It took me all of about five seconds and a few hundred yards of driving to get the measure of Audi’s new flagship electric grand tourer – the e-tron GT.
There are very few cars with which you feel almost instantly at ease and intuitively in tune – and this is one of them.
The car debuted in the 2019 Marvel superhero film, Avenger Endgame, with super-cool Hollywood actor Robert Downey Jnr driving an early prototype while playing billionaire industrialist Tony Stark, secretly the fully armoured flying Iron Man superhero.
We’ve been lucky enough to try out an early left-hand drive version of the full-production cars direct from Germany on UK soil, months before first deliveries arrive later this year.
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The UK is one of the key markets for the GT, which has always had a penchant for grand tourers for exploring the Continent.
The new battery-powered e-tron GT quattro is definitely a car for grown-ups. It is sporty but mature and stylish without being overtly bling.
It doesn’t take an age to master the controls – anyone used to driving conventional Audi’s will feel immediately at home. There’s a sensibly laid out dashboard. The upmarket interior is very tactile as well as having the leather-free ‘vegan’ interior made from recycled plastic bottles , as approved by fashion designer Stella McCartney who uses some of the same materials in some of her own creations.
The Dinamica micro-fibre and artificial leather combination is set off with walnut inlays and an Alcantara-covered steering wheel. Light floods in through the panoramic glass roof.
Stylistically, it takes its inspiration from the grand tourers and muscle cars of the 1950s, 60s and 1970s, and shares their proportions with its low profile and aerodynamic shape, muscular rear haunches, matched by fearsome all-electric pulling power. Its design chief said, somewhat immodestly, that he believed it the best looking Audi ever. A looker certainly.
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Robert Downey Jnr attending Audi Arrives At The World Premiere Of ‘Avengers: Endgame’ on April 22, 2019 in Hollywood, California
Tony Stark, played by Robert Downey Jnr, seen (left) in Avengers Endgame exiting the Audi e-tron GT. The production car looks almost identical to the concept used in the film two years ago
And a contender. But the best ever? One for debate.
Out on the road, its sleek lines certainly attract attention. I even had a McLaren supercar nosing alongside for a sniff. Though on paper and in practice a much higher performance car, my brief but controlled burst on the accelerator may have surprised the McLaren driver at the degree of available torque instantly available on tap.
An intuitive drive, it is very well-mannered around town at 30mph. But on fast-flowing roads if you feel the need for instant speed it has scintillatingly powerful but smooth acceleration that pushes you into the back of your seat.
Thanks to its four-wheel drive it also grips the highway like a tightly stretched golf glove on a hand, and rocks around tight corners like an express train on rails. For close quarter manoeuvring, three-point turns and parking it has a surprisingly tight turning circle.
Production of the new model has already begun at Audi Böllinger Höfe, Neckarsulm, South West Germany
The standard Audi e-tron GT quattro starts from £79,900, rising to £106,000 for the ‘ultra-high’ specced Vorsprung trim
A racing-inspired Audi RS e-tron GT is priced from £110,950, rising to £125,340 for the Carbon Black trim and a whopping £133,105 for the Carbon Vorsprung
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I was driving the standard Audi e-tron GT quattro which is priced from £79,900, rising to £106,000 for the ‘ultra-high’ specced Vorsprung trim.
From there, however, it’s only a relatively short hop to the racing-inspired Audi RS e-tron GT priced from £110,950 but rising to £125,340 for the Carbon Black trim and a whopping £133,105 for the Carbon Vorsprung.
In the UK, my GT quattro will ride as standard on 20 inch wheels but mine was fitted with optional 10-spoke gloss-black 21 inch wheels.
In the UK, the GT quattro will ride as standard on 20 inch wheels, the RS on larger 21 inch wheels to give it added presence
Standing 4.99m long, 1.96m wide and just 1.41m high stretched over a 2.90m wheelbase, Audi says its proportions share ‘the dimensions of a classic grand tourer’
With charging ports behind both front wheels, the GT can charge overnight on a 11kW AC charger as standard. A more powerful optional 22kW is to follow shortly after launch
Propulsion for the all-wheel drive or ‘quattro’ GT is from two electric motors – one on the front axle and a second more powerful one on the rear axle.
In normal mode that give the GT quattro 476 horse-power (350kW) allowing it to accelerate from rest to 62mph in 4.5 seconds. However, applying the launch control gives an additional 2.5 second burst of energy from standstill, increasing the thrust to 530 horse-power (390kW), allowing it to manage the same in just 4.1 seconds, up to a top speed of 152mph.
This is aided by the short-ratio first gear in the GT’s two-speed automatic transmission which allows for the stunning acceleration. In normal setting, the car will start off for greater efficiency in second gear.
Launch control lets the more powerful racing inspired RS jump from 598 horse-power (440kW) to a mighty 646 horse-power (475kW), increasing 0 to 62mph acceleration to just 3.3 seconds up to a top speed restricted to 155mph.
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On a fast-charging DC terminal, charging up to 80 per cent is achievable in under 23 minutes, says Audi. A five minute charge will get you 62 miles
The sporty but minimalist cockpit-like interior has a dashboard – with 12.3 inch screen plus a 10.1 inch infotainment screen
The honeycomb ‘radiator grille’ matches the body colour and is used to hide sensors, as there’s no traditional engine to cool
There are four main drive modes: efficiency to conserve energy; comfort for cruising; feisty dynamic for more engaged driving; and – for those who want to tailor their driving – individual.
Electric all-wheel drive is the default setting for all driving modes, except for ‘efficiency’, when front-wheel drive is prioritised. On slippery road surfaces or when fast cornering demand it, the electric motor for rear wheel drive is also activated. The vehicle will also ‘sail’ or cruise when you take your foot off the peddle. But energy released from braking can also be recuperated and re-used to power the battery and car.
Will it fit in my garage? Audi e-tron GT quattro
Price: e-tron GT quattro: £79,900 to £106,000 ( RS e-tron GT priced from £110,950 to £133,105)
Built: Audi Böllinger Höfe, Neckarsulm, South West Germany.
Length: 4.99m (16.4ft)
Width: 1.96m (6.4ft)
Height: 1.41m (4.6ft)
Wheelbase: 2.90m (9.5ft)
Style: Gran Turismo /Grand Tourer GT
Colour: Kemora Grey metallic
Gears: Two speed transmission (with manual paddles on steering wheel)
Wheels: 21-inch (20 inch is standard).
0-62mph: 4.5 seconds
0-62mph (in boost mode): 4.1 seconds
Top speed (restricted): 152mph
Propulsion: Two electric motors – front and rear axle.
Drive: All wheel-drive
Total power (normal): 476 horse-power (350kW)
Total power (with launch control 2.5 second burst): 530 horse-power (390kW)
Front electric motor: 238 horse-power (175kW)
Rear motor: 435 horse-power
Battery: Lithium ion 93.4kWh gross/85kWh nett
Range on a full charge: 296 miles
Standard 11kW AC charger: full charge overnight.
( a more powerful optional 22kW is to follow shortly after launch) Fast-charging 270 kW DC terminal: up to 80 per cent in under 23 minutes
Five minute charge will get you 62 miles.
Rear luggage compartment: 405 litres
Front trunk or ‘frunk’: 85 litres
Powering the new GT is a 93kWh lithium ion battery delivering 85kWh of useable charge.
With charging ports behind both front wheels, the GT can charge overnight on a 11kW AC charger as standard. A more powerful optional 22kW is to follow shortly after launch. On a fast-charging DC terminal, 80 per cent charging is achievable in under 23 minutes, says Audi. A five minute charge will get you 62 miles.
Fully charged the GT quattro promises a range of 296 miles. The more powerful RS promises 283 miles.
The sporty but minimalist cockpit-like dashboard has a 12.3 inch screen plus a 10.1 inch infotainment screen. A wide centre console houses the gear selector switch.
Depending on the model spec bought there are three versions of seats – 8, 14, and 18 way electrically adjustable -with the latter also having ventilation and massage capability.
To help create extra legroom and comfort in the rear, passengers have the benefit of a sunken ‘foot garage’ which dips into a space in the battery cells beneath the floor.
As there’s no conventional engine roar, Audi’s sound engineers have created a package of synthesised sounds to help enhance the driving experience – using everything from electric drills and guitars to flying model helicopter drones and elongated tubes to create the GT’s soundtrack, whose intensity changes according to the driving mode and dynamic profile selected.
Two control units and amplifiers in the luggage compartment generate interior and exterior sounds which go out via two loudspeakers.
A series hi-tech engineering aids and driver assistance systems help keep the new GT rooted to the ground across a range of driving conditions.
High performance brakes help bring the car and its awesome power safely to a stop.
There are three enhanced safety packages bundled as : Tour, City Assist, and Parking Assistance.
Adaptive ‘three chamber’ air suspension lowers body by up to 22mm and raises up to 20mm. It is standard on all but the entry level GT for which it is an option as part of a package.
There are nine exterior colours including new Tactical Green with plenty of opportunities to bling it up with gloss black and carbon fibre trim.
The honeycomb ‘radiator grille’ matches the body colour and is used to hide sensors, as there’s no traditional engine to cool.
The windshield is made of noise-insulating glass as standard, as are side and rear windows in higher spec models.
Built at an environmentally-friendly boutique factory at Böllinger Höfe, near Neckarsulm in South West Germany, UK versions of the GT quattro will be equipped with LED headlamps featuring striking 3-D look daytime running lights and dynamic front and rear indicator lights as standard. New technology including night vision and laser lights.
The e-tron GT Quattro and RS versions are connected to the outside world via 11 hidden antennae which help with navigation, media and smartphone connections.
Higher specced cars including mine- feature a Bang & Olufsen premium sound system. Night vision assist and surround cameras are optional.
Super-cool Hollywood actor Robert Downey Jnr (who plays billionaire industrialist Tony Stark doubling in secret as the Iron Man super-hero) drove a pre-production version of the e-tron GT quattro to the premiere of the Marvel movie Avengers Endgame in which an early prototype of the car also features.
The great thing about the production model is that you don’t have to be a super-hero or Hollywood star to drive it. As long as you can afford the asking price.
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