If you want an EV but you’re also a keen driver, the Audi e-tron GT and Porsche Taycan 4S are tempting propositions – but which is best?
Ask the average petrolhead their thoughts of an electric car, and you’ll probably get some response about how battery power will never match the drama, excitement or thrill of a big, burly petrol engine.
Whether you see EVs as a vital part of the steps needed to strive for cleaner air and reduced emissions, or as a means to spoil your fun, the sooner we can all find EVs which turn those grumbles into grins, the better. Until recently, the complaints were often justified. There were plenty of EVs around that do the everyday stuff well, but were never designed to appeal to a driving enthusiast.
On the other hand, there were a couple of high-end EVs that, once you’re over the novelty of neck-snapping acceleration, felt numb and uninvolving to drive.
Then along came Porsche. The Taycan is its first electric effort, and our several encounters have proven that, while it lacks a flat-six engine screaming to 9000rpm, there’s still plenty for the keen driver to admire.
All of that knowledge and incredible development was carried out together with Audi, and the fruits of its labour, the e-tron GT, is what the Taycan lines up against here. These are truly two of the most dramatic-looking EVs and also two of the best to drive, but which manufacturer has sprinkled the most magic onto the formula?
Audi e-tron GT
|Model:||Audi e-tron GT quattro|
|Powertrain:||93.4kWh battery/twin motor, 390kW|
Audi’s rapidly growing EV range has the e-tron GT as its flagship. Our quattro model had some extras including 21-inch alloys. It doesn’t arrive in Australia until 2022 and pricing and exact specification is yet to be confirmed.
Design & engineering
The second Audi EV to be launched couldn’t be more different from the first. The big, bulky e-tron SUV places comfort and practicality above all else, and to many people won’t look any different to a combustion-powered Audi, from which its adapted platform is borrowed.
While the e-tron GT has almost the same name, those extra two letters brings a world of difference. For a start, the car’s J1 platform has been developed for pure-electric powertrains from the outset, and as a result, Audi was able to package the motors and battery as efficiently as possible and into a much more dramatically styled package.
The position of the power pack in particular has contributed to the rakish sub-1.4 metre height; the space beneath the rear passenger footwell is free from cells in order to give just a little more room to those in the back. Both the front and rear motors (the e-tron GT is currently four-wheel drive only) are positioned directly between each axle, but the layout is a little unconventional compared with many EVs.
While one motor drives the front wheels as usual, the larger rear motor sends its drive through a two-speed transmission, with a lower gear to help boost acceleration off the line. There’s a combined output of 390kW and 650Nm, which is enough for a 0-100km/h time of 4.1 seconds. Around 80 per cent of buyers are expected to go for this model, but there’s also a performance-focused RS e-tron GT with 475kW and the 0-100km/h time drops to 3.3 seconds.
As standard, the e-tron GT’s suspension set-up features passive springs with adaptive dampers. The model we tested had air suspension.
While these are performance cars, first and foremost they need to be easy to use every day. To that end, the ride quality of both of these models is really worth highlighting; both are far more comfortable than their dramatic, low-slung bodies might suggest.
The Audi is the smoother of the two, especially when you consider that our test car rides on larger 21-inch wheels compared with our Porsche’s 20-inch items. But the quality of the damping in both, plus their ability to insulate the noise, vibration and harshness, despite the significant weight they both have to deal with over bumps and potholes, is very impressive.
Of all the minute differences between the two cars, it’s the steering that provides the most obvious point of distinction, because the e-tron GT has four-wheel steering and the Taycan doesn’t. It’s a double-edged sword, though, because while the Audi has a tighter turning circle, at speed the response of the Porsche’s rack is more linear, and the weighing feels ever so slightly more confidence-inspiring. We’re nit-picking, though, because the e-tron GT’s rack is right up there with the R8 as the most precise and responsive of any Audi – perhaps ever. It’s well suited to an excellent chassis balance. Grip is phenomenal, which, on a public road at least, means that the e-tron GT rarely feels as hefty as its 2.3-tonne kerbweight suggests. The exception is when braking hard; although the bite is strong and the deceleration reassuring, you can feel the discs and tyres fighting to trim off some significant momentum.
One of the benefits of the motors’ compact packaging is that there’s a boot at both ends. Both cars boast an extra 84 litres under the nose, which is perfect for storing charging cables. That’s useful, given that the fairly compact 405-litre load bay at the back has minimal underfloor storage. The rear seats fold down in a 40:20:40 split, giving the opportunity to load longer items through the narrow central opening.
The back seats are very comfortable and supportive, and leg and headroom are okay for adults. Yet those over six feet tall might feel a little cramped – the price you pay for such a low roofline. Foot room under the front seats is very limited. On the plus side, the vertical wireless charging slot in the centre console is very neat, and other storage for smaller items is more generous than in the Taycan.
EURO NCAP has yet to assess the e-tron GT yet, but it’s entirely reasonable to assume that it’ll score very similarly to the Taycan. When the Porsche was launched in 2019, it scored a maximum five-star rating for safety.
“Find the Audi’s black interior a little too moody? Models are also available with a choice of red, blueish-grey or brown leather upholstery.”
|Model:||Porsche Taycan 4S|
|Powertrain:||93.4kWh battery/twin motor, 360kW|
The Taycan 4S is priced from $191,000 before on-road costs. Throw in a lengthy list of optional extras and cosmetic upgrades fitted to this test car, which includes 20-inch wheels, a Bose sound system and the Performance Battery Plus (this upgrades the battery capacity from 79.2kWh to 93.4kWh), and that raises the price to over $200k.
Design & engineering
While these two cars use the same platform, the Taycan is available with a much wider range of motor and battery options than the e-tron GT. The Australian line-up kicks off the 4S model tested here, although there is a RWD model available overseas. Next up is a hotter Turbo model and finally, the Turbo S. The latter version has a combined output of 560kW from its two motors, enough for a launch control-assisted 0-100km/h time of 2.8 seconds.
While the Audi’s interior feels very concept car-like, the Taycan’s cabin is more traditionally like a Porsche’s – albeit one equipped with the very latest technology. Both cars are stunningly finished and beautifully built, and which one you prefer will come down to personal preference.
Almost everything in the Taycan is controlled via touchscreens. Indeed, the dashboard has just four physical controls: the ignition switch, the gear selector, park button and the hazard-lights switch. The steering wheel has a few more controls, though, including an intuitive rotary switch that cycles through the model’s driving modes.
Those drive settings have a profound effect on the way that the Taycan behaves. In Normal mode the ride remains very relaxing – almost as comfortable as the Audi’s. Click into Sport and Sport Plus modes, however, and the car hunkers down to the road, the adaptive dampers tense up and suddenly it becomes much sharper – more like you’d expect a Porsche to feel. While it never seems harsh on the road, it feels at least as focused as the most extreme crop of four-door performance cars.
It feels just as fast as them, too. Even though this isn’t the most powerful model in the Taycan range, it feels spectacularly rapid in Sport mode; with the full 420kW on tap in overboost setting, it’ll cover 0-100km/h in just 3.8 seconds – 0.3 seconds faster than the Audi e-tron GT. The instant throttle response and surge at any speed mean that it’s a hugely effective tool, whether accelerating out of corners or when executing an overtake.
Unsurprisingly, the differences in the way the Audi and Porsche drive are very subtle. It’s all in the finer details; for example, the Taycan’s brakes feel easier to modulate, especially at slow speeds. Yet neither car is able to come to the seamlessly smooth stop possible in a Tesla Model S. From higher speeds, there is a noticeable transition at the point in the pedal where the brake regeneration reaches its limit and the brake pads begin to grab the discs. Here again, the Porsche seems to be more finely tuned.
Both the Taycan and the e-tron GT are best considered as four-seaters. Life in the two outer seats is roomy though, and accommodation in the Porsche is nearly identical to the Audi. Rear-seat passengers in both cars can also make use of two USB-C ports to charge their devices.
One disadvantage of this pair is their width. Even with the side mirrors folded, both of these cars are nearly two metres wide. It means that on certain B-roads and tight city streets, there’s always a level of caution required. It’s a shame because by all other measures, both the Audi and the Porsche do very well in both of those environments.
“For those who hanker after a little more space in the Porsche, the Taycan Cross Turismo packs all the same electric technology into a stunning shooting brake bodystyle.”
Porsche Taycan vs Audi e-tron GT verdict
With the Taycan 4S, Porsche has without doubt produced one of the most convincing EVs to date. Yes, the Turbo and Turbo S models are even quicker, but this model is more than fast enough. Throw in a brilliant chassis, excellent refinement and a slick infotainment system and it’s a top all-rounder. It proves that electric can most certainly be fun.
But the Audi is better at some things and will likely be an attractive package for buyers. Without a confirmed price and specifications for Australia, it is hard to pinpoint the value on offer, though we would expect that the e-tron GT will be cheaper, potentially by a good margin, and well equipped. It’s more comfortable than the Porsche, the in-car tech is even better, and it’s similarly rapid and efficient in the real world.