- I drove Audi’s upcoming flagship EV: the 2022 RS E-Tron GT.
- It was a thrilling and sometimes terrifying first experience driving an electric car.
- The 637-horsepower RS E-Tron GT starts at $139,900 and goes on sale this summer.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
In the days and hours leading up to my drive in the 2022 Audi RS E-Tron GT, a viral clip of a Porsche Taycan crash played on repeat in my head.
The grainy video shows a $100,000-plus Porsche EV pull into a driveway and stop for a moment before abruptly launching full bore into another car, off a ledge, and onto a street-parked SUV. As my date with one of Germany’s quickest and most advanced electric vehicles – a close cousin to the Taycan – drew nearer, I was certain I’d meed a similar fate.
You see, when Audi invited me to drive its upcoming flagship EV for around an hour earlier this month, I had never been behind the wheel of an electric car before. Moreover, I had never piloted a speed demon like the 637-horsepower RS E-Tron GT, which starts at $139,900, or its equally sporty Porsche relative.
And if that unfortunate Taycan video taught me anything, it’s that in the wrong – or even just the distracted – hands, high-performance EVs can become a bit like a rocket ship in the hands of a toddler.
Seeing as I write about transportation and EVs for a living, I knew that from commuter Kias to sporty Teslas, electric cars deliver near-instantaneous, gut-punching acceleration unlike any gas-powered vehicle – and they do so without the auditory and tactile cues of a combustion engine, given that EVs’ elasticky pedals are met with near-silent acceleration. That likely factored into the ill-fated Taycan’s trip over a nearby ledge.
I also knew the RS E-Tron GT’s 637 peak horsepower and 612 pound-feet of torque is an awful lot, and that the four-door sedan’s promised ability to hit 60 mph in 3.1 seconds puts it firmly in supercar territory. But I’d never experienced such things for myself and I wasn’t sure what to expect.
With some words of encouragement from my colleagues, I decided to go for it. “Don’t drive it off a cliff,” one staff transportation editor wise beyond her years told me.
My fears weren’t exactly alleviated when I arrived at the location and saw I’d embark on my guided drive from a mountaintop home, which meant I’d have to start out by navigating down a steep, narrow drive with lots of tight twists and turns. It was the perfect setting for a viral video titled “IDIOT JOURNALIST WRECKS $140K AUDI [LOST HIS JOB & DIGNITY].”
I set off at low speeds, trying to ease my fears and my potential to go viral. But the Audi stepped in where I lacked – its smooth power delivery was manageable and not at all jerky, even if I struggled a bit to see the road over the sedan’s long hood from its low seating position. Still, I tackled the descent without smashing into a tree or launching myself off the side of the mountain, which I chalked up to a victory.
The real test, however, would be whether I could graduate to more normal speeds without wrapping this $140,000 car I didn’t own around a guardrail.
Once I turned onto the main road, I went for it. After putting my foot down a few times, my jitters morphed into a kind of unhinged glee. As someone whose typical means of transportation are a bike and a 30-year-old Volvo that’s only slightly faster than said bike, the E-Tron GT’s raw speed and brutal torque – overwhelming as it was – had me downright giddy. I was in a rocket ship, but I somehow felt like I had control over it.
When you give a traditional car some gas, you can feel it gradually rumble up to speed, hear the engine rev up to higher RPMs. But there’s none of that buildup in the E-Tron GT – or in any other EV. The car immediately leaps forward with each press of the pedal, and there’s no noise accompanying that motion aside from an artificial, futuristic whine that Audi pumps in through the speakers.
I cackled as every nudge of the accelerator rocketed the car forward and threw me back into my seat. I was a kid in a candy store, and that candy store was hurtling down the freeway at breakneck speeds.
By the halfway point of my drive, I was feeling reasonably at home in the RS E-Tron GT. I switched it from “Comfort” mode to “Dynamic” – Audi’s name for a sporty setting – and began pushing the car harder, taking turns a bit faster. My hands, balled up in a sweaty death grip for much of the drive, relaxed a bit (but remained sweaty) as I got more comfortable.
The acceleration, as alien and utterly ridiculous as it was, seemed almost manageable after a time because it was predictable and consistent. And the all-wheel-drive E-Tron GT felt planted and grippy carving around the Hudson Valley’s twisty mountain roads, giving me the confidence to stomp the accelerator where appropriate.
Slowing down to take a tight turn was never an issue thanks to the car’s solid brakes and regenerative-braking system, a common feature in EVs. In an EV or hybrid, regenerative braking starts slowing the car down as soon as your foot is off the accelerator to capture energy and feed it back to the battery as a form of charging.
But I didn’t need to drive all that fast to have an absolute blast in the E-Tron GT. The instant, always-available torque that’s present in most EVs – but is dialed up many, many notches in the Audi – meant I had loads of fun putting my foot down at nearly any speed. I’m told that’s helped by the sedan’s two-speed transmission, something you can’t find in any other current EV aside from the Taycan.
When I did want to open it up, the E-Tron GT’s head-up display, which projects your speed onto the windshield in front of you, proved mighty useful. Given the car’s ability to go from mildly speeding to full-on reckless endangerment in a matter of seconds, being able to check my speed without looking away from the road was a welcome feature.
As my drive came to a close, I was less concerned about smashing the six-figure luxury tourer to bits and more bummed out that I, a mere scribe, will likely never, ever own one. But electric cars are getting cheaper fast, and driving the E-Tron GT helped me understand firsthand why some of their owners are so excited about making the switch from dinosaur goo to battery power.
Even considering the troubles of charging and taking long trips, the appeal of a quick EV that spices up a morning commute or grocery run is undeniable – if you appreciate that sort of thing. And, from a more practical perspective, having enough electric torque on tap to overtake a truck or a weaving driver at a moment’s notice is nice too. Those advantages, plus a more sustainable power source, make EVs all the more attractive.
But for now, I’ll make do with my bike, my dusty old station wagon, and hopefully the occasional afternoon with something a bit more exciting. And if I do end up in a viral YouTube clip someday, I only ask one thing of you:
Please hire me.