Far From Speed Limits: Audi Sport’s All-Electric Grand Tourer is Very Much in its Element on the Track

source: Audi Australia

  • There’s no disputing the outright speed of the RS e-tron GT, but experiencing it on a race track far from speed cameras gives a new appreciation of just how quick it is

It’s practically impossible to read a report on even a common-or-garden electric vehicle without some reference to the impressive acceleration. Performance-oriented variants take that instantaneous acceleration to even greater levels, but, like high-performance models of the internal combustion type (ICE), it’s just not possible in this country to get a real sense of their capabilities without going somewhere far away from speed cameras and other traffic.

As the brand’s first all-electric RS model, the RS e-tron GT has a fearsome reputation in the performance stakes, but what does it actually feel like to experience the more extreme side of Audi’s most powerful series production model away from the constraints of road rules?

After driving the car on and off throughout the year in ‘everyday situations’ I recently had the chance to drive on the race track to get a sense of what all-electric feels like without the constraints of speed limits.

In many ways it was a great relief because all that acceleration was all very well and good to impress the neighbours with a quick demo, but it just wasn’t possible to legally plant the right foot and leave it there driving on the road.

No such problem at Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit, where conditions were perfect to let the all-electric RS have its head. As a bonus, the drive coincided with the launch of the new RS 6 Avant performance, so there was the chance to drive the cars back-to-back – conventional ICE performance from one of the brand’s best, up against Audi Sport’s ultimate all-electric.

It’s hard to convey in words what it feels like under full acceleration off the the line in the RS e-tron GT. Where a little poke of the throttle in traffic brings a grin and an instant surge of speed, with the accelerator buried to the firewall and kept there, it’s more a grimace as you’re not just forced back into the sports seat, but you can feel the skin on your face pulled back. It pulls off the line that hard.

With electric quattro there’s obviously no wheel spin, so it’s all drive from the second you hit the accelerator – just like a rollercoaster.

Keep the foot flat and it just keeps accelerating, but such is the low centre of gravity and driving position and the completely planted feel of the car, that after the initial surge off the line, the sensation of outright speed seems to diminish. Get off the gas, or the power, and there’s not the weight transfer you get with a conventional ICE drivetrain, and under heavy braking, there is nothing remotely skittish about the GT, in fact you really have to wonder what it would take to get it unsettled.

The combination of the low centre of gravity and the weight of the battery in the floorpan make for a vehicle that is rock solid with absolutely zero body roll. This in turn inspires confidence with each passing lap as you grow accustomed to the braking, which needs to be a little earlier to allow for the extra weight of the battery. But the instantaneous acceleration more than makes up for this – in fact that acceleration more than makes up for a multitude of driver sins.

The overwhelming impression is one of ease. The RS e-tron GT – like the R8 when it first arrived – makes it all look, and feel, effortless. It is really easy to drive this car fast. So accomplished is the car that the driver doesn’t necessarily have to be – which was a good thing in my case. Get the entry to a corner wrong, brake too late or too heavily and the acceleration on tap is such that it will more than account for lost time. That absence of any lag slingshots it out of corners in a way that is completely different to ICE cars – no spooling up necessary – very much a matter of just point and shoot.

It is extremely forgiving compared to any number of highly strung performance cars, but that’s not to say it isn’t engaging. No, you’re not flipping up and down through the gears, and the absence of engine noise takes a little getting used to, but the RS e-tron GT is just so quick and so surefooted that it becomes addictive.

Put it in the hands of a professional and the electric experience steps up several notches. At the beginning of the year, I had the chance to experience some fast laps around Mount Panorama in an RS e-tron GT with LMP2 driver, Garnet Patterson behind the wheel. It was during the Bathurst 12 hour weekend and Garnet, an Audi driving experience instructor when he’s not racing in the Asian Le Mans Series, is no stranger to the famous 6.2 kilometre circuit.

From the passenger’s seat, the RS e-tron GT was like an extreme roller ride with good seats, impressive as much for its extraordinary agility down through The Esses and The Dipper as for the outright speed – and that was with four adult passengers on board.

That same weekend, Audi works driver Christopher Mies took the RS e-tron GT around the hallowed Bathurst track in 2:28.15 to set a benchmark fastest electric lap – the car completely stock and on road tyres, with the top speed limited to 250km/h. An even more impressive feat given that he still holds the fastest lap record with a 1:59.29 set back in 2018 driving an unrestricted R8 LMS GT3.

Of course the RS e-tron GT is not designed as a stripped down track car, but rather as a fully-equipped luxury grand tourer, which makes its pulse-quickening pace around a track all the more impressive. Much like its ICE sibling, the RS 6 Avant Performance, the amount of time it will spend on race tracks once in private ownership is negligible (aside from those used in the Audi driving experience), but it’s nice to know that should the urge grab you, there is precious little that will be able to catch you when things get serious.

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