A few blocks away from the frenzy of the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show, at a private event held in a walled-off and canopied corner of downtown, Audi took direct aim at Tesla’s Model S. While it certainly isn’t the first time a luxury automaker has put the pioneering automotive startup in its crosshairs, the e-tron GT concept is one of the most earnest and direct challenges we’ve seen leveled at Tesla’s flagship to date.
And, more importantly, this one is destined for a driveway near you sooner than you might think: Audi plans to have this four-door, all-electric performance sedan on the streets in production form in less than two years.
Concepts have traditionally been an exercise in “what if,” serving as a means of stoking the public’s imagination with engineering fantasies that are unburdened by the realities of volume production. But with the e-tron GT concept, Audi assures us that “this will be.” So while the final version of this car might lose a few design flourishes on its journey from concept to showroom, it’s safe to assume that what we have here tells most of the story.
Major automakers have been teasing the motoring public with potential responses to the Model S for years, and yet the segment still remains ostensibly uncontested today. But with the e-tron GT concept, Audi may have something that could finally test the loyalty of the Tesla faithful. Let’s take a closer look at what makes this thing tick.
“I became the head of Audi Design in 2014, and since then, we’ve designed more than 20 cars,” explained Marc Lichte while introducing the e-tron GT concept. Previous to his work at Audi, Lichte spent 17 years in Volkwagen’s design studios, working on three generations of Golfs, along with the Passat, Touareg, and Arteon. Suffice to say he knows a few things about creating automotive designs that stand the test of time. “For me, this car is definitely the highlight of my career.”
While the e-tron GT concept’s A7-like fastback layout is a nod to pragmatism, it’s clear this machine was created with driving enthusiasts in mind. Developed in close collaboration with Porsche, the e-tron GT concept’s wide stance and long wheelbase give the car classic grand touring proportions, while the hunkered down ride height and massive 22-inch wheels provide the GT with a distinctly performance-focused vibe.
But the sporting design intentions run deeper than just the aesthetics, as aluminum-intensive construction and a carbon fiber roof section help keep the body light weight and the center of gravity low.
The face of the e-tron GT concept is highlighted by what Lichte described as the next generation of Audi’s LED illumination, an angular, wedge-shaped theme which continues at the light band on the rear of the car. “With this next evolution, it is becoming more of a three-dimensional, vertical sculpture,” he noted.
The performance theme continues inside with an alcantara-wrapped, flat-bottomed steering wheel. Audi points out that no animal-based products were used to create the e-tron GT concept’s interior synthetic leather is utilized on the seats, trim, and other surfaces, while fabrics made from recycled fibers adorn the center console, armrests, and floors. A large Virtual Cockpit display is situated where you’d normally find the instrument cluster, and a second screen dedicated to infotainment and navigation is outfitted above the center stack as well.
Situated at both the front and rear axles are electric motors that send a combined output of 590 horsepower to all four corners, which is enough to get the e-tron GT concept to 62 mph (100 km/h) from rest in 3.5 seconds and to 124.3 mph (200 km/h) in just over 12 seconds on the way to an electronically-limited top speed of 149 mph.
Audi says that unlike some competitors, the full potential of the drive system can be utilized repeatedly in quick succession due to a sophisticated cooling strategy. They also note that not only can the power be distributed between the front and rear as needed, but to the left and right sides of the axles as well, potentially providing enhanced handling capability through torque vectoring.
Outfitted with a lithium-ion battery pack that’s distributed across the entire floor area between the front and rear axles and boasts an energy potential of more than 90 kWh, Audi says that the e-tron GT concept offers 248.5 miles of range as determined by the Worldwide Harmonized Light-Duty Vehicles Test Procedure, a global standard established in 2015.
Regenerative systems at the front and rear of the vehicle help to recoup lost energy and extend range by up to 30 percent. The electric motors will handle the braking duties more than 90 percent of the time, with the conventional carbon ceramic stoppers only getting involved when the driver asks for more than 0.3 g of deceleration.
Charging the vehicle can be handled in two different means: either via charging port on the front left fender, or through Audi Wireless Charging. In the case of the latter, a charging pad with an integral coil delivering a charging output of 11 kW is permanently installed in the floor of the area where the car is normally parked. A second coil installed on the bottom of the car pulls in the juice through an alternating magnetic field when the vehicle gets within range. Audi says its wireless charging technology is fast enough to fully recharge the GT concept overnight.
For those in need of fast charging, Audi notes that the e-tron GT concept is also outfitted with an 800-volt system that can recharge the batteries to 80 percent of their capacity (or about 200 miles of range) through wired means in roughly 20 minutes, provided the charging station can deliver the power at those speeds. And if they can’t, the e-tron GT concept is compatible with low-voltage charging stations as well.
Audi says it will have a dozen all-electric vehicles in its portfolio by 2025. By then, the company also expects that roughly one-third of its sales will feature electrification on some level, and as such, it’s vital that the company expands its electrified offers to touch every corner of the market.
When the e-tron GT debuts in latter half of 2020, it will be the third all-electric debut from Audi, following in the footsteps of the e-tron and e-tron Sportback, both of which are scheduled to make their debuts in 2019. With consumer trends quickly gravitating toward crossovers, those high-riding models seem like a forgone conclusion for any company that’s brave enough to test the waters in an uncharted market.
But the GT is something different. Today, high performance sports sedans represent more of a brand’s statement of purpose rather than a sure-fire cash cow. With the e-tron GT concept, Audi is making it clear that when it comes to all-electric motoring, it’s in it for the long haul.