Electric cars are the future. But what’s it like to drive one of the top-end ones today? We tested out Audi’s elegant and eco-friendly gran turismo, their touring sports model.
Electric cars have moved from the domain of passionate prototype projects that are a sort of piety towards Mother Nature to the mainstream of the automobile world.
In the decades to come, the number of electric cars will grow and infrastructure that is already cropping up to support them will become better. Remember the fledgling days of cellular communications during the closing years of the last century? Think back to then and compare that to what mobile phones are today with high-speed network even in the remotest of regions.
Electric cars too will continue to evolve to become more efficient, especially in the area of range and the time it takes to charge their batteries. But right now, the Audi e-tron GT is pretty much up there in terms of power, performance, and range.
When it was delivered to me for a test drive, even though I had seen pictures of it on social media with descriptions that waxed eloquent about its form and function, I couldn’t help but sigh deeply at the beauty that it is in real life. It evoked everything in me that a beautiful looking car would.
My first thought, seeing it in the flesh, was that this car screams speed even when it is at standstill. But I had to immediately edit that thought because the Audi e-tron GT is an electric car and unlike its internal combustion engined cousins that are expected to have an expressive exhaust note that tugs at the heartstrings, this car would not scream — at standstill or at speed!
But its sharply sloping rear, that gives it the look of a leopard ready burst into a sprint, muscles bunched, its wheel arches that the low-profile tyres on the 20-inch alloy rims fill up, and its generally muscular look, are more than enough to quicken the pulse even before you’re in the driver’s seat and press the start button to send current coursing through its circuits. In fact, the lovely flow of its design beckons like a sexy seductress.
At six feet tall, I thought that I’d have to be quite the contortionist to get into the car, but the multi-direction adjustable seat (driver and passenger) and the steering wheel that is electrically adjustable for rake and reach, allowed me to get into the car and find that perfect driving position. The interior of the car is luxurious and lavish and if you’ve been in a current-generation Audi, then you will feel a sense of familiarity, much like moving from one iPhone to a newer model.
I’d recently driven the new Audi A4 from Mumbai to Delhi and back, so I could easily find my way around the touchscreen. The haptics in the e-tron, like in the A4, are super responsive. When I pressed the start/stop button, I made that classic electric car rookie mistake — because I didn’t feel a shudder to tell me that the car has started, I pressed it again. In fact, the car’s circuits had primed when I had pressed it the first time around. But it is only when you move the drive mode switch towards D (for Drive) that you feel an ever so slight and singular vibration. That’s the electric motors engaging with the axles.
Yes, motors, plural, because this car is a quattro, meaning all four wheels are driven and there is a 238hp electric motor powering the front axle and a 435hp motor at the rear axle! But this doesn’t mean that adding these two up gives you the horsepower of the e-tron. The combined power figures are in fact 475hp and 630Nm.
I realised what this meant when I mashed the throttle down on an empty patch of road. The car launched like a cheetah going for a gazelle and it crossed the 100kph mark in the blink of an eye. From a standing stop, this car will go from 0 to 100 in less than four and a half seconds. Mashing down your foot hard onto the throttle unleashes the boost mode that sends a larger surge of current to the motors for 2.5 seconds and this makes them pump out 530hp with the torque at 640Nm.
The Audi e-tron is electric, but it is certainly not ghostly silent. There is an electrical whine similar to what you might sometimes hear coming from a ceiling fan, although it is certainly louder in the e-tron. This is at low speeds and while pottering around town at a steady pace. But under hard acceleration, a synthesised sound is also added to the whine. I can only guess that it has been added to heighten the sensation of speed. But it is not a sound like an exhaust burble. Remember the Millennium Falcon, Hans Solo’s spaceship from Star Wars? And, how it sounded when it jumped to lightspeed? Watch that on YouTube and you’ll get an idea of what the Audi e-tron GT sounds under hard acceleration.
At almost 2.3 tonnes this car is no lightweight but its heaviest components — the batteries — and hence the chunk of its mass, are positioned low down in the body, resulting in a low center of gravity. So, it goes around corners in a reassuringly adhesive manner as if it is feviquicked to the road. This quattro is all electric and, as a result, its reaction to the laws of physics is very, very fast and what this ensures is almost boundless grip and the steering feels pointy and connected too. But being low-slung does have a few disadvantages on our roads, especially when going over big speed-breakers. These need to be approached diagonally and even then, there is a chance that the underbody might scrape over the ones with a big, pronounced hump.
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And finally, there is the matter of range and how much time it takes to charge. Though the manufacturer specified range is about 480 kms on a full charge, my guess would be that when this Audi is driven the way it begs to be driven it will deliver about 350 kilometers.
Juice it up!
The good news is that the battery unit of this car (93kWh) can be juiced up with a number of options. They are as follows:
11kW AC charging — 9.5 hours for a full charge. This is the option that you will probably have at your home.
22kW AC charging — 5.5 hours to a full charge. This is another home fitment option.
25kW DC charging — three hours to juice the batteries from five per cent to 80 per cent. This is what is found at most commercial charging stations.
50kW DC charging — 1.5 hours from five per cent to 80 per cent.
We don’t have a 270kW DC charger in India yet, but, if we did, you could charge the GT in just 23 minutes flat!
Priced at about Rs 1.7 crore, this car is certainly an indulgence because it is not high on practicality — yet. But it is a car that will make you smile every time you drive it. Especially if you are a petrolhead, which is sort of ironic because it doesn’t run on petrol.