really can't feel it, at least not in the direct, dead-throttle sense of a traditional car. Whenever I ask too much of the gigantic 21-inch Eagle F1 tires fitted to my test car, the Audi simply dials back on power for however many milliseconds are required to regain grip, then instantly turns the wick back up.
If that's a little too much shove to suit your mood, Audi offers a series of configurable drive modes adjusting throttle response, steering feel and tautness of the air suspension. What you can't really adjust, sadly, is the regenerative braking. Yes, the RS E-Tron GT offers three separate regen modes, quickly toggled via the steering wheel paddles, but they're all useless. They should be labeled None, Too Little and Still Not Enough. Some day the Germans will realize that American EV owners like one-pedal driving, at least as an option, but today is not that day.
Regen concerns aside, in Dynamic mode the GT is simply magical. Rear-axle steering helps it turn in with blissful sharpness and hold a line better than any 5,174-pound car should. (By way of context, that's just 90 pounds lighter than a Ford F-150 hybrid.) However, any major imperfection in the asphalt will quickly reveal just how hard that suspension is working. Hit a bump when cornering aggressively and the RS E-Tron GT has a tendency to skip sideways, yielding to the raw physics of the situation before landing, instantly regaining grip and composure.
When pushing less hard, the RS E-Tron GT is smooth and comfortable -- surely helped by the massive inertial damper built into the floor. I'm referring to the 93-kilowatt-hour battery pack, which offers 232 miles per the EPA's official rating. That's an efficiency of 42 kWh per 100 miles. In my testing, which included extensive highway stretches plus no shortage of hard acceleration, I actually did even better: seeing 37 kWh per 100 miles, or about 2.7 miles per kWh. That would give me 250 miles of theoretical range out of this car at highway speeds.
Driving more moderately, I have no doubt even that figure could be easily eclipsed. This should come as no surprise given my colleague Steven Ewing saw 280 miles from a Taycan. Sure, we're still well short of the potential 405 miles offered by a Tesla Model S, but in my experience range anxiety all but evaporates once you get out past 200 miles.
That's further dispelled by the presence of a solid charging network. Electrify America has made huge strides over the past few years since I reviewed Audi's first E-Tron, both in terms of availability and reliability. While the E-Tron GT's max charging speed of 270 kW can't take full advantage of EA's 350-kW chargers, it's still enough to theoretically suck down 180 miles of range in 22 minutes.
That means this is an all-electric grand tourer in which you could actually do some touring. I took mine on a 5-hour road trip to New York City and only spent a little more than 30 minutes charging. Had I been more conservative with my driving, I might not have needed to stop at all.
Other than answering the call of nature, I really wouldn't have felt a need to stop. The E-Tron GT's interior is very good. Sure, it's all dark and moody as configured on my test car, which includes the Year One package, but the slash of matte carbon fiber across the middle of the dash plus the red highlights give a nice bit of intent, and I love the feel of the Alcantara wheel and the supportive yet comfortable front seats. Everything feels remarkably premium.
Even the rear seats are perfectly cozy, with enough headroom for extended trips. The Bang & Olufsen sound system is excellent and Audi's MMI infotainment tech doesn't disappoint, though the Virtual Cockpit gauge cluster doesn't make as dramatic an impression as it did a few years ago.
The GT offers a good mix of physical buttons and touch controls, with one massive exception: a volume knob. There is a dial on the steering wheel, so the driver is at least taken care of, but instead of a humble knob Audi designers inset a strange, touch-sensitive, iPod-like click wheel thing in the center console between the seats. It's awkwardly positioned for either driver or passenger and is frankly just a bit odd.
A bit odd is also how a number of people described the styling of the RS E-Tron GT. It is, suffice to say, a more divisive aesthetic than that presented by the Porsche Taycan. I actually quite like the RS E-Tron GT, angry strakes and double-creased fenders and all. To me it looks like an escaped concept car and I love it, though I do confess that the sedate shade here (Kemora Gray) helps to temper some of the more outlandish styling appendages. I also must question the need for a carbon-fiber roof on a sedan that weighs well over 5,000 pounds.
But I figure that has less to do with reducing weight and more to do with differentiating the RS E-Tron GT, ensuring that those around can tell you spent the extra $40,000 over the base GT. My test car also has the $20,350 Year One package, which steps up to 21-inch wheels with 265/35R21 front and 305/30R21 rear Goodyear Eagle F1 tires, and adds rear-steering, ceramic brakes and Audi's laser headlights. Add another $595 for the paint and a $1,045 destination and this car would set you back $161,890.
If you aren't too hung up on prestige, the $8,450 performance pack gets you the rear-steering and the fancy headlights while saving you about $12,000 over the Year One package. Even in base trim, the RS E-Tron GT has all the active safety and convenience features you could want, plus amazing on-road presence and superb cruising capabilities. I only wish for a more wagon-like profile, as Porsche offers with the Taycan Cross Turismo, but then I suppose that even the really good ones always leave you wanting more.