Audi’s RS e-tron GT makes a fleeting visit to NZ in left-hand drive guise. We drive it.
It was a speed date with a German super model visiting the country for a brief time. Just 10 minutes in an electrically charged situation that we’d been mutually set-up and invited to. She flew to NZ for a short visit, so I knew it would only be short rendezvous before returning home, kind of like a holiday fling. Oh, and here’s where it gets a little awkward: there were three other suitors.
Enough with the double entendre, as we only have limited time. Audi’s latest and greatest RS e-tron GT model did indeed visit NZ in May, for a few short weeks, in left-hand drive guise, to preview the all-electric Grand Tourer. So on a rainy morning near Bombay, we were greeted by the Tactical Green e-tron GT, among the trees, with an allocation of a 10-minute road drive loop to get familiar.
RS is strong in NZ, representing 20 per cent of all Audi sales locally. And manufacturing of the e-tron is handled in a carbon neutral factory.
Let’s deal with the elephant in the room first: specifically the Porsche Taycan in the room. The e-tron GT does share parts and underpinnings with the Taycan, including the battery and motor. It is a little slower and it’s also a little cheaper, not that the largely academic numbers are that bad. Try 0-100km/h in 3.2 seconds (or faster!), a range up to 487km and starting at $194,500 for the e-tron GT and $273,500 for the RS e-tron GT.
So what’s it like to drive? Awesome! End of story. Need more? No problem. The top model RS has 440kW/830Nm in boost mode (more on that shortly), so it’s wickedly fast. With three aboard, and on a wet road, there was no trace of wheelspin thanks to its electric quattro all-wheel drive. Its acceleration is like being tied to a horizontal bungy, drawn back and unleashed! You’re pinned to the seat as the surge of acceleration is relentless until the right foot eases off the loud pedal — no time to catch your breath for manual shifts, no variation in power surges as turbos come on boost or an engine loses efficiency at high revs, just pure acceleration aided by two-speed gearing.
It’s also eerily quiet, with tyre and wind roar the (relatively) dominant audio track, underlined by a unique sound “emitted” by the Audi: a mix of Jetsons meets distant burbling V8 with a dash of five-cylinder Audi warble. It’s brutally fast at any speed, from standstill or 100km/h (maximum 110km/h of course), and in the realm where it’s polite to warn passengers of intended acceleration. Or just as much fun not to . . .
Through the few wet corners on the road loop, the GT feels like an Audi RS should: flat, poised and eager to change direction . . . it feels all of its 2347kg, but thanks to the low centre of gravity, carves through corners as opposed to gliding through them.
Beyond that, to be honest, there wasn’t a lot of intimacy to take time and absorb the energy of this brief encounter. It looks great in person, some (other than David) would say better than a Taycan, and its nose is still GT without looking blanked-off EV.
Being a GT four-door and fourseat (in comfort), the cabin is familiar Audi, with a few tweaks, including the new touch-sensitive rotary dial for quick volume/audio settings, with a good balance of tactile buttons and touchscreen menus and configurable displays and tricky bits. It is an Audi RS, after all. My attention was also drawn towards the usability of the rear seat, so my 189cm frame piled into the back to sample its suitability — and it’s remarkably comfortable! I’m around the maximum head height for comfort but leg and foot room is aided substantially by the scalloped-out footwell, enabled by the low and flat battery.
It’s a small thing that makes a
big difference and I’d happily do Auckland to Wellington from the back seat. Though somewhat less happily than in the driver’s seat. The appeal of that beautiful Alcantara steering wheel and mood lighting is equally enticing.
So are the hidden secrets, like launch control mode that offers the full serving of up to 475kW/
640Nm (from 350kW/630Nm) for
0-100km/h in 2.5 seconds. The RS e-tron GT made a stunning impression on this first date and, by the time right-hand drive production models start filtering into NZ in August, it’ll likely be too late to secure one this year but more will come next year. A shift in paradigm for the RS brand, the e-tron GT is a modern, fast, luxurious and supremely capable machine. Sometimes the most lasting, loving memories are from the briefest encounters. Till we meet again.