2021 Audi e-tron GT previewed ahead of launch

The LA show star of 2018 starts production imminently – with an RS variant waiting in the wings

By Matt Bird / Thursday, October 8, 2020

Time moves fast in the electrified, digital, connected car world. Audi's e-tron GT concept was seen less than two years ago at the LA motor show, with production slated for late 2020; and here we are, late in 2020, with the car almost ready to go. Yet in that time the Porsche Taycan has swept all before it, BMW has revealed an i4 Concept and Tesla – who else? – has made the Model S faster and rangier than ever. That's all just in the four-seat, four-door, very expensive EV saloon sector. There's a danger, perhaps, of the e-tron GT being some way from the centre of attention when it arrives.

Hence the 'Craftsmanship' workshop held at Munich airport last week for the Audi flagship; this is set to be its most important new vehicle, "the beginning of a new era" no less, and so Audi is keen to stress how much effort has gone in. There's the whole new section of the Bollinger Hofe facility (where the R8 is currently made) that's been built to accommodate e-tron production, the first instance in the group where an ICE model and a BEV role down the same line, just for starters. Then there's the effort that's gone into the noise, one described as a "synthetic sound that authentically conveys the work of the drive system" and development of which included the creation of proprietary software. Plus a commitment to virtual development in manufacturing that has meant the assembly tests were completed without a physical prototype.

All of which is jolly impressive, but doesn't distract from the fact there isn't a great deal more to learn about the e-tron GT just yet – even if Audi promises this is going to be "an icon like the R8". It has a new disguise design ahead of the full reveal, fetching and appropriate in its own way (note how it draws attention to the middle of the car, as that's where the power source now is) but clearly cloaking a car similar in look to the handsome 2018 concept. In fact, there was less to look at in 2020 than back then, with the interior still in disguise.

What was on offer that wasn't in 2018 was some time in the car, albeit from the passenger seat. Ostensibly this was to experience the effort put into Audi's sound tuning; much effort has gone into it – "musical flair and technical competence" for a "powerful and progressive soundtrack" – and therefore it would be unprofessional to be dismissive. However, on this experience and in isolation, the e-tron GT whirrs and whines in a fashion familiar to a lot of electric vehicles. Volume is intensified through the familiar Audi drive select modes (Comfort, Auto, Dynamic), gradually surrounding the driver with rear speakers brought into play, though it doesn't feel like a revolution for EV noise. Perhaps it will sound more impressive with a comparison. And, to be honest, it's fairly hard to concentrate on the noise when being hurled from cone to cone by the ferocity of acceleration that anything derived from a Porsche Taycan would likely deliver. No specs were confirmed at the event, though this e-tron felt good for at least 600hp. And pretty good at mostly disguising what must be a hefty kerbweight.

Audi is understandably proud of the production process and the methods being employed to make this EV, although news that the "future of luxury mobility" will spawn an RS variant immediately from launch is possibly more interesting; quite how nauseatingly fast that will feel remains to be seen. All that's known for the moment is that it will exist above the standard e-Tron GT and isn't a long way away. Expect to hear plenty more soon enough, too, as production reality for the pinnacle of progressive, premium Audi – their words, not ours – beckons. Given the proficiency already shown by cars like the e-tron SUV, and the stellar quality of the Taycan, it would be a brave person to bet against the new model's competitiveness. Finding out just how good the Audi might be isn't far off.

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