We got a hint of what Audi has in mind as it launches its first performance electric car earlier this week with some intentionally blurry images of the upcoming e-tron GT. Now, the automaker has put the battery-electric sports car into sharp focus with the help of the “Iron Man,” actor Robert Downey Jr.
A serious Audi fan himself, Downey paired up with designer Marc Lichte to lift the covers off the e-tron GT during a media sneak peek in downtown Los Angeles ahead of the car’s formal debut at the L.A. Auto Show.
“I’ve been having an extramarital affair for a decade – with a brand,” the actor joked, as he and the designer smiled for photographers gathered at the invitation-only event.
As we noted earlier this week, the GT is likely to trigger something of a sense of déjà vu. It shares the same, new skateboard-like platform that underpins the recently introduced Porsche Taycan. And that means the two cars share key physical dimensions. But that doesn’t translate into a badge-engineered, four-door sports car.
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The Audi e-tron GT picks up classic brand cues, including a smaller version of the signature Singleframe grille. It can be downsized – improving aerodynamics – because there’s no need to feed air into an internal combustion engine. That said, Lichte and his team had to balance the requirements of aerodynamics, maximizing range, with the need to cool the car’s brakes, motors and batteries.
Another distinctive design element is the use of sculpted “blisters” over the front and rear wheel wells, giving the e-tron a more muscular appearance.
Inside, Audi has adopted a distinctly high-tech look and feel, with the latest version of its virtual cockpit. The instrument panel flows into both doors, with an extended infotainment screen complementing the reconfigurable gauge cluster.
While traditionalists will be able to get their leather and wood accents, Audi will also offer an interior package that relies on sustainable materials, including some elements created from recycled fishing nets.
“We think it fits an electric vehicle,” Lichte said.
Under the skin, Audi engineers have packaged the car’s batteries below the load floor. That was no easy feat considering the modest-sized GT squeezes in a full 95 kilowatt-hours of lithium-ion cells, nearly as much as the biggest Tesla. Yet, the Audi sports car sits two inches lower than the brand’s coupe-like sedan, the A7. Part of the trick, Lichte explained, was to vary the height of the battery packs at different points. They lie lower beneath the driver’s feet than under the car’s seats.
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Exact range has yet to be announced but, considering what Porsche has already revealed about the Taycan, one can expect to see the Audi e-tron GT muster up 250 miles or more between charges. And, using the latest version of Level 3 chargers, motorists will be able to get an 80% top-off within around 20 minutes, an Audi source told TheDetroitBureau.com.
Audi is expected to offer multiple versions of the battery drivetrain, the source added, with the top-level model nearing or matching the performance of the Porsche battery-electric vehicle. The Taycan relies on two electric motors, one on each axle, generating a combined 600 horsepower. That will help it launch from 0 to 60 in an estimated 3.5 seconds. Top speed is rated at 155 mph.
Officially, the version of the Audi e-tron GT debuting in Los Angeles is being described as a concept vehicle, but Lichte told us that it is all but identical to the production version coming in 2020. Expect to see just subtle differences, primarily in the form of slightly larger sideview mirrors. Even the large and distinctive wheels and tires will largely go unchanged.
While Audi isn’t ready to discuss pricing, a company source told TheDetroitBureau.com the target is to offer a base version of the e-tron GT for under $100,000, with the top-range, and fastest, version likely running around $120,000 to $130,000.
The e-tron GT will become the third Audi all-electric model, following the e-tron SUV recently launched and the upcoming e-tron Sportback. But the automaker has big ambitions and will ultimately have four separate electrified vehicle platforms and quite a few more models.
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“By 2025, our commitment is that 30% of our volume will be all-electric,” said Mark Del Rosso, who recently became the brand’s U.S. CEO.