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[Behind the Wheel] Audi’s most powerful vehicles whizz on Inje Speedium

Audi Korea to strengthen EV product lineup with high performing variants such as RS e-tron GT this year

Audi vehicles (Audi Korea)
Audi vehicles (Audi Korea)

INJE, Gangwon Province -- A line of high-performance vehicles could be seen whizzing around the racing circuit of Inje Speedium in Gangwon Province on Wednesday, the growls from their engines echoing throughout the venue.

It was part of the Audi Driving Experience, an annual event Audi Korea organizes to offer car enthusiasts an opportunity to try out its highest-end vehicles and its latest automotive technologies.

This year, Audi Korea presented 10 vehicles, including the electric vehicle e-tron 50 quattro, that was released last month, and the e-tron GT and RS e-tron GT set for launch later this year.

The large sports utility vehicle RS Q8 was also presented, as an example of how Audi cares about details in its high-performance cars.

Taking the Audi’s first purely electric SUV e-tron 50 quattro on the public road, the car was as quiet as expected of an EV, and stealthy, so it created an enjoyable mood on the village roads. 

The E-tron 50 quattro has two electric motors, one each in the front and rear axle, and it can put out 313 horsepower and a maximum torque of 55.1 kilogram-meters. The car comes with a 71 kilowatt-hour battery pack and the driving range is 210 kilometers for a single charge.

As a family vehicle, the driving range is a bit lacking, but the interior is roomy, and it is equipped with some of the latest technologies the automaker offers, such as the adaptive cruise assist, and the virtual side mirrors.

The virtual side mirrors were convenient: Once set in place, they did not need to be readjusted for a change of drivers.

Still, it took some getting used to. I kept looking out the window for a side mirror that was not there. The screen for the virtual side mirror is placed below the window line. 

Audi vehicles (Audi Korea)
Audi vehicles (Audi Korea)
Audi RS e-tron GT (Audi Korea)
Audi RS e-tron GT (Audi Korea)

The adaptive air suspension automatically adjusted the car’s height, up to 76 millimeters, to effectively absorb the shock from the ground.

On the 2.577-kilometer circuit, e-tron GT and RS e-tron GT were put to the test. The two vehicles, unveiled here last month, are the high-performance EVs to be launched in the country within this year.

Instead of driving the sporty model, a professional racer drove the RS e-tron GT for the participants to show off its capabilities fully on the speed circuit.

Getting inside the RS e-tron GT with a helmet and a smart watch, which Audi supplied all participants with to measure their heart rates, the ride was as exciting as it would have been with a conventional sports car. Audi’s RS vehicles are high performance models.

What was really exciting from the EV was its booming sound effect that resembled the growl of a conventional sports car engine. The sport sound is an option for the e-tron GT, but it comes as standard for the RS variant.

As an EV sports car, it only takes 3.3 seconds from standstill to reach 100 kilometers per hour in speed. Two strong electric motors can exert up to 598 horsepower and a maximum torque of 84.7 kilogram-meters.

On a single charge of 93.4 kWh battery, RS e-tron GT’s driving range is 472 kilometers based on the WLPT standards.

Despite light drizzle, the EV grabbed tightly to the ground to offer a very stable ride, even when the car speedily turned on sharp corners of the circuit. 

Audi RS Q8 (Audi Korea)
Audi RS Q8 (Audi Korea)

The RS Q8 also impressed at the Audi Driving Experience event. The car is a high-performance SUV based on the top trim variant of Audi’s Q product lineup.

According to the automaker, it is the first SUV made in the RS portfolio to “carry the DNA” of a high-performance sports car. From behind the wheel, the SUV felt pretty powerful. It could be a good all-wheel-drive choice for daily commuting.

The SUV is equipped with twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V-8 gasoline engine and an eight-speed automatic transmission that can exert up to 600 horsepower and a maximum torque of 81.6 kilogram-meters, and an acceleration of 0 to 100 kilometers in 3.8 seconds.

Also equipped with Audi’s Quattro all-wheel-drive system, the car was very supple.

In the slalom session designed to test the vehicle’s steering, the classic SUV was able to make a U-turn that Audi’s A5, a sedan, could not manage, thanks to the rear wheels’ ability to turn up to five degrees, along with the front wheels.

The luxury vehicle, which is also not yet launched in the Korean market, appeared to be a competitive vehicle, but it is not the most fuel-efficient vehicle, with the combined fuel consumption recording 6.6 kilometers per liter.

The price of the e-tron 50 quattro starts from 98.5 million won ($87,800). The e-tron GT and RS e-tron GT, and RS Q8 have not yet been launched on the market here, and the prices have not been released.

The e-tron GT has been launched at the starting price of 99,800 euros ($128,500) and RS e-tron GT at 138,200 euros, in Germany.

By Jo He-rim (herim@heraldcorp.com)
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