Global warming supposedly is said to have peaked in 1988. That is when it became a political agenda and a point of discussion for many, giving rise to environmentalist in the process. However, climate change, as global warming will become known as later, did not truly take the global stage until 2006 – thanks to one Al Gore.
The former Vice President of the United States became one of the most vocal environmental activists and his film ‘The Inconvenient Truth’ can be credited as opening the eyes of the world to the devastation of climate change.
However, it is not all Al Gore of course. The European and American governmental agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency as well as the European Environment Agency too played a pivotal role in introducing regulations that directly affected car makers.
The work of the agencies and environmentalists forced automotive conglomerates to take action, and this inadvertently gave rise to the era of the Electric Vehicles (EV).
One could argue that EVs have been around for nearly a century, but it is undeniably that they have never been as popular as they are now. And there are all kinds of EV’s; small scooters, cheap EVs from China and then on the other hand of the economic spectrum, we have EVs such as the one we see here, the Audi e-Tron GT.
Besides being environmentally friendly, the great thing about EVs is that designers can practically throw out the rule book and do just about whatever they want. The regular rules don’t apply – there’s no longer a need for large vents as there is no engine to keep cool, the coefficient of drag also means that an EV needs to be as sleek as possible to maximise range. And this just means that designers can come up with some of the most visually striking cars ever seen.
The Audi e-Tron GT is one of those ‘visually striking’ cars. The world first caught a glimpse of it in The Avengers movie when Tony Stark drove it to his Malibu mansion. Tony Stark aka Iron Man, the character played by Robert Downey Jr, is an eccentric gazillionaire that builds specialized weaponry and drives exotic Audis.
The e-Tron GT made the transition from a big screen special to real world stunner about two years after the movie. We got to drive it around the Sepang International Circuit which proved to be the ideal place to experience its unbelievable power.
EVs and great power seem to be counter productive since EV’s are supposed to be the halo cars, the answer to all of our automotive problems. That is what car makers would like us to believe at least. But on the contrary, EV’s produce power more naturally than internal combustion engine. Unlike the latter, the problem with EV’s is not producing power but managing it, and power is available as easily and as immediately as turning on a light switch.
During the recent track day, there were two models to drive, the Audi RS e-Tron GT and the standard e-Tron GT. We could only drive one model through a draw of the luck system which basically meant you had to drive whatever car that was parked ahead of you, and by sheer luck we were invited into the cockpit of the most powerful of them all – the RS e-Tron GT.
The standard e-Tron is already a force to be reckoned with. It offers 476PS and 630Nm of torque, but it has a trick up its sleeve called a boost mode. When activated, power is hiked to 530PS and 640Nm, and this allows the car to accelerate from zero to 100km/h in an eye watering 4.1 seconds. Which is astonishing for a car that weighs about 2,300kgs.
If you think that is impressive, the RS version is the mad sibling. As compared to its sedate sibling, the RS has 646PS and scarcely believable 830Nm of torque. It weighs about the same as the standard e-Tron but it sees off the charge to 100km/h in a claimed 3.3 seconds. However, we managed to hit 100km/h in just three seconds, and there are rumours that it can do so in 2.8 seconds.
That type of performance figures are usually reserved for hypercars like Bugatti and Koenigsegg, so the fact that you can experience it in a car that costs under RM800,000 is quite amazing.
And the Audi is not all about its sexy design and stratospheric performance, it is also one that cocoons you in an interior that is a blend of new world tech and old-world quality.
A familiar smell greets you as soon as you step inside the e-Tron. All Audis smell the same thanks to a dedicated team called ‘the nose team’. First set up in 1985, the nose team has a singular purpose of ensuring that every Audi smells the same.
Ahead of you a flat-bottomed steering wheel waits in command with two shifters right behind it. The shifters are part of the two-speed automatic transmission system. Yes, this Audi has a transmission just like the Porsche Taycan, which is not surprising since both cars are pretty much the same and share the same platform, electric motors and internals. Only the shell and the interiors are different, but more on that later.
The two-speed transmission lets the e-Tron hit a top speed of 250km/h (245 for the non RS). Most EV’s do not have a transmission system with the electric motors feeding power directly to the wheels. This limits the top speed. So by using a two-speed transmission, the Audis (and the Porsches) have a higher top speed which is very much in line with their brand values – performance!
Besides that, there are twin digital monitors aft of the steering wheel. One doubles up as the meter panel and gives you all the usual vehicles telemetries while another is the usual infotainment system and such.
You will notice that the is no gear knob in the traditional sense, but rather it has been replaced by a gear switch which you slide up and down to select your desired movement.
The sports seats are finished in fine Nappa leather while the interior is dowsed in Dinamica microfiber finishing that feels soft and supple.
Despite sharing platforms with the Porsche Taycan, somehow the e-Tron feels bigger, which makes it feel more comfortable especially in the back seats. It can still feel a little tight for taller passengers, especially over longer distances.
The big question when it comes to EV’s is the amount of time it needs to recharge and how far can it go on a single charge. But yet again, the Audi does not disappoint. Packing a 84kWh battery, the e-Tron runs on a 800 volt platform that allows it to provide such high system outputs and yet reduce charging time.
When it comes to range and provided you don’t floor the pedal at every opportunity you get (which is admittedly difficult to do), Audi says the e-Tron will be able to travel 488km. And when it needs a juicing up, and provided you have access to a DC charger, the e-Tron needs just 22.5 minutes to recharge from 5% up to 80% state of charge. Audi did not disclose how long it will take to recharge with an AC charger but simply said that such a charger is better suited for overnight charging.
The Audi e-Tron GT is one of the most electrifying EV’s in Malaysia yet. And priced at RM587,990 to RM792,990, depending on the variant and specifications, the real question here is, should Porsche be worried that the e-Tron might steal some sales from the Taycan? Judging from looks alone, we think it might.
Motors: Twin-electric motors
Power: 646PS (RS model in Boost Mode)
Torque: 820N (RS model in Boost Mode)
Transmission: Two-speed automatic
Weight: 2,345kg without driver
Charging Time: 22.5 minutes with DC charger (5% – 80% SOC)
We like: Good looks, mad performance
We don’t like: We can’t afford it