A preview of Audi’s flagship EV

Audi is as committed as anybody to an EV future, and the unveiling of the e-Tron GT Concept at the 2018 L.A. Auto Show further illustrates the desire of the German automaker to have an EV for everyone. The e-Tron GT will be the car for those who love to go fast in a 4-door coupe body. Its stablemate, the Taycan, as well as Tesla’s Model S, are clear targets.

Recently, Federal Minister of Economic Affairs and Energy Peter Altmaier criticized German automakers for making boring-looking electric cars. "I really wonder when you, Mr. Zetsche, or you, Mr. Diess, or Mr. Krüger of BMW will be able to build an electric car that is only half as sexy as one Tesla," he said in his sharp remark. As if trying to prove the government official wrong, Audi unexpectedly showed up in L.A. with the e-Tron GT concept that’s, well, stunning from every angle. And before you start yammering about how concept cars change down the path to production, Audi says this concept shows the almost production-ready model that will hit showrooms in 2020 for the 2021 model year.

Audi wants to have a fleet of 12 electric cars by 2025, and this will be its flagship. What it is, in short, is a shorter, more aggressive, A7. It will share the platform with Porsche’s Taycan, but the two manufacturers are coy to point out the similarities between the two models. Oh, and Robert Downey Jr. wasn’t a random VIP guest at the launch of the e-Tron GT, as the car will star in the upcoming Avengers 4 movie. If the car will look this good in production guise, then all the hype Audi’s building is worth it.

Audi e-Tron GT Concept Exterior

  • While just as long as an A7, the e-Tron GT sits over 1.5 inches lower at just 54.33 inches in height
  • Audi kept the single-piece honeycomb grille as it’s part of their design identity. However, since this is an EV, they’ve allowed themselves to paint the top half in the color of the bodywork
  • The protruding wheel wells make way for extra air vents aft of the front wheels
  • LED and laser technology is used for the headlights and the elegant bar-style taillights
  • The turbine-like 22-inch wheels are one thing you’re probably not going to see on the production model
  • The design teams that worked on the Porsche Taycan and the e-Tron GT would discuss ideas with each other so as to not end up with two similar-looking 4-door coupes
  • Audi’s design chief says that the e-Tron GT is the next step in Audi’s design language, both in and out
2018 Audi e-Tron GT Concept Exterior
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The Audi e-Tron GT dropped like a bomb at the L.A. Auto Show because nobody saw it coming. When asked about it, Audi’s Design Chief, Marc Lichte, said that "there’s no predecessor so we thought: ‘Why not present the car?’". And present it they did. In a highly-guarded event where Robert Downey Jr. made an appearance to talk about the car that will star alongside him in the upcoming installment of the Avengers series. But it was the car, not the hallowed actor, that stole the show.

That's because the e-Tron GT is one of the best looking cars Audi's made in the past few years, while still looking unmistakably Audi.

We’ve talked about Audi’s desire to stick to their key design cues and what we see with the e-Tron GT is that those cues are still there, but the aesthetics are turned up to 11. The fenders are wider than ever, the inlets in the nose are more aggressive, the headlights and taillights much more dramatic, and it’s also lower than Audi’s other 4-door coupe models. All this comes as no surprise when you find out that Audi Sport, the arm that’s in charge of the motorsport side of things as well, took care of the e-Tron GT. They wouldn’t have signed off a car that looked dull, not in a million years.

2018 Audi e-Tron GT Concept Exterior
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Lichte stated that the e-Tron GT signals the next step in Audi's design language.

He went on to say that "there is no compromise here. The e-Tron GT is my biggest achievement so far." You can see why he says that because the man took many of the cues from concepts like the Prologue and made them as unapologetically bold as possible.

Up front, the full frame grille is the first thing you’ll notice. Not least because it’s not a grille since EVs don’t need air inlets the same way cars with combustion engines do. "So we said, why not invert it? It’s body color. For me, it’s still an Audi but not with a combustion engine. This is the face of all our future EVs," said Lichte talking about the e-Tron GT’s grille that’s half painted in the dark ’Kinetic Dust’ color of the exterior. However, the surface of the top part of the grille features the same honeycomb pattern as the mesh seen on typical Audi RS models. There’s only one small V-shaped opening at the very top, around the four rings of the Audi badge. Towards the bottom, the backlit e-Tron logo sits proudly.

2018 Audi e-Tron GT Concept Exterior
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Two actual air vents open on either side of the main ’grille’ and they connect below the ’grille’ itself. The two vertical openings feature three horizontal strakes each. There are two more inlets cut into the front corners of the car in a recessed position. Air is channeled through them thanks to the chiseled surfaces below the headlights.

Talking about the headlights, they combine LEDs with laser technology and feature six 'headlamps' each.

The profile of the car is muscular. The fenders stick out beyond the line of the doors while the rocker panel also protrudes forward. The charging port is positioned just aft of the front doors. The front wheel wells come with a rear-facing opening to set free air that was captured by the air inlets placed outboard on the edges of the front fascia. The Audi Sport logo is located on the side skirts and was made visible thanks to the use of red lettering. The side windows are narrow, owing to the low roofline.

2018 Audi e-Tron GT Concept Exterior
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At the back, the e-Tron GT features a bar-style taillight with recessed areas on the sides.

The top bit widens towards the extremities of the rear panel and forms a boomerang shape around the car’s rear corners. It’s a visually-appealing design although the single-piece idea makes it similar to what Porsche have used for decades. The car has a full-fledged diffuser incorporated in the rounded rear bumper. Again, there’s an e-Tron logo that lights up here as well.

Audi e-Tron GT Concept Exterior Dimensions

Wheelbase 114.2 inches
Length 195.6 inches
Height 54.3 inches
Width 76.8 inches

Audi e-Tron GT Concept Interior

  • The interior of the e-Tron GT is clearly focused on the driver with the center infotainment screen slightly angled towards the left
  • Audi says that the interior of the e-Tron GT is ’vegan’ because of the use of recycled materials such as the floor mats that are made from fishing nets
  • The cloth on the seats is equally ’vegan’ and decidedly not leather. It’s actually a synthetic-based material
  • The digital screen in the middle of the dashboard is accompanied by the one sitting behind the honeycomb-shaped steering wheel
  • The sporty bucket seats up front remind you that you’re sitting in a car developed mainly by Audi Sport
  • While there’s seating for four, the sloping roofline would make you believe that tall passengers can’t fit in the back. Audi actually made a gap in the battery pack to be able to position the rear seats lower for added headroom
2018 Audi e-Tron GT Concept Interior
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The interior is cold but luxurious, as is the case with any Audi. The German car maker claims that a "vertical architecture" was the idea behind the many surfaces and facets of the dashboard and the door panels.

The wheelbase allows for plenty of space inside and the low roofline doesn't negate the chance for taller people to travel in the back since the back seats are lower than those at the front.

These seats, as well as the door panels, are covered in a synthetic eco-friendly material. Audi says the cabin of the e-Tron GT is ’vegan’ because the headliner is made out of microfiber and the floor mats are made from recycled fishing nets. Try as you may, you’ll never find an inch of leather within this space, guaranteed.

2018 Audi e-Tron GT Concept Interior
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The digital infotainment screen is cleverly inserted within the center panel as the top bit continues onto the passenger’s side of the dash through a narrow bar that features the e-Tron logo. The screen itself is sizeable and is aided by a smaller, horizontal, screen placed below the metallic bar that runs the width of the dash. There’s also another screen behind the multi-tasking steering wheel that houses all of the dials.

Expect less from the interior of the production e-Tron GT.

You’ll most likely have to deal with some part sharing and less dramatic surfacing - no more of that up-and-down roller-coaster that goes on around the top of the dashboard. The steering wheel might also look different although we think Audi wants to put into production that eco-friendly interior that, while not as swank as a leather-wrapped one, is in tune with the car’s image.

Audi e-Tron GT Concept Drivetrain

  • The Audi e-Tron GT shares the J1 platform with the Porsche Taycan
  • The car comes with two, synchronous, electric motors, one on each axle
  • The combined power of the two motors is 434 kW or 590 horsepower
  • The output figure is twice that of the Audi e-Tron SUV
  • Torque vectoring will be applied front-to-rear and side-to-side
  • A top speed of 149 mph was announced by Audi while sprinting from 0 to 62 mph should take just 3.5 seconds
  • The car’s battery pack placed in the floor stores up to 90 kWh of energy for a range of over 248 miles as per the WLTP standard
  • The Tesla Model S has more power, anywhere between 600 and over 750 horsepower, reaches 62 mph almost a second quicker and has a bigger range of about 335 miles
2018 Audi e-Tron GT Concept Exterior
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The e-Tron GT is a vision into the "future of electric performance for the [Audi] brand.” That’s why the development process was handed over to Audi Sport who’ve worked closely with Porsche as the e-Tron GT and the Taycan share the same J1 platform. Also, the two manufacturers cooperate to develop another platform, dubbed Premium Performance Electric (PPE).

The platform, with its floor-mounted battery pack, helps weight distribution and keeps the center of gravity down. In fact, it’s been reported that the Taycan will have a lower center of gravity than the 911. We don’t know right now how far the sharing extends between the two cars.

What we do know is that each axle of the e-Tron GT receives its own electric motor, the two working at once to offer 434 kW or 590 horsepower.

Obviously, the power is sent to all four wheels and there’s vectoring front-to-rear and side-to-side going on. The car is also fitted with four-wheel steering. Performance wise, the e-Tron GT reaches 62 mph in about 3.4 seconds and 124 mph in just over 12 seconds. It bottoms out at 149 mph.

2018 Audi e-Tron GT Concept Exterior
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Audi boasts that "One feature that not all the competition can match is the option of fully utilizing the drive’s acceleration potential several times in succession. While elsewhere the drive is switched to overdrive for thermal considerations, the Audi e-tron GT concept can provide the driver with the full potential of both motors and the battery thanks to its sophisticated cooling strategy." This is why the German automaker could care less that the Model S from Tesla can reach 62 mph in a little over 2 seconds once or twice.

The battery pack holds 90 kWh (the Model S has 100 kWh) of energy that translates to a range of over 248 miles following the WLTP standards.

The Tesla’s range is slightly bigger at well over 300 miles. Audi says that the center of gravity on the e-Tron GT is almost as low as on the mid-engined R8.

Audi will offer a fast-charging option through an 800-volt charging system that will recharge the car up to 80% in just 20 minutes. The Audi Wireless Charging induction plates are, obviously, compatible with the 4-door luxury coupe. In terms of storage, the e-Tron GT has 15.9 cubic-feet cargo space in the trunk and an additional 3.5 cubic-feet of cargo space under the hood up front.

2018 Audi e-Tron GT Concept Exterior
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Top Gear reports that "up to 0.3 G you won’t be using the ceramic disc brakes at all, just reversing the polarity of the electric motors. That should take care of 90% of all your braking needs," the article says.

Now, how does all that stack up against the Porsche? Well, we know, according to Stefan Holischka, Audi Sport Chief of Product Marketing, that "The Taycan will be a different character. We’ve tried to differentiate as much as possible." Obviously, there are the natural stylistic differentiators, but there’s more going on under the skin as the Porsche should be the sportier of the two.

Porsche said that the Taycan will offer about 440 kWh or 600 horsepower and a higher top speed of 155 mph. However, the Taycan should take the same to reach 62 mph. It’s also possible that the Porsche will recharge quicker, the manufacturer claiming that 15-minute recharge time to reach 80% is targeted through 800-volt fast-charging.

Audi e-Tron GT Concept Specifications

Output: 490 horsepower sent to all four wheels through electric Quattro system
Top speed: 149 mph
0-62 mph: 3.4 seconds
0-124 mph: 12 seconds
Mileage: +248 miles
Battery pack capacity: +90 kWh

Final Thoughts

2018 Audi e-Tron GT Concept Exterior
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The Audi e-Tron GT Concept is a great looking preview of what we hope remains a great looking production car that should be here by 2020. Audi took a bolder route with the design and that’s evident from every angle. It should also pack quite a punch and handle like a sports car, which we like to hear.

The only pitfall it must avoid is targeting the same clientele as the Taycan. Audi’s trying to avoid that by making the e-Tron GT the more serene car although differences in performance figures are small. As for Tesla? The American EV still has the superiority when comes to power output and acceleration but Audi cares more about "being able to reproduce that acceleration five, six, seven times,” as Holischka put it. With a price tag of about $80,000 it could be an attractive option.

  • Leave it
    • It’s not here yet, you’ll have to wait until 2020 to order one
    • We fear Audi might tone the design down in the meantime
    • The Tesla Model S still has the upper hand performance-wise

Further Reading

2018 Audi e-Tron GT Concept Exterior
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Don’t Expect the 2020 Audi E-Tron GT, or any other Audi EV, to Ditch the Massive Grille

2018 Audi e-Tron GT Concept Exterior
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The Audi E-Tron GT Is a Firm Model S Competitor; Can Deliver Repeat Acceleration

Audi Teases an E-Tron GT That Could Battle the AMG GT 4-Door and 8-Series Gran Coupe on Electricity Alone Exterior Spyshots
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Read our full speculative review on the 2020 Audi E-Tron GT.

2017 Tesla Model S Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2018 Tesla Model S.

2020 Porsche Taycan Exterior Spyshots
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Read our full review on the 2020 Porsche Taycan.

2019 Audi E-tron Quattro Interior Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2020 Audi E-tron Quattro.

Michael Fira
Michael Fira
Associate Editor and Motorsport Expert - fira@topspeed.com
Mihai Fira started out writing about long-distance racing like the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans. As the years went by, his area of interest grew wider and wider and he ever branched beyond the usual confines of an automotive writer. However, his heart is still close to anything car-related and he's most at home retelling the story of some long-since-forgotten moment from the history of auto racing. He'll also take time to explain why the cars of the '60s and '70s are more fascinating than anything on the road today.  Read full bio
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