If you’re curious how committed Audi is to the E-Tron family of EVs, consider this: By 2026, every new model from the brand will be all-electric, and internal combustion will be fully retired by 2033. In fact, the automaker says E-Tron will soon become as emblematic as Quattro, denoting a powertrain ethos instead of a particular model. Leading the charge into that flagship EV future is the 2022 Audi RS E-Tron GT sedan.
The RS E-Tron GT is a faster, more expensive version of the company’s likewise-new E-Tron GT four-door, itself built atop the Premium Platform Electric architecture shared with the Porsche Taycan. Both Audi variants make use of a 93.4-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery, enabling an EPA-estimated range of 238 miles for the standard E-Tron GT and 232 miles for the RS, a noted improvement over the Taycan 4S’ 203 miles of range when equipped with the same battery. Like most new Audis, the E-Tron GT family also comes standard with all-wheel drive, courtesy of an electric motor mounted on both axles.
Separating the RS from the base car is performance. Thanks to 637 horsepower and 612 pound-feet, the RS E-Tron GT can lunge to 60 miles per hour in just 3.1 seconds, while the standard GT makes do with 522 horsepower, 472 pound-feet, and a 3.9-second sprint. However, Audi is frank in admitting that neither vehicle is intended for the race track, instead focusing on effortless comfort around town and on the highway, as well as exuberant Sunday-morning performance on a twisty road. Weighed against that metric, both vehicles succeed – though obviously more so for the sportier RS E-Tron GT.
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How Low Can You Go?
The 2022 RS E-Tron GT is one of the lowest vehicles Audi has ever produced. At 54.3 inches tall, the EV is 1.8 inches lower to the ground than the RS7 Sportback and only about 4 inches taller than the mid-engined R8 supercar. The RSETGT (that’s what we’re calling it now, in protest of alphabet-soup model lineups) is also wider than the RS7 by 0.7-inch, and it’s 2.0 inches shorter from stem to stern in spite of a wheelbase that’s only 0.9-inch shorter. Those numbers translate to a wheels-at-the-corners stance, accentuated by gorgeous hips and crisp fender flares that invoke Quattros of old.
Audi draped some interesting design features atop the E-Tron GT’s gorgeous proportions – some beautiful, some weird, and some downright unattractive. Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. The front end of the RS E-Tron GT is a sea of gloss black, with a CDC-approved plastic mask extending underneath the headlights and surrounding the “grille.” Tick an option box and the automaker will paint that single frame panel body-color, a conscious decision that highlights the EV’s uniqueness among other Audi products. Our tester wasn’t so equipped, and anyway, we wish the color-matching happened on the grille surround, not the panel itself.
Another bummer is the RS E-Tron’s mandatory Black Optics package, which applies gloss black to the front and rear bumper trim, side skirts, and mirror caps. Audi Sport products, like the RS5 Sportback we recently drove, look best with satin silver body jewelry, and we suspect the EV would be much the same. The taillights are a bit fussy as well, with arrow-shaped LED accents and a full-width light bar connecting them. However, they do sport Audi’s slick sequential turn signal animations (as do the headlamps), helping attract attention from surrounding traffic as to the driver’s intentions.
Otherwise, the styling is fabulous. The RS Vent front fender reduces turbulence and lift under the front end, but it looks cool too. The blister flares and arched roofline look suitably glamorous for a sports car much less a five-passenger sedan. The RS E-Tron GT is particularly handsome with the Year One package’s 21-inch wheels, meant to evoke the 2018 concept. Year One also swaps out lots of the gloss black accents for carbon fiber – the mirrors, side skirts, and front and rear bumper vents get the stuff, complementing the standard carbon roof panel. Unfortunately, the package also blacks out the Audi rings front and rear.
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The angular dash design inside adds to the modern drama, looking much more expressive than the attractive-but-plain Taycan. Open-pore wood trim is standard, but we appreciated the optional matte carbon accents of our tester, pairing with the red hexagonal seat quilting for a supervillain vibe. A leather-free interior comes standard, but adding the Year One package jettisons the heated leatherette and Dinamica upholstery in favor of PETA-unfriendly Nappa seats with heating, ventilation, and 18-way adjustability up front.
One area where the RS has a clear advantage over its Porsche platform-mate is its interior technology. We’ve been fans of Audi’s Virtual Cockpit instrument cluster and MMI infotainment for years, and the RS E-Tron GT is yet another reason why. The system responds quickly and has intuitive menu options, and its embedded navigation offers a beautifully rendered 3D map. Physical climate controls are a clear advantage over the dual- or triple-touchscreen Porsche’s though more hard buttons would be appreciated – there’s a frustrating, iPod-style clickwheel instead of a volume knob. Overall though, the Audi electronics are easy to live with.
The standard Audi E-Tron GT is no slouch in the performance department, with a low center of gravity that counteracts its 5,060-pound curb weight. That mass is no match for the vented steel brakes with 14.2-inch front and 14.1-inch rear rotors, which provide secure, repeatable stopping power even over a curvy, hilly drive in 95-degree weather. Standard four-corner air suspension and adaptive dampers provide both adroit handling and a supple ride, and an optional performance package brings torque vectoring and rear-axle steering for nimbler, more balanced cornering talent.
And yet, the RS E-Tron GT is better in every way. Immense power is a toe-twitch away, and the two-gear transmission provides instant response both from a stop and at freeway speeds. Most EVs are decently speedy around town due to instant torque, but no vehicle we’ve driven in recent memory (save the Taycan Cross Turismo Turbo) accelerates as hard at 70 mph as the RS E-Tron. That aforementioned torque-vectoring rear axle is standard on the RS, as are carbide-coated brake rotors – our tester’s Year One kit includes ceramic brakes, the only way to get them on an Audi EV.
The uneasy steering is a real shame, making both the E-Tron GT and its RS sibling feel much more nervous on a winding road.
Handling from the stiffer-by-default air springs is also better than the base E-Tron GT, even one with the performance package. The RS E-Tron is at its best in long, sweeping corners, which allow the driver to feed in some power and feel the torque-vectoring differential reduce understeer and improve grip. The only truly unfortunate dynamic trait is feather-light steering. Although it communicates some information to the driver, the helm isn’t nearly heavy enough to allow precise steering inputs, requiring constant mid-corner corrections and reducing driver confidence. The Taycan is far sportier in that regard.
The uneasy steering is a real shame, making both the E-Tron GT and its RS sibling feel much more nervous on a winding road. Most Audis in recent memory suffer from the same overboosted feel as the GT twins, and it’s one trait we really wish the automaker would abandon. Luckily, massive power, instant response, flat handling, and surprising nimbleness – this is a very wide car, remember – help compensate and turn the RS E-Tron into a very enjoyable scenic-route companion.
Oh, one more thing. Audi sound engineers gave their sportiest EV a unique, 30-layer sound profile, played through internal and external speakers when the car is in Dynamic mode. The volume is adjustable, but just leave it cranked up, because it adds a whole lot of fun to the experience. And the weirdest/coolest part of the sound? One of those 30 layers is a didgeridoo played through the blades of a fan. Feel free to bust that one out next time you’re one-upping your trivia buddies.
Further helping the Audi RS E-Tron GT win points is a well-controlled ride. Set to Comfort or Efficiency modes, the suspension is soft enough to take the edge off every obstacle, nicely counteracting the effect of massive, 21-inch wheels and miniscule sidewall. Those rollers do contribute to some tire slap on expansion joints, and there’s a fair amount of sonic intrusion from the rubber at freeway speeds, but it won’t be bothersome unless your other car is a Cullinan. Ventilated seats and excellent air conditioning were much appreciated, as was the RS’ carbon roof – the base model can only be had with a shadeless, fixed-glass roof.
The front seats are nearly perfect, thanks to firm and supportive cushions and an excess of adjustability. Audi doesn’t have official interior measurements yet, but the front seats are roomy enough for tall customers. Driver comfort is nearly faultless thanks to those well contoured bucket seats, but your elbows always fall on either a hard seam between the center console cubby and the shift binnacle or an unpleasant transition between the poorly padded door armrest and a cutout on the hard plastic B-pillar. Such frequent touchpoints demand better, particularly for a car that starts at $99,900 – much less the RS’ $139,900.
The front seats are nearly perfect, thanks to firm and supportive cushions and an excess of adjustability.
Also letting the E-Tron GT down is a comparatively teensy rear seat, the price one pays for such an attractive roofline. Once on board, there is just enough space for a 6-footer such as yours truly to “sit behind” himself, but narrow door openings, little windows, and a low roof induce claustrophobia. Fitting three folks across the rear bench would compound the matter. And storage space is at a premium, both in the cabin and the 9.2-cubic-foot trunk, though a front cargo area, adds an additional 1.8 cubes. Given those limitations, it’s best to think of the E-Tron GT family as a spacious 2+2, rather than an everyday five-seater.
Among EVs whose names don’t start with T and end with -esla, the EPA’s 232-mile range claim for the RS E-Tron GT is respectable. Also, Audi (and Porsche) can boast an industry-best charging rate of 270 kilowatts, which can restore 80 percent of the vehicle’s range in about 20 minutes thanks to an 800-volt electrical architecture. A 240-volt, 9.6-kW mobile charger is standard, and Audi will partner with Qmerit to provide customers with home charging solutions. Three years of free Electrify America public charging will be standard, with no limit to the duration or frequency of charging sessions.
When we set out for the day with a fully charged battery, the onboard computer estimated we had about 203 miles of range, a guess that fluctuated a bit depending on drive mode and HVAC use. But after 90-plus miles of hard, fast driving (including a short stint of coasting downhill), the readout claimed 120 miles of range left with the battery just over half-full. Our conditions were not ideal for maximum battery life, so we think the EPA rating is likely a bit pessimistic, as it is for the Porsche Taycan.
Not For Light Wallets
The 2022 Audi RS E-Tron starts at $139,900 plus $1,045 destination, and the price only goes up from there. Our tester came equipped with the $20,350 Year One package, which includes the aforementioned carbon-ceramic brakes, Nappa leather upholstery, and carbon fiber accents, as well as dynamic four-wheel steering, Audi Laserlight headlights, and more. Slap on a $595 coat of metallic paint and you’re left with a $161,890 Audi. You can live without the ceramic brakes unless you’re regularly tracking your EV, but it’s a shame you can’t get those fab 21-inch wheels a la carte.
If you decide to go without the Year One kit, the Nappa interior is a $5,350 option on its own, and a Carbon Performance package brings rear-axle steering, laser headlights, and some cosmetic touches to the table for $8,450. So equipped, the RS E-Tron GT is a slightly more palatable $155,340; ditch the leather and it’s a reasonable $149,990 – the only non-metallic paint option is Ibis White, so we’d recommend keeping fancy paint on your list.
Opting for a Tesla over the Audi will require you to sacrifice interior quality, while the spacious Mercedes isn’t nearly as dynamic or sporty-looking.
Still, there are many other options in this segment at that price, including the Tesla Model S Plaid, which costs $129,990 to start, offers a 399-mile range and more room, and sprints to 60 in 2.0 seconds. Then again, there’s also the Mercedes-Benz EQS 580 4Matic, which gets to 60 in 4.1 seconds – pricing and EPA range are unconfirmed, but we think it’ll start around $120,000 and go about 300 miles between charges. Opting for the Tesla over the Audi will require you to sacrifice interior quality, while the spacious Mercedes isn’t nearly as dynamic or sporty-looking.
Neither offer the RS E-Tron GT’s distinctly Ingolstadt-flavored take on luxury, with a poised and sporty driving experience combining with stunning design and generally good materials. The eco-conscious and well-heeled are becoming spoiled for choice, and Audi’s is one of the best.
RS E-Tron GT Competitor Reviews:
Gallery: 2022 Audi RS E-Tron GT: First Drive
2022 Audi RS E-Tron GT