Currently reading: Promoted | Audi e-tron GT: in the design team's own words
If you want to explore the secrets under the Audi e-tron GT’s skin that make it so special, the best way to find them is by asking the people who made it
Autocar
News
11 mins read
9 February 2021

In late 2018, when Audi Head of Design Marc Lichte unveiled the Audi e-tron GT concept car at the LA Motor Show, he described it as “the most beautiful car I have ever drawn”.

The launch of the final production e-tron GT was the moment when that dream – Audi's vision of an all-electric gran turismo performance car that sets new standards for design, handling, comfort and range – became reality.

They say it takes a village to raise a child. Well, that’s also true of automotive game-changers. As Lichte himself says: Unveiling the e-tron GT is a magic moment for the entire Audi design team. It’s the culmination of a development process that took four years – a long road with a great deal of work. So, here – in their own words – we’ve gathered just a few tales of how Audi's obsessively passionate and pioneering team designed the e-tron GT.

To find out more, head to audi.co.uk/e-tron-gt


Style and design that sets an electrifying standard

The Audi e-tron GT reimagines four-door coupé gran turismo style for the electric age – blending an elegantly dynamic and flowing sporty profile with low-slung wide-track long-wheelbase proportions and sculpted muscular quattro wheel blisters that highlight the e-tron GT is a true Audi all-wheel-drive performance model. Optional Matrix LED headlights ensure the e-tron GT stands out in any environment. Then, as it silently accelerates away, the wide rear LED light band leaves a lasting impression. 

Marc Lichte (Head of Design): “Good design is achieved when a product is aesthetic and functional at the same time; when it’s a seamless overall experience. It lies in the proportions: short overhangs and a long wheelbase, combined with a lean cabin on a powerful body. The e-tron GT features all of the above.”

Philipp Römers (Audi Design, Exterior): “A gran turismo brings to mind the beautiful cars of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. They all had the fantastic proportions you need to make a car attractive – visualising elegance, sportiness and prestige in a fantastic way. This is exactly what the Audi e-tron GT is all about.” 

Marc Lichte (Head of Design): “Designing an electric vehicle means you have to rethink the whole design process, because the car is designed from the inside out. To integrate the big battery, you need a long wheelbase, which is good for the car’s proportions, and that generates wonderfully short overhangs.” 

Philipp Römers (Audi Design, Exterior): “As a base to work on, the chassis of the e-tron GT has fantastic proportions – big wheels, short overhangs, a slim cabin and wide track. Our engineers developed a fantastic package that let us visualise Audi’s quattro muscles on top of all four wheels. We talk about a quattro sculpture – a pure embodiment of performance. No other car in Audi’s line-up looks like this.”

Marc Lichte (Head of Design): “An important part of Audi’s genes and DNA is quattro – and when we talk about our exterior design, we always visualise quattro. With the e-tron GT, you can see our design is getting a lot more expressive, a lot more emotional and a lot more dramatic. At Audi, we’re driven by progress, and with this spirit we are leading Audi into the future.”


Bodywork sculpted by the wind

The Audi e-tron GT is peppered with clever fins and vents that deliver improved aerodynamic efficiency for enhanced electric range. Active front air inlets close at speed to streamline the grille, while the closed underbody and wide rear diffuser work with the extendable rear spoiler to ensure the perfect balance of electric efficiency and confident long-distance cruising stability. It all adds up to an incredibly low drag coefficient of just 0.24, and an electric range of up to 298 miles (WLTP) from the 85kWh (93 kWh gross) advanced lithium-ion battery.

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Marc Lichte (Head of Design): “Form follows function. Aesthetics arise from efficiency. Lower air resistance translates into greater electric range.”

Philipp Römers (Audi Design, Exterior): “A low drag coefficient is crucial for the efficency and range of an electric car. The overall proportions of the e-tron GT are already good for this. It sits low down; the cabin sits towards the rear end. We worked closely with the aerodynamic team to look at every detail.

Moni Islam (Head of Development, Aerodynamics):Electric vehicles such as the e-tron GT actually present two huge advantages, aerodynamically. First, the fact that the battery pack creates a completely closed and totally flat underbody, all the way to the rear axle covers and diffuser. Second, an electric powertrain has different cooling requirements to a conventional powertrain. But, because the drag coefficient is so crucial for efficiency and range, we started work early in the e-tron GT's development – three years before production.

Kentaro Zens (Technical Project Manager, Aerodynamics): “Two features we insisted on from the start are the air curtain and louvres at the front of the car – the air curtain channels airflow over the wheel and into the louvre to stabilise airflow down the side of the car. With the design team, we worked to develop that into a theme that blends perfectly into the overall styling of the car.” 

Moni Islam (Head of Development, Aerodynamics): "We wanted to make sure all the e-tron GT’s styling features have pure aerodynamic functionality, while expressing the aesthetics of the vehicle in an authentic way. To give the design team as much styling freedom as possible, we had to develop some intricate technical solutions. We worked hand-in-hand, using computer simulation and our full-size wind tunnel to test the design team's ideas and give feedback." 

Kentaro Zens (Technical Project Manager, Aerodynamics): “The active air inlets at the front, the air louvres, the active air suspension and the extendable rear spoiler all influence each other, so it was a big task to combine them. But they balance the car in every possible driving situation, which is important for a gran turismo. The e-tron GT also has lots of little details for outstanding aero-acoustics [cutting wind noise, crucial for a whisper-quiet electric car]. The e-tron GT is on the same level with the Audi A7, the benchmark for a long-distance gran turismo in this respect.” 

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Moni Islam (Head of Development, Aerodynamics): "Working together, the aerodynamic features extend the range of the e-tron GT by around 30km. We’re very proud to have achieved a drag coefficient of just 0.24 – one of the best in the Audi portfolio, and certainly the best for an Audi sports vehicle.”


A stylishly spacious sustainable interior

The interior of the Audi e-tron GT blends a driver-focused cabin with an advanced Audi Virtual Cockpit and spacious front and rear passenger seats, making it perfect for long-distance pan-continental drives. It also reflects Audi’s broader sustainability ethos, with optional leather-free interior trims that blend high-percentage recycled materials, without compromising sporty design, cosseting comfort or premium quality.

Marc Lichte (Head of Design): “Gran turismo models differ from sports cars in that they should offer greater comfort and a larger, more spacious interior. The e-tron GT has as much space inside as in the next-higher segment. It’s truly compact on the outside, and spacious on the inside. It pushes an idea that will characterise our understanding of luxury in the course of electric mobility.”

Markus Däsch (Audi Design, Interior): “As the Audi e-tron GT is a gran turismo, it was important to make the car feel comfortable. For us, comfort means space, and the e-tron GT has plenty of that. The sculpted lines of the exterior are represented in the interior. The monoposto cockpit has a strong driver focus, while the horizontal layers of the dashboard – stretching right across the interior – create a sense of lightness and depth. This makes the interior feel extremely wide and luxurious.”

Marc Lichte (Head of Design): “We gave the e-tron GT a sculptural architecture that not only emphasises the sportiness of an electric gran turismo with it’s clear driver focus, but also its sustainability, making a real point of using recycled materials. Sustainability begins with the initial idea and is expressed through the design.”

Carla Schink (Audi Design, Colour & Trim): “The idea of luxury has changed with the age of electric mobility, and if you’re looking to innovate you need to rethink long-standing traditions. This is exactly what we did with the materials in the e-tron GT, with our focus on sustainability. We’ve developed leather-free trims with recycled materials that have a natural wool-like feel, but a really technical and sporty look.”

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Quattro performance (electrified)

For an Audi that sets the trend for the next-generation of all-electric performance cars, it isn’t only looks that matter – it’s how it feels to drive. Powerful motors on the e-tron GT’s front and rear axles deliver a combined 476PS and 630Nm of quattro electric drive, with an astonishing 598PS and 830Nm on RS e-tron GT models. Boost modes give you an added burst of power for short periods. The result: electrifying 0-62mph acceleration of 4.1sec as standard, and just 3.3sec on the RS model.

Audi Sport GmbH helped develop the e-tron GT’s chassis, making the most of the floor-mounted battery pack to keeps the centre of gravity low down. Three-chamber adaptive air suspension, which comes as standard on the RS e-tron GT, and all-wheel steering (available in the Vorsprung pack) deliver handling that is thrilling, confidence-inspiring and wonderfully refined (whichever Audi Drive Select mode you prefer), while regenerative recuperation and powerful disc brakes let you choose whether to glide efficiently into corners or enjoy a more invigorating drive.

Dennis Schmitz (Technical Director, Audi e-tron GT): “The key challenge for an electric gran turismo like the e-tron GT is to find the right balance of performance (after all, the e-tron GT is available as an RS), with everyday comfort and driveability. In the Audi e-tron GT, our customers get practically all of the state-of-the-art driving technologies available today. This includes all-wheel steering for advanced dynamics at low speed and enhanced stability at higher speeds – another characteristic of our gran turismo philosophy.”

Jaan-Mattes Reiling (Audi Sport GmbH): “During development of the Audi e-tron GT we drew on ample resources in terms of technology. For example, the three-chamber air springs are the gold standard in their field. They enable soft suspension comfort, they provide us with greater degrees of freedom with the setup, and we can adjust the body to various ride-heights [for improved aerodynamics].”

Lucas di Grassi (Audi Formula E race driver): “This car is fun! I think it’s the best all-round car Audi has ever produced. The powerful acceleration and the cornering grip and precision are really impressive. Plus, the e-tron GT delivers really good braking – strong and precise. That’s no mean feat for a large electric car. It’s very comfortable, and it has a lot of space. It’s very hard to find that sweet spot.”

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Audi’s e-tron ethos isn’t just about delivering a thrilling driving experience. It’s also making electric cars more practical – with up to 298 miles of range from the e-tron GT’s 85kWh (93kWh gross) lithium-ion battery and advanced thermal management that delivers improved performance. Charging speeds up to 270kW can boost the battery with 62 miles of range in five minutes on compatible chargers.

Jaan-Mattes Reiling (Audi Sport GmbH): “We have a special pre-conditioning function on the Audi e-tron GT to ensure the driver can charge to the utmost capacity. With active navigation, the e-tron GT’s route planner gives suggestions of where to charge. About 30 minutes before the car arrives at the charging station, the thermal management system starts adjusting the battery temperature to precisely match the state of charge and the charging station’s capacity.”


A sound that ignites passion

Finally, the performance and emotion of the Audi e-tron GT isn’t just measured by electric horsepower and torque. It’s also how it sounds. Without the roar of a V8 or the snap and whine of a turbo, Audi had to create a sound for the Audi e-tron GT that would delight the synapses of driving purists, without sounding synthetic.

Stephan Gsell (Expert Sounddesign): “The sound has to fit the car, emotionally highlighting the character, the visual design and the performance.”

Rudolf Halmbmeir (Expert Sounddesign): “We deliberately avoided imitating a combustion engine or a spaceship. Instead, we developed a sporty sophisticated sound that combines familiar patterns with new, futuristic elements. We tried to let the car decide what it sounds like and find the recipe that achieves that best.”

Stephan Gsell (Expert Sounddesign): “When we started the sound development process, there was no commercial software that fitted our needs, so we built our own. It’s a quantum leap. The recordings are made up of around 32 elements, which are each converted into short loopable soundbites. The sound is driven by vehicle data, so when the acceleration or speed increases, the repetition is increased.”

Rudolf Halmbmeir (Expert Sounddesign): “For the foundation sound of the e-tron GT, I tried all sort of instruments – from the violin to the electric guitar and even the didgeridoo. But none of them were suitable. Then I came across a piece of plastic pipe, 80mm in diameter and 3m long. I attached a fan at one end, and it had a specific growl that felt deep and alive. I knew straight away I’d found it.”

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Stephan Gsell (Expert Sounddesign): “To match the driver’s mood, we created different sound textures you can choose with Audi Drive Select. In Efficiency Mode, the sound will play at around 20-32kph, then slowly fades out up to 60kph. In Comfort and Dynamic, the sound continues up to 200kph. If you choose the Audi e-tron Sports Sound package, a rear-mounted speaker makes the car sound more rounded and pleasant, with more deep frequency inside the car. In Dynamic Mode, two speakers in the rear doors bring in the full Audi e-tron sound.”


A new Audi design icon?

Now the e-tron GT has been unveiled to the world, it can really start to cement its reputation as the future of Audi’s electric design. This is the moment of truth.

Markus Däsch (Audi Design, Interior): “As designers, the e-tron GT felt like we were working on a dream car. As a team, I believe we’ve successfully created a gran turismo that combines performance and comfort, and a car that shows how luxury is changing in the era of electro-mobility, formed by efficiency and sustainability.”

Marc Lichte (Head of Design): “True design icons have something unmistakeably clear. Over Audi’s history, certain models have shaped ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’ in special ways. The Audi A2 represented ruthless efficiency. The Audi TT stood for formalistic design; the Audi R8 for uncompromising performance. The question with the e-tron GT is not whether it is a design icon, but how it reinterprets ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’. You cannot create a design icon on the drawing board. A car must acquire its reputation on the road.”

To find out more, head to audi.co.uk/e-tron-gt

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