Review: The 2022 Audi RS e-tron GT Is The Almost-Perfect Performance EV
Few vehicles punch you in the chest (in a good way) like the current crop of high performance EVs. Featuring lightning-quick acceleration via an unending wave of instant-on torque, when tuned for performance electric motors have opened up an entirely new dimension of speed that is quickly being co-opted by mainstream automakers.
The 2022 Audi RS e-tron GT is one of the most intriguing electro-warrior options for drivers seeking to spend six figures on a battery-powered machine that can shame almost any fuel-burning rival pulling up beside it. Long and low, the RS e-tron GT can swap personalities from comfy grand touring car to guided land missile with a simple stomp of the right foot, demanding almost no compromise from owners in the transition.
The biggest question, of course, is what it's like to live with an upscale electric vehicle in a world where charging infrastructure and battery range are engaged in an often antagonistic dance that threatens to strand anyone daring to take an extended road trip. Paying upwards of $140,000 for a car that doesn't quite match the driving distances set by several of its rivals might at first seem like a hard sell for Audi—at least until you spend some time behind the wheel.
The 2022 Audi RS e-tron GT makes excellent use of its two-motor party trick when it comes time to scorch some pavement in a straight line. Featuring a launch control program that allows for an 'overboost' from 590 hp to 637 hp for 2.5 seconds, the all-wheel drive monster rips off runs to 60-mph in just under 3 seconds on a grippy surface (with the official number standing at 3.1 seconds).
That's incredibly quick for a vehicle that weighs a hefty 5,171 pounds (most of which is the 85-kWh battery pack), and you can do it all day long, with no worries about overheating the system. In terms of raw numbers, the RS e-tron GT is somewhat slower than the Tesla Model S Plaid, but that vehicle's drag strip best requires enduring 15 minutes or more of showmanship as it flattens into 'cheetah stance' and prepares its power pack for the abuse associated with unleashing its full 1,002 hp. In the real world, you're not beating anyone in the next lane unless you have full, instant control over launching power, and the RS grants that with a simple left-foot/right-foot pedal dance.
It's not just all-wheel drive that gives the Audi such overwhelming access to its 612 lb-ft of torque. Linking together its front and rear motors is a unique transmission setup: a single-speed unit at the front, and a two-speed at the rear. This duo allows for both brutal off-the-line antics as well as ultra-smooth, endless speed-seeking when already underway, and it's the latter that truly allows the e-tron to shine.
It's almost impossible to think of a gas-powered automobile that allows for such effortless performance regardless of the driving situation. If you whittle that list down to models as large and accommodating as the four-door GT, the number drops to zero. I was never able to catch the Audi out of breath, as the juice simply kept flowing for as long as I dared keep my foot to the floor. At the same time, its rear-wheel steering system helped shrink the car around me as roads grew tighter and twistier, disguising most of the model's bulk until the requirement to brake from whatever ultra-velocity I was currently sampling forced reality (and mass) to intrude into the RS's bubble.
Coiled To Strike
For all of its ferocity, piloting the Audi RS e-tron GT in a relaxed manner betrays none of its powerful potential. Unlike the rumble and thrash of a high-strung turbo-charged engine, the GT's digitally-broadcast soundtrack (designed to please the driver while also alerting pedestrians) never sounds a note out of tune with the circumstances surrounding it. The overall sensation is akin to riding within the coil of a bullwhip, surrounded by soft, silent, supple leather until it comes time to crack through the sound barrier with a flick of the wrist—err—ankle.
The Audi's immense versatility is perhaps the most impressive aspect of the entire automobile. Easy on the eyes with aggressive yet classy styling, and featuring a well-appointed cabin that 's comfortable over long distances in both the front and rear quarters, the e-tron GT even provides for decent trunk space at each end for stuffing overnight bags. As exciting as it can be to soar down the highway at speeds that might even get you arrested on the Autobahn, being able to deal with day-to-day driving needs without having to change horses is a key aspect of the RS' value proposition.
Your Mileage May Vary
Of course, the term 'value' when discussing a car as expensive as the Audi RS e-tron GT is a slippery term. Priced at $40k more than the base e-tron GT's $100k price tag, and featuring options that can push it to nearly the $170,000 mark, the RS doesn't present as a bargain. In fact, it's more expensive than nearly any other electric vehicle out there, including comparable version of the Tesla Model S and the new Mercedes-Benz EQS, topped only by the Porsche Taycan in GTS, Turbo, and Turbo S trim (which shares the same platform).
Almost every aspect of the Audi e-tron experience feels in step with its eye-watering sticker, with one exception. The RS model can only travel 232 miles or so before it requires a recharge, which is as much as 100 to 150 miles below more affordable premium EV fare. In fact, the e-tron's range is more comparable to vehicles like the Hyundai Ioniq 5, which can cost less than a third as much.
For those who do dare to venture out past the limits of the Audi, their experience will be defined by the state of the charging infrastructure on the way to their destination, something that's completely outside the brand's control. Tales of broken chargers, low-power-only options, and long lines to plug in are not uncommon in some parts of the country, and can add an extra layer of planning for EV owners hitting the road. Fortunately, the vehicle's 270-kW charging compatibility seriously reduces the length of time spent tethered, providing up to 80 percent battery after 20 minutes of so of charge if you can find your way to one of these uncommon grid points. On slower, 7, 11, and 22 kW chargers (which are more common), you're need at least an hour or more to gain any appreciable range.
To be honest, most RS buyers won't be counting on the car as their only conveyance, as it will represent merely one member of a fleet of vehicles available to tackle the task at hand. As I discovered for myself, 232 miles also happens to be plenty for the vast majority of daily driving needs, and I was able to successfully make use of low-speed chargers while visiting family on a 250-mile trip that never had me sniffing an empty battery. Occasional inconvenience isn't the most attractive luxury trait, but for those willing to overlook its less capacious power pack, the Audi RS e-tron GT delivers a formidable overall EV package.