Former DTM driver Rahel Frey will pilot the car at Formula E events, but today she has been asked to ride shotgun with me. Encouragingly, she’s smiling when she hands me a crash helmet.
The basis for the car is a tubular frame chassis to which Audi’s motorsport division has combined various elements from its 2018 A4 DTM race car, including double wishbone suspension and electric steering and braking systems.
Drawing on technology used by the upcoming e-tron production models, its powertrain consists of three electric motors: one sited up front providing drive to both front wheels and two at the rear, each driving a wheel. With a combined 805bhp, they provide the 1450kg coupé with a power- to-weight ratio of 555bhp per tonne. Audi hasn’t revealed an official torque figure, but it is said to deliver more than 737lb ft in total. With a quattro four- wheel-drive system providing variable drive distribution between the front and rear axles as well as the individual rear wheels, the car is claimed to accelerate from 0-62mph in 2.5sec and reach a restricted 140mph.
Inside, the left-hand-drive Audi resembles a DTM race car. You sit well back in the cockpit in a reclined position, snugly contained within a carbonfibre seat by a six-point harness. There’s a rather idiosyncratic starting procedure to perform: a nudge of the brakes, then the press of a button placed within the drive selection controls down on the floor to the left of the driver’s seat to prime the electrics before you press the drive button. A whir of electrics indicates it is ready to go. As we head out onto Audi’s oval test track, there’s whine from the rear electric motors but nothing immediately intimidating.
The car has a sensitive throttle and gorgeously direct steering. It’s easy to drive smoothly and, despite being a one-off, it feels remarkably well engineered. In keeping with its competition breeding, the e-tron Vision Gran Turismo feels more urgent than any other electric- powered sports car I’ve driven. This is brought into clear focus after a number of exploratory laps when I receive the all-clear from Frey and plant the throttle.
The new Audi doesn’t so much as gather speed but pile it on all at once in a seamless and instantaneous surge. The vast torque and four-wheel-drive traction provide truly explosive acceleration. Before I have time to collect my thoughts, we’re already up on the speed limiter at 140mph. On the long back straight of the test track, I get some time to appreciate the ferocity of it all. Even more savage than its accelerationis the braking. The brakes have been borrowed from the Audi A4 DTM racing car, but with electric actuation. The sheer performance of the carbon discs and the race-grade calipers combines with the purchase of those big slicks and the massive great wing to generate incredible stopping power.