Had you told me a few years ago that Audi would place their revered high-performance RS badge on an EV (Electric Vehicle), I probably would've palmed you off as being ridiculously ill-informed and out of touch with the automotive industry.
I mean, high-performance Audi's are known to have burly engines, brandishing huge reserves of power and come replete with oval exhaust tips that emit quite fruity notes, much to the delight of enthusiasts. But silence is something one wouldn't associate with the fabled RS badge. Until now, that is.
Of course, much like its other German counterparts, Audi is also transitioning to offer alternative and more sustainable mobility options, and the e-tron is the umbrella brand shielding the firm's electric vehicle portfolio. This comprises the e-tron SUV range and the GT four-door sports car. On test here is the flagship of the latter model, the RS e-tron GT, which shares a platform with the brilliant Porsche Taycan only cloaked in an Ingolstadt suit instead of a Stuttgart item. And right off the bat, I reckon this is one of the most beautiful modern designed cars. I mean, just look at those contours. Fellow motorists were quite enamoured by it, with many either slowing down or speeding up to take a closer look and pointing their smartphones to take a snap.
It squats quite low to the ground and is shod with 265/35/21 and 305/35/21 tyres front and rear respectively. At an overall length of 4,989 mm, and a wheelbase of 2,898 mm - the model has quite a footprint and is as long as some double cab bakkies; in fact, the trade-off is ample legroom for even the rear occupants. Boot space is a little scant at 350 litres, while the front 85-litre space is just enough to house the charging chords and ancillaries. Speaking of which, the home AC charger should really be used to top-up overnight as it works more as a trickle charger and will take close to 24 hours to charge to full from empty. As part of the package, Audi will install a three-phase plug at your residence (a R5,000 value proposition) to slash that charging time in half. That said, if you can help it, rather use the DC charger between trips and resort to the home charger overnight or while the vehicle is parked at home during the day.
Earlier this year, Audi announced that it'll roll out its 150 kW DC (fast chargers) into the EV charging infrastructure, which will be the most powerful currently. Thankfully, these have now been rolled out and are part of the 33 Audi EV chargers that have been added to the network, which also include 80 kW DC and 22 kW AC options.
While we are quite au fait with electric cars here at TopGear SA Magazine, it was quite interesting to see how different each manufacturer goes about their EV strategy. For us, BMW seems to have mustered the range anxiety issue with the iX xDrive 50, which consistently returned above the 500 km range when we tested it over an extended period. This is definitely an area where Audi is left wanting and I reckon a bigger battery pack is likely to be introduced come facelift time.
Back to the RS e-tron GT, though, charging the model's 93 kWh battery via a 60 kW DC charger will take you from 20 to 80% within an hour, enough to grab a cup of coffee or attend to some email admin. A fully charged battery will give you around 370 km of real-world driving, which isn't bad, but definitely not class-leading.
Being a silent assassin, it can get rather eerily quiet in the cabin with some passengers even feeling a little car sick. Thankfully, there are several faux sounds embedded in the MMI infotainment system that can be piped through the speakers to bring some context to the rushing scenery. Cabin appointments, meanwhile, are of the highest quality and I feel that Audi has once again found its mojo of curating high tactile quality interiors. Legroom is generous at worst and the sense of occasion permeating right through the cabin is palpable. Those sumptuous front seats, in particular, offer excellent support. The view through the steeply raked windscreen is great and a stark reminder of the RS e-tron GT's low-slung and hunkered down stature.
All those technicalities aside, how does the model drive? Well, this is where the RS e-tron GT's sparkle truly glistens. There's power on tap from the get-go, typical of an EV, and makes for a relaxed driving experience, particularly around town and on the open road. You can control the amount of regenerative braking by using the paddles behind the steering wheel. The left one for more aggressive regen braking, while the right pares it back for a more neutral feel.
Being an RS model, it is the performance envelope that this one manages to push even further. In Sport+ mode and with Launch Control activated, there is as much as 475 kW available for brief spurts. Thanks to the quattro all-wheel drive system, flattening the throttle brings with it an adrenaline rush akin to free falling. The way EVs distil speed remains an impressive thing to experience and this thing will carry on piling on speed right up to its terminal 250 km/h ceiling. Even at such a portly weight of over 2.4 tonnes, handling is surprisingly sharp, and since there is no engine up front, there's none of the quattro understeer to speak of. The consequence, however, is that the front does tend to feel ever so light when you thread the nose through a series of corners.
Buying the RS e-tron GT is one dictated by the heart, thanks to its sleek design and the fact that it is fully electric is perhaps of no consequence of those who simply want one, and I understand the appeal. With the charging infrastructure slowly chalking up as more stations come on stream makes driving EVs on long-distance sojourns now a feasible undertaking. Of course, the RS e-tron GT's range is not what one can deem class-leading, but the performance aspect seems to justify that shortcoming, somewhat.
At R3,300,000 the RS e-tron GT is for the well-heeled individual looking for an exciting and beautifully styled Audi that happens to be an EV. It is a great package and the fact that it managed to be awarded the Performance Car of the Year at the 2022 World Car of the Year Awards speaks huge volumes about its competencies. Well done, yet again, Audi.