Audi Offers Sporty Driving with RS e-tron GT

By Lee Pang Seng

THE sporty side of EV (electric vehicle) driving is taking shape quickly to entice those who wish to do their part for the environment without losing the pleasure of fast and dynamic driving. In that respect, Audi has its wide range of e-tron models to pander a fair selection of the local market.

The launch was made in June by new Audi distributor PHS Automotive Malaysia offering seven e-tron models (mainly Q8 and e-tron GT variants) to tempt local passions for fast driving, albeit with torquey electric power. Prices range from about RM385,000 (on the road without insurance) for the Q8 e-tron to the flagship RS e-tron GT that goes for RM809,000 with Audi Advanced Package.

The latest e-tron GT range is certainly an evolvement of the e-tron prototype we saw at the Audi Sports centre near Ingolstadt, Germany in 2016. In particular, the prototype we saw probably provided the base for RS e-tron GT and e-tron GT Quattro. We had a go recently at the RS e-tron GT at the Sepang International Circuit (SIC).

Although the e-tron GT Quattro was also available for a gung-ho drive impression, we decided that after driving the top RS variant, it was pointless going for second best even if it was a matter of gaining a comparative perspective. We had our hands full exploring the RS e-tron GT’s limits on one lap but kept our exuberance under check for most of the laps that followed.

In the Audi family, an RS model is the top honcho and that it means it has the most power output and exclusive engineering to reflect its flagship status. Both models have a battery that appears similar in output; 93.4kWh for the RS e-tron GT and 93kWh for the e-tron Quattro GT.

Each has an electric motor front and rear to deliver the power accordingly to the respective driving wheels. The combined output sees the RS e-tron GT churning out 440kW/598PS and 475kW/646PS in Boost mode while the torque is a whole lot higher at 830Nm in Boost mode. The e-tron Quattro GT’s output is 350kW/476PS and 390kW/530PS in Boost mode while its torque is 630Nm and 640Nm in Boost Mode. The lower power output means a longer battery range of 501km for the e-tron Quattro GT while the RS’s range is slightly lower at 495km.

The transmission is similar being a two-speed automatic unit channelling electrical output to the electric all-wheel drive; the RS e-tron GT has a Quattro system with controlled rear differential lock while the e-tron Quattro GT has a Quattro system with open rear differential. However, only the RS variant has four- or all-wheel steering system.

Another difference comes in the tyres – the RS gets 21-inch alloys with 265/35 R21 in front and 305/30 R21 at the rear while the e-tron Quattro GT has 20-inch rims with 245/45 R20 in front and 285/40 R20 rear. The suspension is the same with a double wishbone front and multi-link rear but the RS has an adaptive air suspension system.

In the 0-100km/h acceleration performance, the higher output RS is obviously faster covering the sprint in 3.6 seconds and 3.3 seconds in Boost mode while the e-tron Quattro GT is slower at 4.5 seconds and 4.1 seconds respectively. The RS has a top speed of 250km/h and the e-tron Quattro GT has a slightly lower top end of 245km/h.

We did two acceleration runs to see if the RS e-tron GT could match the Audi R8 plus (0-100km/h in 3.3 seconds). The R8 plus is Audi’s version of the ultimate sports car; it has a 5.2-litre V10 engine that churns out 448kW (610PS) at 8250rpm and 560Nm at 6500rpm (these were the output figures for the car we drove in 2016).

The runs were made using the RS e-tron GT timing function with which we could also do 0-200km/h if we had the circuit length (which we didn’t, of course). They were also done using Boost mode or Launch Control; this required us to step on the brake pedal with our left leg and flooring the accelerator with our right leg.

On the release of the brake pedal, we could feel strong surge of forward momentum from the awesome electric torque (all 830Nm) and all too soon, we hit 100km/h. Our first run returned a time of 3.0 seconds while we clocked 3.1 seconds for the second sprint. Both times were faster than what Audi had claimed for the RS e-tron GT although the track, car and tyre conditions could have a say in acceleration times.

The dynamic part was checking out how fast we could push the RS e-tron GT through the 2.6km south portion of the SIC. We didn’t quite expect the RS e-tron GT to rival the R8 plus we drove seven years ago but we felt it wouldn’t fare too badly to provide some dynamic driving fun. After all, it’s a heavyweight by comparison to the R8 plus at more two tonnes in kerb weight, due mainly to the big and heavy high-power battery.

During the first lap, we felt our way through the seven or eight corners that this section of the circuit has at moderate speeds. We liked how the electric steering response was keeping us informed of the direction the car was going and the anti-roll bars appeared to do the job well of keeping the RS e-tron GT level-headed through the tight corners.

That encouraged to step up the pace some and perhaps, our exuberance got the better of us. We went in too fast into what would have been Turn Nine of the circuit proper, which is a tight lefthander that wound uphill on exit. We couldn’t stick to the cones laid out to guide us through and the excess corner speed had us drifting wide in an understeer onto the grassy shoulder.

With the RS e-tron GT active dynamic systems in play, we could get the car back onto the circuit, just a little shaken from the bumpy off-road experience. We decided to attack the same corner in subsequent laps with a lower corner entry speed of about 10km/h or so lower from about 160km/h. That allowed us to brake hard and reduce speed sufficiently to take the sharp corner cleanly for a more enjoyable drive.

For a four-door car with a 2900mm wheelbase and overall length of 4989mm, it could hold its own dynamically for winding road drives. Others might lament the lack of engine roar when taking to corners on gear downshifts but the ‘silence’ with the mild road roar suited us just fine as we made our way through the respective corners at good speed.

The cheaper e-tron Quattro GT should please most with its dynamic performance despite not having four-wheel steer and a conventional suspension system with damper control. Having a less powerful electric motor at the rear appears to give this variant bigger boot space at 405 litres (350 for the RS), which should suffice for long distance drives.

At the end of the day, either variant would hold its own dynamically when put to the test through winding stretches while allowing its passengers to travel comfortably in Nappa leather luxury and a spacious interior. The day of sporty luxury driving in EVs has indeed arrived.