The long charge - Audi e-tron drive from KL

Kuala Lumpur - Electric vehicles are already a thing globally, and in sunny Singapore, they have already gone past the point of being just a conversational piece.

With their mention, many of us know that the topic of range would be part of the conversation. While electrification may be the next evolution in the automotive industry, which for some, is a large pill to swallow, many major manufacturers have already stopped any major development of new internal combustion engines.

Those who have made the switch to EVs would probably gush over the characteristic instant torque, silent operation, and lower “fuel” cost. All of which an EV is able to provide.

But what about going the distance? How would an EV fare over a road trip?

That was what we got to find out, when we got a go at three different Audi models, over almost 400km. A few of us journalists were on the second leg of a trip, to drive from KL, back to Singapore.

All this to get a feel of what a road trip in an EV would be like. (Click HERE to read about the time we took a BMW i3 into JB and back from five years ago) For us, we had the opportunity to have a go at Audi’s EV range, namely the e-tron S Sportback, e-tron GT and high-powered RS e-tron GT.

It has been more than two years since I have had an opportunity to pay a visit to Malaysia’s capital. With our borders finally open, we can travel across unrestricted, so why not make a journey further than just the nearest state to us?

So after a very good breakfast at the Four Seasons Hotel (you must do the Nasi Lemak), right in the heart of Kuala Lumpur (and beside KLCC, if you like a spot of shopping), we got into the Audi e-tron Sportback S for the first leg of our journey home.

Among the three cars on this journey, the e-tron Sportback S, is the only SUV. The ‘Sportback’ in the model name means that the SUV gets a sloping rear-end for that ahem… “sportier coupe driving experience”.

We pulled out of the Malaysian capital, and brought the SUV to cruising speed along the North-South highway. There is an uncanny air of silence, and right-away, your senses begin to tune-in to other familiar sounds... The wind caressing and occasionally buffeting the car’s standard mirrors, the tyres as they take on different grades of asphalt, together with the bumps visited along the way. Then there is that faint hum from the electric motors, bolstered by a synthetic audio soundtrack, under heavier acceleration. 

The Audi e-tron S Sportback, and its non-Sportback sibling are the first production cars to run on three motors. Two motors drive individual rear wheels through a single speed transmission, while the one driving the front only cuts in when an extra nudge is needed, or when more purchase is required. In most cases the e-tron S Sportback drives like a rear-drive vehicle, but when you need to, you can dial up all of 973Nm of earth-turning ability, and oh... there is an ‘Off-Road’ drive mode.

Heading out of KL
Heading out of KL

Once up on the highway, I found that the suspension, which is tuned for comfort, does “give” a little more than I would want, which compromises the overall composure of the Audi SUV. Switching to ‘Dynamic’ or even customising your drive mode, where you have stiffer suspension settings and a lower ride, tames that inertia the batteries would tend to contribute, especially around the bends or over crests. One of the quirks I have, is the habit of turning off the car’s regenerative braking, including the radar-assisted one, as I prefer to glide (much like how an Audi A3 would) when I lift off, rather than find myself bobbing back and forth, when traffic gets heavier, where the systems intervene. Yeah, I am a control freak.

By late morning, we make a stop on the Ayer Keroh, so that the SUV can get an added jolt of power, while we have a break over A&W Root Beer Floats. At this point, there is just a double digit range left. This is because not only does the Audi e-tron Sportback S utilise three motors, it also is the heaviest car here. Now add a larger front-facing footprint compared to the GT cars, this translates to a heavier battery draw… well either that or I have a heavy right foot.

A car swap later, and we carry on our journey South-bound in the Audi e-tron GT. A low-slung four-door coupe, which to me, feels like the next big thing after the iconic Audi R8.

The e-tron GT borrows plenty from its sister car, the Porsche Taycan, but you will have to dig deep to find the family DNA. Back onto the highway, it dawns on me that - yeah, I really like this car. With the help of those wide staggered 245/45 front and 285/40 tyres, both which wrap around 20-inch rims, you can easily slip the GT into a bend at speed, and it simply… sticks. As there is no engine up-front, we found that the e-tron GT turns in without that inertia which you will get from an ICE vehicle. 

It is clear that GT is built for an even quicker pace, while taking you there with your luggage. It is electronically limited to 245km/h though, but you can tell that it can effortlessly do more than that. Then again its Malaysia, so we are restricted to 110km/h.

Audi intended the e-tron GT to be a grand tourer, and I appreciate how they have made sure that the seats are supportive and comfortable. Your body weight is pleasantly distributed, helping to keep that driving fatigue at bay. 

Audi e-tron GT in Tactical Green Metallic
Audi e-tron GT in Tactical Green Metallic

For those who dislike the idea of being surrounded by cow hide, the interior is coated in what is best described as vegan leather… sorry I still like the smell of the real deal here. There is that super large glass roof though, which is really cool if you are doing a spot of driving up a winding mountain road… cool for your passengers that is, since they get the best view. But on unforgivingly bright and sunny days here in tropical Malaysia, with the temperature climbing past 35 degrees celsius, I did wish we could have the option to reduce the glare.

Less leather, more drive
Less leather, more drive

As we hunker down and put some miles between us and A&W, the thought passes my mind, that Malaysia actually has sufficient public infrastructure for charging EVs, mostly along the North-south highway region. 

Sure, it could be better, but progress will take time. You can find some of these EV charging stations in the Chargev app, but if you truly want a map of all the public charging stations available, you could have a look here. Interestingly in Malaysia, you do not pay for charging your car, but rather the time you spend parked in the lot (which you have to pre-book).

After a quick lunch break, we pull into our final stop, the Southbound Tangkak Layby, to have both the e-tron GT and RS e-tron GT juiced up. Over here, the 180kW DC charger makes quick work of topping up those batteries, giving us a bit of time to savour a cup of bubble tea at the station, which is so vehemently recommended by one of the crew accompanying us.

"Come! I show you magic!" Our stop for bubble tea
"Come! I show you magic!" Our stop for bubble tea

Our vehicle now is the high(er)-performance RS e-tron GT, which has all the good things the regular GT has, but with a higher peak boosted output of 475kW and 830Nm, a 85kW increase over the former. We got to ease the car to the entrance of the highway, and then punch down on the throttle. Right away, you are pushed into the seat, and whatever traffic you have seen close to you in the rear-view mirror, are now almost the size of ants.

Not only can you do a brutal 3.3 second century sprint in the RS e-tron GT, but you do this in absolute comfort, since it has ventilated front seats… something I feel is important in a tropical climate.

While we are in Johor, it is still a 200km journey back home. We could keep going without much adjustment to our pace, since traffic is lighter around this time of the day. The compromise here is that there is no satisfying engine and exhaust note to accompany the sublime driving experience. Instead we have to get used to a soundtrack manufactured in a studio. While I do say this, I have to admit that what comes through those speakers is rather pleasant.

Soon we are at the immigration checkpoint, and crossing into Singapore. While we adjust our pace, and head home, I have some mixed feelings about EVs. They do herald a new automotive era; and while infrastructure and machines will improve over time, we will undoubtedly lose the soulful experience an ICE vehicle will provide. 

But progress has a price.

PHOTOS Audi, David Foo, Clifford Chow

No stress! Really!
No stress! Really!

Audi e-tron S Sportback
Battery 95kWh (86kWh net), Li-Ion, 800V
Electric Motor 429hp/808 Nm
Boost 496hp/973Nm
Electric Range up to 370km (WLTP)
0-100km/h 4.5secs
Top Speed 210km/h (electronically limited)
LxBxH 4902 x 2189 x 1686mm
Wheelbase 2928mm
Kerbweight (DIN) 2620kg
Efficiency 26.0kWh/100km (Combined)

Audi e-tron GT
Battery 93.4kWh, Li-Ion, 800V
Electric Motor 469hp/630Nm
Boost 523hp/640Nm
Electric Range up to 488km (WLTP)
0-100km/h 4.5secs (4.1secs Boost)
Top Speed 250km/h (electronically limited)
LxBxH 4989 x 1964 x 1396mm
Wheelbase 2900mm
Kerbweight (DIN) 2276kg
Efficiency 19.6kWh/100km

Audi RS e-tron GT
Battery 93.4kWh, Li-Ion, 800V
Electric Motor 598hp/830Nm
Boost 646hp/830Nm
Electric Range up to 472km (WLTP)
0-100km/h 3.6secs (3.3secs Boost)
Top Speed 250km/h (electronically limited)
LxBxH 4989 x 1964 x 1396mm
Wheelbase 2900mm
Kerbweight (DIN) 2347kg
Efficiency 22.5-20.6kWh/100km

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