Audi E-tron GT concept 2018: first drive of electric sports saloon

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Step inside and you’ll find a cabin that doesn’t look or feel a million miles away from production – not everything is functional, yet the fit and finish already feel better than in your average Tesla product, let alone any other prototype we’ve tried. There’s bad news for the touchscreen-phobic, though: Audi has increased its display screen count to four, including a new configurable one mounted up by the rear-view mirror.

Despite designers insistently referring to it as “more of a sports car than a sedan”, there’s sufficient space for four adults to travel in comfort with suitably low seating positions, although six-footers will brush the headlining in the rear.

But enough about head room: what about the powertrain? Well, Audi has provided some conveniently rounded figures for the concept that are targeted for production. A 0-62mph time of 3.5sec, 0-120mph in under 12sec and a range of 250 miles on the new WLTP test regime. All Tesla-baiting figures that should be easily deliverable by 2020.

Engaging drive in the E-tron GT is as simple as selecting D on the new push-button gear selector (set to gradually replace the rocker gearshift in current Audis), stabbing a button marked with a chequered flag on the wheel and pulling away.

Of course, the only noise registered from inside comes from the burbling motors of the police escort bikes – ridden by retired officers, if you were wondering why they are catering for spoiled journalists rather than out catching criminals.

The lack of squeaks and rattles as we negotiate our first crossroad is very unlike a concept car. The whirr of the motor isn’t as well insulated as it will be for production, but its response in our admittedly low-speed situation is as crisp as you’d expect from a brief stab of the accelerator.

The steering feels consistently weighted and accurate, and the brakes seem unusually consistent for a regenerative set-up.

Yet something that’s clearly not finished is the suspension: the GT will have double wishbones combined with air springs for production, and the current steel spring and damper system is seriously stiff, pogoing over broken and undulating surfaces. It’s likely that the ride height will increase slightly for production. The potential for this car to offer a reasonably dynamic driving experience is there: after all, it has a lower centre of gravity than an R8, rear-wheel steering and electric torque vectoring.

Chances to test the handling, outright performance and, indeed, the range are limited here. The only firm conclusion I can draw while we wait at the lights for the photographer to set up is that the air-con isn’t functioning. It’s November but in the mid-20s, and the glass roof is gently cooking the GT’s occupants. What’s easier to gauge is the amount of attention from the smartphones being pointed at our car by passers-by, even in a city known for its fair share of dramatic public spectacles.

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