Audi e-tron GT concept: Audi's take on the Porsche Taycan promises production excitement

“When you do a really wild show car and you follow up with a production car which is not as attractive, people aren’t happy,” observed Marc Lichte, Audi’s head of design, while sitting in the back of the e-tron GT concept. “We wanted to do it the other way around. We do a really amazing show car—and the funny thing is, the production car is as good as the show car.”

The stakes are high; the car in question will become the first—but certainly not the last—battery-electric Audi Sport model. It follows the e-tron battery-electric crossover utility that arrives next summer, and the e-tron SportBack derivative that follows shortly after.

The e-tron GT is labeled as a concept car as it basks in front of the crowd at the 2018 LA Auto Show. It’s much more realistic than some of the dauntingly experimental machines we’re used to seeing, though.

Audi e-tron GT concept

Audi e-tron GT concept

How many concepts come equipped with mounting points for a standard-issue roof rack? They’re there because Audi has already started building pre-production prototypes, and the concept’s body-in-white is identical to the production car’s. Clearly, this is far from a self-aggrandizing exercise in cutting-edge design.

The powertrain is even closer to series production than the sheet metal. The e-tron GT shares its underpinnings with the upcoming Porsche Taycan, that brand’s first-ever all-electric car. The specifications sheet lists a 96-kwh lithium-ion battery pack and an electric motor for each axle. With 590 horsepower on tap and all-wheel drive, Audi says the e-tron GT takes 3.5 seconds to reach 62 mph from a stop and 12 seconds for a zero-to-124-mph sprint.

Range checks in at about 250 miles on the European WLTP testing cycle, though it’s likely to be somewhat lower on the EPA test routines used for North America. An 800-volt charging system developed by Porsche provides a recharge up to 80 percent of full capacity in under 20 minutes.

Audi e-tron GT concept

Audi e-tron GT concept

By definition, a GT car is one that’s capable of traveling from A to B comfortably and quickly, even if 750 miles separate the two points or if the trip involves an impromptu detour to points E and F. The fast charging will make that a reality. Charging stations equipped with the liquid-cooling charging cables and hardware capable of delivering 350 kilowatts are now under construction both in Europe and North America, and dozens will be available for Taycan owners when that car arrives in 2020.

The average motorist won’t notice the similarities between the Taycan and the e-tron GT. Everything the passengers see, touch, or otherwise experience will be Audi-specific. “We are in two different corners,” Lichte said thoughtfully. “Because we are one group, during the design process we’re able to compare notes every few months to ensure that no detail is similar.” The air suspension will be tuned in-house by Audi Sport, too, to guarantee the two cars don’t deliver the same driving experience.

Andreas Mindt, Audi’s head of exterior design, pointed out it was important to make the e-tron GT as aerodynamic as possible for two main reasons. First, streamlining the sheet metal unlocks more driving range, and every mile counts. Second, going electric creates a nearly silent ride that makes the GT’s cabin more susceptible to wind noise. Carefully honing every exterior detail muffles it. The result is a clean, wind-cheating silhouette, a pugnacious stance, and a look that falls in line with recent additions to the Audi family but doesn’t ape the lines of an existing model.

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