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Ingolstadt's take on the Taycan combines striking looks with a high-class interior and never feels short of pace

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Audi’s electric car ambitions started modestly enough with plug-in hybrid versions of its existing models, but it really signalled its intent with the Audi E-tron SUV in 2018, which was designed from the ground up to be an EV from the outset. It has since been joined by the smaller Audi Q4 E-tron crossover and, most interestingly of all, the Audi E-tron GT tested here.

Why interestingly? Well, like its other all-electric siblings, the E-tron GT shares its underpinnings with other EVs in the wider VW family, it’s just in this case the donor car is the groundbreaking Porsche Taycan. However, despite being very closely related (you only need look at the glasshouses and proportions of both to understand their monozygotic birth), Audi claims its take on the fast flagship saloon is very different and, as the name on the tin suggests, its car plays the elegant grand tourer to the Taycan’s sharper-edged sportster.

Given the near-silent, easy-going nature of EVs, it could be argued that this approach could be even more successful than the already five-star Porsche’s - the mix of hushed refinement, elegant style and extended range (nearly 300 miles is claimed) making the E-tron the ultimate expression of the EV art. 

That’s not to say it doesn’t have teeth. The top-of-the-range Audi RS E-tron GT steals the headlines with its 637bhp output, but even this ‘entry-level’ model packs a maximum of 523bhp thanks to its two electric motors, promising performance that’s every bit as, ahem, electrifying as you’d expect.

It is also clear that fratricidal competition isn’t on Audi’s mind, but rather it has the ubiquitous Tesla Model S in its sights - a car that has enjoyed a near monopoly on this corner of the market for the best part of a decade. Although fellow German brands have also caught up, with models such as the BMW i7 and Mercedes EQS.

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So, can the E-tron GT stake a claim for the legacy manufacturers, and have the engineering minds at Ingolstadt done enough to give the car a character that’s distinct and different enough from its Porsche partner? Lets find out.


Audi E-tron GT profile static

Eagle-eyed car spotters will notice that the Audi E-tron GT and Porsche Taycan share the same glasshouse and low-slung, wide stance proportions, but neat work by designers means that the Audi very much has its own identity. If anything, it’s the more eye-catching of the pair, with its sharp creases over the wing and fake grille at the front giving it a more distinct identity than the slightly amorphous Porsche.

Under the skin, however, there’s nowhere near as much differentiation. The Audi uses the same, heavily modified version of the MSB platform that uses a mix of aluminium and high-strength steel for rigidity and lightness. Even so, it’s no flyweight with our scales registering it at a portly 2351kg - although the mass is at least apportioned in a near perfect 50:50 distribution over the front and rear axles.

Take a look at the mechanical specification and it’s not hard to fathom why the Audi is such a heavyweight. For starters, the GT uses a pair of AC synchronous motors, one driving the front axle and one at the rear. While the one at the front drives through a single-speed gearbox and an open differential, the one at the rear has a two-speed transmission that helps the car to deliver both launch-control-assisted maximum acceleration and a long-legged cruising gait. 

Power is rated at 469bhp, but with launch control engaged you have access to 523bhp for two and a half seconds, while torque is increased to 472lb ft for the same period, although this is a fairly modest uplift from the standard 464lb ft.

Powering these motors is a large 93kWh battery (of which 84kWh is usable) that’s carefully packaged under the floor to maximise interior space and keep the centre of gravity as low as possible. All in there are 33 battery modules, each comprising 12 separate pouch cells, which are individually monitored for voltage and temperature.

Like the Taycan, the E-tron GT also benefits from an 800V architecture, which means it’s capable of very rapid DC charging (where available) of up to 270kW in as little as 30 minutes. This set-up allows for a higher consistent output from the battery and requires less chunky cabling, saving weight and complexity.

Suspension is double wishbones at the front and a multi-link arrangement at the rear, while adaptive dampers and coil springs are standard. Our top-of-the-range Vorsprung test car, however, adds the height-adjustable three-chamber air suspension, as well as four-wheel steering, which turns up to 2.8deg in the opposite direction to the fronts below 31mph, then in the same direction from around 50mph upwards.


Audi E-tron GT dashboard

This side of an Audi R8, you won’t sit closer to the road in one of the firm's cars. The E-tron GT’s Porsche roots are on display front and centre here: the cosseting driving position places you at the centre of the action, especially so given the panoramic view forward offered by the wraparound windscreen (the shallow side and rear glass is less conducive to a good view out).

There’s a wide range of seat and wheel adjustment, while the pedals are arranged well, with the centrally located brake allowing comfortable use by either the right or left foot. The steering wheel has a nicely thin rim, while metal paddles on the back of the spokes give quick access to the three-stage regenerative braking. Ahead of you is the brand’s trademark Virtual Cockpit.

Given Audi’s recent obsession with touchscreens, it’s gratifying to see that the E-tron GT (arguably its highest of hi-tech offerings) has ditched the multiple TFT screens of lesser models for a better balanced combination of glossy infotainment display and more traditional push-button climate control unit. Yes, the blocky temperature display graphics look a bit old hat, but it's a price we’re willing to pay for an intuitive heating and ventilation system that’s a doddle to use on the fly.

Sitting above this is the large 10.1in MMI infotainment screen, which is also fairly straightforward to use, with crisp graphics and a logical menu layout. There are no hot keys or rotary controls whatsoever, though, and if you want to skip musical tracks or adjust the volume without using the screen, you have to use a bizarrely small touchpad that that sits on the transmission tunnel behind the gear selector and wouldn’t look out of place on a cheap MP3 player (remember those?).

It’s generally a quiet and relaxing place to pass the time, with wind noise well checked and road roar only becoming noticeable on coarse surfaces. Of course, the motor is unobtrusive, but over bumps this only highlights the surprising amount of creaks from the interior trim; perhaps a corollary of being made as light as possible to offset the weight of the motor and batteries. The materials all look like they’re up to Audi’s top-notch standards, but squeeze and poke a little and you’ll discover they’re underpinned by fairly flimsy materials - much like the set on Neighbours or Crossroads.

Given its generous external dimensions, the E-tron GT is no more than adequately practical, matching its close relation the Porsche Taycan, but both fall behind the roomier Tesla Model S.

There’s plenty of room for the driver and passenger, while even those sitting in the second row get more space than you’d think, especially for a car with such a low-slung roofline, although those over six foot might find their head just scraping the ceiling. Oddment stowage isn't particularly impressive, running to a couple of cupholders in the centre console, a small compartment under the armrest between the front seats and shallow door bins.

The 405-litre boot is a decent size, however, even if the opening is narrow, while the rear seats can be folded flat quickly and easily. Under the bonnet is a small area for overflow luggage, plus it holds the tyre mobility foam and compressor, as well as the first aid kit.


Audi E-tron GT front cornering

We’ve become used to the instant acceleration offered by pure electric vehicles, but the energy with which the E-tron GT launches off the line still surprises. Given this is the entry-level model, the numbers aren’t as outrageous as some, but a 0-60mph time of 4.1sec is not to be sniffed at, while 100mph comes up in a fraction over nine seconds. In sports car circles, these would be major-league figures.

Of course, accelerative forces aside, there’s nothing remarkable about the way the Audi delivers its performance. Simply engage Dynamic mode and hold the car on the brake with your left foot before mashing the throttle with your right (to ensure you have the full, launch-control-assisted 523bhp), then release the brakes and away you go.

In the dry there’s no wheelspin, the computers meting out just the right amount of torque from the motors to balance against the available traction, while the noise is a cross between a Tube train pulling out of a station and a starship hitting warp drive, although its quickly drowned out by the rush of wind from around the A-pillars and the roar of tyres on Tarmac.

So it comes as something of a surprise that this linear surge of acceleration is interrupted by a jolting gearchange from the rear axle’s two-speed transmission as it shifts from the lower sprint ratio to the longer cruising gear. Each and every acceleration run it fired home with the same abrupt violence that’s at odds with the usual silky-smooth EV delivery. Fortunately, this quirk rarely manifests itself on the road, where even in its taller-striding second gear, the Audi has more than enough pace in reserve to rarely require a shift down to first.

In fact, it’s on the road that the GT’s performance is most impressive, feeling furiously quick when needed but not quite as intimidatingly fast as the more powerful RS versions or the closely related Porsche Taycan Turbo S. Power can be accurately deployed and the instant muscle allows easy and safe overtaking, the combination of all that available muscle and four-wheel drive traction allowing you to deal with most slower traffic with little more than a toe flex.

Yes, it’s aurally undramatic, but this strong and silent character suits the E-tron’s GT schtick down to the ground.

When you need to slow down, the Audi does a decent job of blending between regenerative and friction braking, with both a progressive pedal action and strong retardation power. However, that’s partly because the slowing effect of the electric motors in their generating mode is ever so subtle, to the point of not existing in its default setting. You can dial up the resistance by two further stages by pulling on the left-hand ‘shift’ paddle on the wheel, but even in its strongest setting there’s very little ‘engine’ braking. This is not a car that can be driven using one pedal.


Audi E-tron GT front dynamic

Despite the cars close mechanical and structural relationship to the Porsche Taycan, engineers at Audi were keen to ensure that the E-tron GT had its own unique character, and overall they have succeeded. That means this isn’t as dynamic and engaging a machine as its Zuffenhausen twin, but in many ways its more laid-back and slightly detached feel is more in keeping with its efficient and slightly antiseptic electric drivetrain.

Like the Porsche, however, the Audi does a great job of disguising its not inconsiderable 2351kg mass, according to our scales. Crucially, this mass is set low and spread with near perfect equity between the front and rear axles. It means that on the road the GT feels far more balanced and agile than any car weighing this amount has a right too, slicing through corners with a flat attitude and feeling planted during quick direction changes with barely any hint that the car could literally be carried away with all that mass.

Push harder and the Audi starts to lose its composure a little, with big compressions and sudden crests seeing it become just a touch ragged, and lack ultimate body control. The suspension just starts to struggle to keep a handle on proceedings as it reaches its limits, lacking as it does the Porsche’s active anti-roll bars and more focused spring and damper rates. There’s no waywardness as such, but it acts as a gentle reminder that you probably don’t want to try any harder.

It’s not as adjustable as the Taycan either, that car’s attentive mid-corner rotation being replaced by a greater neutrality that bleeds into safe, push-on front-tyre scrub at the limit that even the four-wheel steer can’t dial out.

Like in ICE Audis, the steering doesn’t offer much in the way of weighting, but it’s quick and accurate, allowing you to place the large E-tron GT just where you want it. There’s not a great deal of feel, while switching to the Dynamic setting merely adds some artificial feeling of weight and resistance, but then this isn’t a car that encourages press-on, elbows-out driving – as its name suggests, it is more of a GT car, which is something it’s rather good at.

Dial back on your commitment and the Audi is a quick, capable and easy-going companion. The instant squirt of torque, those light controls, and the grippy and precise handling allow you to cover ground at an astounding rate without breaking a sweat. As a way of getting from here to there in as fast and fuss-free a manner as possible, the E-tron is mighty impressive and (whisper it) arguably better suited to its electric drivetrain than the Porsche.

On the Vorsprung’s standard air springs there’s some waft to the high-speed ride, the GT coping well with smoothly surfaced yet roughly foundationed sections of Tarmac. Sharper ridges and broken Tarmac do result in the occasional jarring thud, but that’s partly down to those massive 21in RS wheels. Overall, though, the Audi rides with a luxurious plushness befitting its remit.


Audi E-tron GT front dynamic

The E-tron GT is only a few thousand pounds cheaper than the tied-at-the-genes Porsche Taycan 4S, which means the E-tron GT is not offering a cut-price alternative to its EV sibling. That’s a point that’s even more obvious when you consider the hefty asking price of this Vorsprung model, which adds various superfluous gee-gaws but not extra performance, range or, ultimately, outright ability.

However, it’s telling that the Audi is similarly priced to the Tesla Model S, a car that’s rather closer in concept and execution to the Tesla Model S, which until now has enjoyed exclusive squatting rights to this corner of the market.

If that is the case, then Audi needs to work a little harder on its range yet. A claimed 298 miles is possible, according to official WLTP figures, while our calculations suggest a touring range of around 227 miles can be achieved. Either way, both these figures are well over 100 miles off what Tesla claims for its big five-seater hatch, and for many buyers that will be a decisive advantage.


Audi E-tron GT front static

Given how closely related the E-tron GT is to the Porsche Taycan, it would be easy to assume that this was just a cynical exercise in badge engineering; and because of the way electric motors deliver their performance, the similarities are in some respects uncanny (you can’t, of course, but accelerate in both while blindfolded and you’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference).

Yet the real surprise is that the more time you spend with the Audi, the more you realise the brand’s engineers have imbued it with its own distinct character. One that’s better than the Porsche? No, but it is different. It’s not as quiet as engaging or ultimately capable, but it’s not far behind and it slips into your life even more easily, looks better and has an interior that works more intuitively (even if it doesn’t feel quite as robust).

Ultimately, there’s a place for both, but there’s also an argument that the Audi’s character, with its softer ride and lighter controls, better suits the easier-going EV vibe. It’s perhaps not at its best in Vorsprung guise, which adds more than £25,000 to the price in exchange for many dynamic enhancements that do little to enhance driver engagement (the air springs do add a little extra comfort and the four-wheel steer is handy in a tight spot, but that’s about it).

That said, steer clear of many of the options and the E-tron GT is a hugely capable and likeable car, and one that signals an all-electric future is one to be embraced rather than feared. 

Long-term reports

Read our Audi E-tron GT long-term report

What's the range like?

After 8677 miles worth of testing, we reckon the real-world range in mixed condition is around 240 miles.

Is the range affected by temperature?

In the colder months we found the range would go down significantly, not something unique to the E-tron GT.

What's the performance like in varying weather conditions?

You'll struggle to get the E-tron GT to break traction in the drive. But in wet weather, full bore starts will get the traction control piping up.

Is the infotainment good?

It's easy-to-use thanks to manual heating controls and during our time with the car we experienced no glitches or bugs.

Is it practical?

Yes. Its frunk (front trunk) and 400-litre conventional rear boot make it an automotive mule.

How easy is it to drive?

There's no gearbox to worry about and overtaking safely is a doddle thanks to all the power. It is wide though - nearly as large as a Lamborghini - so watch out for width restrictions in cities.

James Disdale

James Disdale
Title: Special correspondent

James is a special correspondent for Autocar, which means he turns his hand to pretty much anything, including delivering first drive verdicts, gathering together group tests, formulating features and keeping topped-up with the latest news and reviews. He also co-hosts the odd podcast and occasional video with Autocar’s esteemed Editor-at-large, Matt Prior.

For more than a decade and a half James has been writing about cars, in which time he has driven pretty much everything from humble hatchbacks to the highest of high performance machines. Having started his automotive career on, ahem, another weekly automotive magazine, he rose through the ranks and spent many years running that title’s road test desk. This was followed by a stint doing the same job for monthly title, evo, before starting a freelance career in 2019. The less said about his wilderness, post-university years selling mobile phones and insurance, the better.

Audi E-tron GT First drives