► Audi’s take on the Porsche Taycan
► Goes for comfort over speed
► Driven long distance in the UK
It only takes four or five miles behind the wheel of the Audi e-Tron GT to understand that this is a very different car to the Porsche Taycan. Despite sharing the same all-electric J1 platform – developed jointly by Porsche and Audi – the new all-electric flagship from Audi seems to have more in common with the combustion-engined S7 stepsibling than its electric twin from Stuttgart.
An interesting start, then. The jewel in the crown of Ingolstadt's burgeoning range of e-Tron cars isn't just a straight copy-and-paste of Porsche's homework.
I need some basic details, first
The new e-Tron GT comes in two flavours: regular or RS. The standard e-Tron GT quattro uses the same 469bhp powertrain as the Taycan 4S, capable of 0-62mph in 4.1 seconds when fully deploying the car's 523bhp boost mode. But the Audi's performance doesn't arrive in bottomless servings like the Porsche's, nor is it point-and-click like a Tesla. Instead, the e-Tron GT's power is progressive, its torque flat – and it makes the Audi effortlessly accumulate speed as opposed to gaining it instantly.
The same is largely true of the hotter RS model that sits above it; with 590bhp and 637bhp in Boost mode, it has similar performance on paper to the hotter Taycan Turbo but delivers it in a less aggressive way. Our standard quattro car has the better claimed range of 295 miles to the RS's 280, though.
The cockpit is un-Porsche – and rather un-Audi, too. Porsche's Taycan has a super-wide curved instrument display and equally wide central touchscreen, with a portrait panel sloping down the centre console. The GT's interior is much more reserved; digital instruments, adequately sized central screen and... little else. Physical switchgear for the climate controls, a tiny nodule protruding from the centre console acts as the drive shifter, and lots of posh-feeling controls seen in Audis, from the A6 up.
All very lovely, but we were a little surprised by it being so austere – everything you need with little frippery. No digital matrix lights or second infotainment screen like the e-Tron SUV, for example, as if Audi's had to be kept on a short leash because it's sharing the stage with Porsche on this occasion. Still, this isn't a complaint.
Elsewhere, it's a mixed bag. The covered centre console cubby is a bit small and, if you have a properly fat smartphone, the wireless charger attached to the side of it is essentially unusable. Rear legroom is good for adults, and headroom is... okay – it's disturbed by the panoramic glass roof somewhat. The boot, meanwhile, is a saloon-like shape, not a hatchback, limiting its use.
The front seats, however, are worth particular note as they're tremendously supportive. They also show the J1 platform's speciality – a low-slung driving position. You can sit with your bum to the floor in this EV, with plenty of adjustment. Great for a long drive.
Speaking of long drives...
Well, exactly. The clue is in the name of this e-Tron model – it's much more of a GT than an out-and-out sports car. Riding on air – optional in the quattro but standard in the RS – our test car was well-mannered around town and pliable on B-roads. Motorways were equally quiet in the e-Tron GT; even in Dynamic mode, the Audi's adaptive suspension soaked up bumps from expansion joints, choosing not to send them straight to the driver's seat. Our car was on massive 21-inch wheels, yet the ride was pliant and smooth – even if the road surface itself was far from it. The trade-off is noticeable tyre noise, something that takes the edge off the serene enjoyment when you're cruising.
The other trade-off is that the e-Tron GT doesn't feel quite as alert as a Taycan in the corners, so bodyroll and dive – when you step on the tungsten carbide-coated steel brakes – does creep in. Empty the quattro's power reserves on the exit of a corner, and you'll also get the bonnet to rise a little, along with some sideways sway as Audi's all-wheel drive claws you down the road. Where the Taycan pushes you to drive harder, then, the Audi asks you to be professional.
But treat it like a grand tourer and it really can be. Especially given the GT's 800-volt architecture and the slow creep of rapid chargers across the UK, long tours across the UK are entirely feasible and easily doable with a little route planning.
So it's no fun, then?
Oh, it absolutely can be. While the acceleration is smooth and progressive over whiplash-inducing, it's still quite addictive. Audi's also introduced a fake engine noise – again, similar to a Taycan – which is active all modes, but enhanced in Dynamic.
You can even feel the two-speed gearbox on the rear axle – designed to ensure durability of the e-motors if you regularly launch start it – when you do just that. There's a kick in the middle of the acceleration run as the transmission swaps its cogs, adding to the experience you wouldn't get otherwise in a different performance EV.
And when you're acting like a saint, it's always satisfying to see the range creep up even when you're driving. By default, Efficiency and Comfort modes let you coast without any regenerative braking when you lift off the throttle but you can add some via the wheel-mounted paddles. And the car's clever enough to recognise junctions and roundabouts, know when you're getting close to the car in front or even if there's a gradient in the road – all of these little details while you're on the road make the car suggest to you it's worth just letting it coast along freely.
Audi e-Tron GT: verdict
By bravely focusing on true GT performance, Ingolstadt has diverted the e-Tron GT from an unexciting also-ran to a fascinating new addition to the Audi range.
The standard e-Tron quattro is arguably the more compelling of the two; on paper it has the longer range and the lower price, and it adds all the comfort you'd want from a GT – with the inherent benefits an EV powertrain brings.
The range-topping RS seems more muddled. In a bid to be sportier but softer, it's based on an unwinnable compromise, and leaves itself open to some unfavourable comparisons. There's a reason Audi UK believes the quattro will outsell the confused RS four to one.
With the e-Tron GT quattro, Audi has used new technology to cover old ground, and it's the most convincing EV it's made so far.
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