The story of the electric car is worthy of the scriptwriters over on the other side of LA from where we are. An internet billionaire catches the established car makers napping, Elon Musk’s Tesla being disruptive, innovative and making the old guard look like the dinosaurs that the vehicles they produce are fuelled by. Tesla has won the race to get electric cars to the road.
But the fight for clean vehicles is just about to get dirty. The established car makers have finally started catching up, and it’s difficult to bet against them. Audi introduced its e-tron SUV earlier this year, an actual plug-in production car after years or teasing with electrifying, though fruitless concepts. A smaller e-tron crossover will follow next year, and above that the e-tron GT will top the line-up.
It’s been unveiled as a concept car at the LA Auto Show in November. Today it’s not on the show stand, instead it’s parked at the side of the road in downtown LA, and we’re just about to drive it. There are LAPD motorcycle outriders to clear the traffic, Audi’s concept rolling downtown like a celebrity, with film star looks that have the capacity to stop the traffic without the LAPD’s help.
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It’s roughly A7-sized, being spun off the same premium electrical platform architecture as Porsche’s soon to be released Taycan. There’s a 90kW battery slung low between the axles, a pair of motors delivering 590 horses, to give this range-topping plug-in model the ability to reach 100kph in 3.5 seconds and double that in just over 12 seconds. Do that and the quoted 250 mile (402km) range will be the stuff of fantasy, but take it easier and it should be achievable.
Charging it should be quick, too. If you’ve a 350kW charger to hand, then you’ll be able to charge to 80 per cent capacity in around 20 minutes. The drivetrain is set up to be as efficient as possible, the recuperation system able to scavenge back enough power to equate to 30 per cent of its entire range. It’ll accept inductive charging, without a wire, but you’ll need to have an 11kW wireless charging station added at home if you want that, otherwise you’ll have to plug it in.
With its batteries fully charged, and a short drive around downtown LA we’ll not be having any range anxiety today. The fear is of a damage on this priceless concept, hence the LAPD motorcyclists to clear a path. It’s stunning to look at, it little surprise that Marc Lindte, Audi’s chief designer, describes it as a dream to have created and the highest point in his career so far.
It’s muscular and lithe, the bold grille with its backlid e-tron lettering leaving nobody guessing as to how it’s powered.
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It sits on 22in alloy wheels, those, like the entire exterior having been meticulously honed to cheat the air in a bid to maximise efficiency. Behind those wheels are ceramic brakes, those more usually the preserve of sports and supercars, this an EV with an eye on high performance as well as environmental credibility. With a super low centre of gravity, rear-wheel steering and the two electric motors giving quattro four-wheel drive with electronic torque vectoring, the e-tron GT should prove agile on the road.
The only sharpness as we pull away is from the suspension. It’s an early concept and the double wishbone set-up hasn’t been dialled in, making for a rather jarring ride. That’ll be fixed by the time the e-tron GT reaches production in 2020. It’s familiar Audi inside, which is demonstrative of how advanced Audi’s current model range is with its touchscreens and virtual cockpit. You want connectivity and configurability, it’s all here, the GT’s interior not just feeling cutting edge, but looking it. There’s good space, fulfilling the GT badge, while the serenity of the drivetrain brings huge luxury.
On the move its brisk and effortless, gathering pace in that immediate way that’s an electric car signature. The steering is light, the brakes feel fine when you need them, but such is the regenerative effect from the drivetrain that you barely do around town. The production models will allow you to lessen or heighten that via the wheel-mounted paddles, the e-tron GT certain to shake-up the established Tesla go-to choice norm when it reaches showrooms. It might have been a long time coming, but the EV revolution is gathering pace, and if cars like the e-tron GT are the future, then bring it on…