We took the Audi e-tron GT quattro on a cross-UK ‘Grand Tour’ to see if it lives up to its gran turismo DNA
We took Audi’s all-electric four-door coupé on a long-distance cross-UK journey to see if it can live up to the heritage of its GT badge
GT. Two letters that evoke a special feeling and hold a sacred spot in the heart of passionate driving enthusiasts. Because they signify a unique breed of saloons and coupes that – for decades – have been the defining choice of discerning drivers looking to cross continents in comfort and style. The ‘gran turismo’.
The origins of that Italian epithet date back to the 17th Century, when young British aristocrats did a ‘Grand Tour’ of Europe’s art and architecture as a cultural rite of passage. In the 1950s, GTs became synonymous with a new breed of automotive trendsetter, recapturing this spirit of trans-continental adventure as they looked to drive ever-more effortlessly and in even-greater style to the French Riviera or the Italian Lakes.
Today, the Audi e-tron GT is the ultimate forward-thinking all-electric evocation of that ‘gran turismo’ ideal. So that’s why we decided to take it on our own ‘Grand Tour’ – exploring the idea of what a modern GT really means in an all-electric age.
Giving the spirit of the ‘Grand Tour’ of old a modern twist, we decided to start our journey in the backdrop of Liverpool’s stylish urban architecture, before heading across the Pennines to the scenic Kielder Forest, and the inspiring experience of Dark Sky stargazing. This is escaping in style.
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All charged up and ready to go
So, what are the core strands of ‘gran turismo’ DNA that the Audi e-tron GT has to live up to in order to determine if it’s worthy of the badge? Well. put simply, a GT is a car in which you should arrive at your destination feeling better than when you left.
It should offer plenty of space for you, a friend (or two) and all your luggage. It should be refined, comfortable and potent enough to effortlessly devour miles of autoroute or motorway with ease, but it should also be invigorating to drive on epic flowing Alpine roads. Last, but definitely not least, it should turn heads every step of the way.
Our quest to see if the Audi e-tron GT lives up to this standard starts before we’ve even left our Liverpool hotel room. Thanks to our Audi e-tron GT quattro’s always-online connectivity, we can interact with it remotely via the myAudi smartphone app.
Using the on-site EV chargers in our hotel’s car park, we’ve left our car on an overnight charge. Checking its status remotely, we can instantly see we’ve got a healthy dose of its anticipated 303 miles (WLTP) of all-electric range available*.
It’s easily enough to take us across England to Kielder Forest. But, by using the intelligent e-tron route planner, we can also pre-plan a top-up charge en route that fits our timetable. Unlike our ‘Grand Tour’ predecessors from the 17th Century and 1950s, there’s no need for us to be scouring maps and travel guides weeks in in advance. The Audi e-tron GT’s modern tech makes planning our trip a breeze.
A spacious sumptuously cosseting interior
Heading down to our Audi e-tron GT quattro, it’s time to see if passes the next test of the ‘gran turismo’ ideal: space.
Well, the 350 litres of rear luggage volume and 81 litres of front trunk storage easily swallow our bags with room to spare, while the 40:20:40 rear seat configuration lets us slide longer camera equipment through the ‘ski’ hatch without significantly compromising the space for any rear passengers.
Inside, the cabin of our Audi e-tron GT quattro feels cossetting and cocoon-like. While some electric SUVs use the opportunity offered by low-mounted battery packs to create a feeling of expansive space, Audi’s designers opted for a more traditional ‘monoposto’ concept for the Audi e-tron GT.
Evoking Audi’s most inspiring performance models, its sturdy central column extends through the cabin like a traditional transmission tunnel. Combined with the low-mounted sports seats, you feel hunkered down and at one with the car:
Two large crisp high-definition screens – the 10.1-inch central MMI touch display and the 12.-3-inch all-digital Audi virtual cockpit – are angled towards you, the driver, and work together with the optional head-up display to let you balance the right mix of driving information, navigation and infotainment.
Using the simple menu system, the solid-feeling buttons on the flat-bottomed multi-function steering wheel and Audi’s intuitive voice control, setting up the displays for our trip is a breeze.
Our Audi e-tron GT quattro’s interior is also filled with a wealth of luxuriously plush premium-feeling fabrics – many crafted from recycled materials, including the warm tactile wool-like Cascade upholstery of our leather-free seat trim. Then, as we emerge from the gloom of our car park, the large panoramic glass sunroof bathes the interior with a healthy dose of natural sunlight. This is a special place in which to enjoy any drive.
Style that turns heads in every backdrop
Like the great Italian cities, Liverpool’s architecture blends centuries of heritage with a healthy dash of modernity and fresh new thinking, perfectly befitting our Audi e-tron GT quattro’s progressive all-electric take on classic Audi four-door coupé style.
We drive past the Georgian facade of the iconic Royal Liver building, towering over the Mersey, and the Tate Liverpool, located in the city’s rejuvenated red-brick Albert Dock, before arriving at the modern stark concrete slopes of the Liverpool Museum and the monolithic steel and black glass of RIBA North. It’s the perfect backdrop to pause, step out and consider our Audi e-tron GT quattro’s sleek taut proportions.
Blending a powerfully sporty low-slung silhouette with a long wheelbase and a wide track, the Audi e-tron GT feels visually hunkered to the ground. It’s a perfect balance of architectural form and dynamic function: with its ultra-low aerodynamic drag coefficient of 0.24 reducing energy consumption and enhancing range on the long-distance country-crossing runs that are the staple of any good ‘gran turismo’.
The devil is in the details. The wide all-electric interpretation of Audi’s iconic large single-frame grille, framed by the slim wedge-shaped matrix LED headlights, accentuates the car’s width. The large front bumper vents that carefully guide air over the wheels and along the length of the car hint at the Audi e-tron GT’s sporty nature, while the muscular shoulders that frame large ‘quattro blister’ arches nod to the car’s all-electric interpretation of Audi’s all-wheel-drive heritage.
Finally, there’s the bold rear LED light strip with its arrow motif. In this metallic Kemora grey, it looks simply stunning. The Audi e-tron GT is a car that undoubtedly makes an impression as it arrives, begs to be admired as it passes by, and definitely leaves you longing.
A refined long-distance cruiser
Heading out of Liverpool onto the M62, we switch our Audi e-tron GT quattro into ‘efficiency’ mode. It now lives up to the ‘refined’ strand of its gran turismo DNA.
With up to 476PS and 640Nm of instantly accessible all-electric torque, we’re never left wanting for effortless motorway-friendly performance, although the smart electric all-wheel drive quattro system intelligently prioritises front-wheel drive for enhanced efficiency. As we hit 56mph, the three-chamber adaptive air suspension lowers our car by up to 10mm, creating an even sleeker form to cut even more gracefully and efficiently through the air.
Using the steering-wheel paddles, we can tweak the regenerative coasting and braking effect of the electric motors to suit the conditions: with a mild regen effect when traffic flow is good, and heavier regen braking when things get snarled up Smoother, less intrusive and more intuitive than the one-pedal mode in many conventional EVs, it also has the benefit of recapturing up to 265kW of power when both electric motors are used to brake together.
Finally, there’s the sound; or to be more precise, the lack of it. Targeted insulation throughout the body of our Audi e-tron GT quattro reduces the transfer of wind and road noise, while the windshield is made of noise-insulating glass as standard – with the side windows and rear window available with noise-insulating glass as an option.
We could opt to play the characterful ‘Dynamic’ engine tone that Audi has developed for all-electric driving or shuffle our way to a symphony on the optional 710-watt Bang & Olufsen Premium Sound System – which boasts 16 loudspeakers, including two 3D loudspeakers in the A-pillars. But, on a long ‘gran turismo’ journey like this, it’s nice to just appreciate the relaxing ride and some relaxed quiet conversation.
Time for a quick recharge
After a brief detour through the Pennines to test our Audi e-tron GT quattro’s driving character (box definitely ticked, by the way), we’ve still got more than enough range to get us to our destination. But, as we head back to major roads, and can audibly hear the rumble in our stomachs, it’s time to plot a lunch halt with a top-up charge.
This is where the Audi’s intelligent always-online e-tron route planner does the hard work, so we don’t have to. Using real-time charging data, it helps us pick the right blend of short stops at ultra-rapid chargers or longer stops at fast chargers.
The ultra-smart navigation can even recognise our plan and can either pre-cool or pre-heat the Audi e-tron GT’s battery and electrics in advance, so that we’re always charging at the optimum rate.
If we were only planning to stop for a quick coffee, we’d naturally hone our choice to the fastest ultra-rapid chargers available to make full use of the Audi e-tron GT’s 800V electric technology and up to 270kW charging capability – adding more miles in fewer minutes. However, as we’re planning an hour-long lunch break, we can widen our top-up choice to include the broader choice of fast chargers nearby.
As we arrive at our chosen charging point, we’d usually default to using the Audi e-tron GT’s amazing surround-view cameras to guide our way in. Instead, we hop out and use the myAudi smartphone app to remotely control the remote park-assist plus, which (as if by magic) does all the manoeuvring for us. Now that’s arriving in style.
Enjoying Audi’s quattro in Kielder Forest
In the 1980s, Kielder Forest played host to a crucial chapter in Audi’s quattro story.
The fast gravel roads that pepper this dense woodland on the Scottish border were home to some of the most iconic stages of the old RAC Rally. Here, Scandinavian legends Hannu Mikkola and Stig Blomqvist sealed the legend of the original iconic Audi Quattro – and pioneered Audi’s pioneering all-wheel drive technology – on their way to two World Rally Championship drivers’ titles and two manufacturers’ titles.
In the 40 years since then, Audi’s quattro tech has been honed to work on any road. And now, on the Audi e-tron GT, it gets an all-electric twist. On the smooth asphalt that arcs through the Kielder Forest today, the all-electric quattro drive on our car shifts the power and torque to the rear axle for a more engaging feel or blends the best of both axles to deliver confidence-inspiring grip. Crucially, it all happens five times faster than a conventional mechanical quattro.
But there’s another reason we’re in Kielder Forest. The Audi e-tron GT uses a wealth of smart on-car sensors to power its extensive range of driving aids and safety tech – intelligently packaged into ‘City’ and ‘Tour’ packs to help you pick the right mix for you. But it’s also incredibly connected, using live navigation, traffic and charging data to chart a smoother, more efficient path across the world from Alps to Riviera.
Powered by GPS satellites, it’s the ultimate form of the celestial navigation that has guided journeys since the pioneering Italian sailors first crossed the Mediterranean. So, suitably inspired, we’ve decided to end our journey with a night under the stars.
The ultimate after-dark light show
It’s estimated that, due to light pollution, 85% of the UK has never seen a truly dark sky. But, thanks to its sparsely populated nature, Kielder Forest has been named one of the UK’s Dark Sky Parks and is now home to Kielder Observatory.
Designed by the firm of celebrated architect Charles Barclay to evoke the deck and superstructure of a ship, Kielder Observatory’s land-pier design – clad in a spruce and larch skin over Douglas Fir columns and cross beams – juts out over the edge of Black Fell, offering an uninterrupted view of the southern sky.
As we head up the narrow gravel road towards it, we tackle the slippery loose surface at a much more sedate pace than the likes of Blomqvist and co did on the World Rally stage. But even GTs have to head off the beaten track once in a while. So, having that extra all-electric quattro confidence is another boon to the Audi e-tron GT’s go-anywhere no-compromise ‘gran turismo’ credentials.
Equally, our Audi e-tron GT quattro’s adaptive air suspension smooths out the bumps, while the lift mode lets us raise the body by 20mm. This proved perfect while driving over speed bumps in the heart of Liverpool. Here it helps us navigate the many loose rocks and potholes with ease.
After a highly inspiring night of stargazing, powered by Kielder Observatory’s expert astronomers, it’s time to head home. As we make our way back down the trail, the optional ambient lighting package with 30 adjustable colours lends our car’s interior a warming glow, while our Matrix LED headlights carve a path through the night.
So, did our Audi e-tron GT quattro ultimately pass the ‘gran turismo’ test? Let’s check the list one final time: four seats, lots of space, great range, impressive performance, engaging driving character, and bags of style. Box ticked; on all counts.
Learn more about the Audi e-tron GT
* Range dependent on trim and optional equipment. All vehicles are tested according to WLTP technical procedures. Figures shown are official test values for comparability purposes; only compare fuel consumption, CO2 and electric range figures with other vehicles tested to the same technical procedures. These figures may not reflect real life driving results, which will depend upon a number of factors including but not limited to factory fitted options, accessories fitted (post-registration), variations in weather, road and traffic conditions, individual driving styles, vehicle load, vehicle condition, use of systems like climate control (and, for battery electric vehicles, the starting charge, age and conditions of the battery). Figures for battery electric vehicles were obtained after the battery had been fully charged. Battery electric vehicles require mains electricity for charging. Zero emissions while driving. Figures quoted are subject to change due to ongoing approvals/changes and figures may include options not available in the UK. Please consult your local Audi Centre for further information. Data correct in April 2023. Lithium-ion batteries, of the type used in most electric vehicles (including Audi electric vehicles) have a restricted lifespan. Battery capacity will reduce over time, with use and charging. Reduction in battery capacity will affect the performance of the vehicle, including the range achievable, and may impact resale value. New car performance figures (including battery capacity and range) may be provided for the purposes of comparison between vehicles. You should not rely on new car performance figures (including battery capacity and range), in relation to used vehicles with older batteries, as they will not reflect used vehicle performance in the real world. For further information on batteries and the Audi 8 year/100,000 mile battery warranty, please visit https://www.audi.co.uk/uk/web/en/electric/faqs/battery.html