In a recent event, Audi spent a ton of money and a lot of time telling us all about its commitment to being forward-leaning during the next decade, but it wasn’t very honest about the last one. The brand’s commitment to the latest technology fell behind in recent years, but with the e-tron GT, the company might be putting that behind it.
The reason I say this is basically the whole first 15 minutes of the event.
Clearly, the brand’s high-tech look has been tarnished over the last few years as Tesla and even Chevrolet passed it by. Its first attempt to go electric, the e-tron crossover, was solid, but not very competitive in terms of efficiency or performance. Now, it spends a lot of time trying to convince us how futuristic it is, and how committed it is to the future of transportation, before we get a single peek at the car.
Given its history, it’s a little embarrassing. In the past, Audi innovated a lot of things, like all-wheel-drive systems, for racing and for cars driving on the street. Now, some American upstarts beat it to the punch by years, and the company is having to play follower instead of leader.
I know that CleanTechnica and its readers aren’t “normies” on cars, though. Many of us had preferred brands and models before Tesla kicked off the electric revolution and dragged everyone kicking and screaming into the 21st century. Myself, I was a fan of GM’s vehicles, but now I’m driving a Nissan and the Corvette is no longer the king of performance in my mind the way it once was. Many Tesla fans weren’t that into cars before they bought a fast, rolling computer, so Tesla is where it’s at no matter what you used to drive. I get it, and that’s OK.
Most car buyers didn’t follow the trail of electrons the way we did, though. For many, brand loyalty and what people are used to driving holds a lot of sway.
That can’t last forever. Audi definitely needed its fans to know that it isn’t going to be complacent about electrification like it has been for the last few years. It’s getting to the point where even the biggest EV skeptics are starting to flip, and the average car buyer who isn’t any kind of enthusiast will start slipping out of their preferred brand’s hands to follow the future.
That’s why Audi had to bore us EV enthusiasts for so long in the show. Tesla put the company against the wall, and now it needs to fix its image to survive. It can’t apologize and let everyone know it dropped the ball, but it can show us that it has picked it back up.
The Audi e-tron GT
The e-tron GT (we have the press release here) is actually competitive, and it shows Audi is serious about electrification.
Being Audi’s first EV on a low-floor platform allowed it some more flexibility in aerodynamics and design compared to ICE cars. Audi took an aerodynamic-first attitude in design, arriving at a drag coefficient of only .2. Even more important, the battery pack is laid low, but isn’t strictly a skateboard. This allowed it to lower the roofline by inches without compromising interior space. The key was to allow the pack to be thicker in some spots and thinner in others where they wanted some room.
The result was an interior that’s more grounded and built around the driver.
The designers made it look like an Audi, but they also wanted to show the world that they aren’t just making a copy of a Tesla. Four-wheel steering and torque vectoring allowed them an area in which they could not only mimic, but one-up the competition. According to the press release, it steers up to 2.8 degrees in the rear, going opposite directions at low speeds and the same direction as the front at high speeds. This provides greater agility and stability. A locking rear differential helps round out its capabilities.
Audi is also jumping ahead with an 800V pack, allowing for charging rates of up to 700 kW, which it says will bring the battery pack up to 80% in well under 30 minutes. Also, it’s got a 95 kWh pack to fill in that time. Not bad, assuming you can find a charger putting that kind of juice out.
It won’t be a Plaid Model S, but it’s not hopelessly behind on that front, either. With the vehicle going from 0-100 kph (0-62 MPH) in 3.3 seconds, it’s definitely no slouch. The top speed will be 155 MPH, and it will get there more quickly thanks to having a two-speed transmission in the rear drive unit. This will allow for more low-end torque for a launch, and better performance/efficiency at highway speeds and above.
Audi shows this off by running it in a drag race with a Formula E car. The e-tron only narrowly loses, but then again the Formula cars aren’t optimized for acceleration as much as handling and going on the track, but it’s still a fun way to show off its acceleration.
Range is one area where it is falling behind Tesla. There aren’t any official EPA ratings, but based on its own approximations, Audi figures it will go 238 miles in the test. I’m not going to even bother to share the WLTP ratings, because those are basically worthless unless you’re planning on hypermiling everywhere you go. It’s possible that with the two-speed rear drive unit that it could massively outperform its EPA ratings like its VW group cousin, the Porsche Taycan.
On the sustainability front, Audi is already set up to produce the vehicle in a carbon neutral plant and it is using a lot of recycled materials in the interior, including most of the cloth and carpeting.
This was an area where Audi had a lot of opportunity to keep its fanbase while also having a lot of room to brag on sustainability. The company clearly puts a lot of effort into this, like any company, but it interviewed Simona Falcinella, the team’s leader, and she was able to show a lot of passion for what she does.
They needed to make it an Audi, and not a Tesla or GM clone, and let’s face it, the interior of a car is going to heavily affect the feel a driver gets. She worked to achieve both sides of the challenge here: being true to the brand and following it as it makes a major change.
We Need To Test This
To really tell readers whether the vehicle is a viable competitor to Tesla vehicles, we can’t rely on specs. They’re ahead in some ways, but behind in others. At the end of the day, numbers can’t tell us the whole story. We will definitely be working with VW to see if we can get access.
Before the fanboys jump in, I never use terms like “Tesla killer” because Tesla’s mission is to get other manufacturers to electrify along with them. Look at the mission statement. Competition is actually a good thing for all of us. The real question here, and the answer may be “yes,” is whether it’s a viable partner to Tesla in the market. That’s what we need to be asking when new vehicles come out.
Featured image: Audi e-tron GT RS, image provided by Audi.