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Testing Audi’s E-Tron GT, The Marque’s Pinnacle Electric Car

The “e-tron GT” logo appears in lighting on exit

Audi

The e-tron GT has an impressive stance. It sits low and rather wide, so much so that the driver who delivers Audi’s star electric car to my home in London parks it almost in the middle of our narrow road in fear of damaging the cool graphic wheels against the curb. The exaggerated width is on purpose: the muscles are designed to be extreme, especially on the rear half, sculpted to reference the GT’s four-wheel quattro drive.

Audi e-tron GT is the pinnacle product and the most performance-focused car in the electric family

Audi

I know this since the director of Audi design, Marc Lichte, explained the challenge to me at length when revealing the e-tron GT last year. Flicking through his sketches on our video call, he said it took as long as three months to develop this voluptuous backside. He noted that despite the engineering complexity, his team pushed hard for it, saying: “it’s the biggest muscle we have ever done and it looks unbelievable.” And, observing the car in the flesh—or more accurately metal—I couldn’t agree more. Yet, like the delivery driver, I’m equally intimidated to take it for a spin. But when I do, the e-tron GT is sensational to drive. And it gets a lot of admiration from fellow Londoners.

With electric cars and concerns with battery range, aerodynamics naturally leads to the exterior design … [+] and finds its more extreme expression in the air curtains and the rear diffuser

Audi

The car on loan offers 476ps and 350kW, with around 296 miles available in battery power — depending on your style of driving. There is the option of a more powerful RS, but I’m not sure if its needed since, in that lovely unexpected electric car fashion, this GT sprints with ease from standing to 62 mph in a little over four seconds. The model on loan comes to just over £100,000 ($140,000) to include all sorts of complex tech and extra flourishes such as the 21-inch black 10-spoke trapezoidal aero alloys — the wheels the driver was fretting about.

The Audi e-tron GT’s taillights are linked by a theatrical light strip

Audi

This GT is the pinnacle product and the most performance-focused car in Audi’s electric family, which are collectively badged as “e-tron”. The polished look veils an awful lot of cutting-edge technology (largely borrowed from Porsche’s electric Taycan project) with the design directed by the electric drive system. The e-tron motors are mounted on the axles, while the large battery sits low in the floor space, which means, despite the car’s super-low coupe body shape, the cabin space is spacious enough to sit four adults comfortably. And since there is no combustion engine under the hood, the designers were able to push the front section forward, while positioning the large wheels to sit at the far edges of the car — all for a subtle expression of electric power.

The Audi e-tron GT sits low and wide to express the quattro drive

Audi

It is in the details where Audi wishes to make an electric statement with the e-tron cars. Central to the new styling theme is therefore the grille, which signifies the electric drive. Here, the classic Audi “singleframe” design has been inverted and since the battery-electric set-up no longer needs a grille purely as an air intake, it is used to house the sensors that modern cars need to enable the driver assist programs. The exterior is finished with advanced digital lights, while the taillights are linked by a theatrical light strip.

The sport seats are swathed in perforated leather, but Audi is offering a more ecologically … [+] Considered trim option

Audi

The sport seats in my car are swathed in perforated black Nappa leather replete with the same noir tint in honeycomb stitching for a more conventional luxury sportscar look. Audi is also offering an interior with carpets and seats made of recycled plastic bottles and fabrics. The more ecologically-considered option looks refined and to my mind, much more in keeping with the clean driving e-tron GT expression than leather.

With no engine under the hood, the front section of combustion is pushed forward, the large wheels sit … [+] at the far edges of the car and the overhangs are kept minimum for a subtle expression of electric power

Audi

For a final touch, the e-tron GT gets its own sound. This computer-designed engine note has characteristics that can be adjusted according to your driving mode. And it’s great fun. The hum of an electric engine is a serious topic these days and it appears Audi has found a nice balance that is at once an expression of movement but also a very new sound fitting the electric age.

See my highlights from the world of car design in 2021 here; Read my candid interview with the illustrious car designer Marcello Gandini and with the former BMW Group creative director Chris Bangle.

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