SHARP Drives: Cruising the Coast With Audi

SHARP & Audi Canada

In a forest on the coast of BC, rain patters on the leaves, soaking the earth, drumming on the narrow path, flowing in rivulets. Every drop contains power, both life force for the trees, plants, and animals, and potential for BC’s hydroelectric power grid. Clean, sustainable power, just waiting to be harnessed. Enter Audi.

On an equally soaked racetrack, a black Audi RS e-tron GT unleashes its full 627 hp of battery-electric power, shuddering in tiny motions as its all-wheel-drive radiates power. The acceleration force is immense, sprinting up the hill towards the first braking marker with eye-watering speed, trailing spray. It’s like a tsunami with a steering wheel.

Audi parked on a rainy day with mountains in the background

High performance and environmental sensitivity have long been thought of as opposing forces. The earliest electric vehicles were slow and pragmatic, slightly dorky eco-pods devoid of a sense of fun. But modern electric performance has arrived like a whipcrack of lightning. Harnessing battery-electric power hasn’t compromised performance. It has supercharged it.

A luxury sedan with all the comfort and refinement you expect from Audi, the RS e-tron GT is nonetheless a performance machine. If anything, it’s almost too much power here at Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit, a tight track carved into a hillside on Vancouver Island. Located about an hour’s drive from Victoria proper, the circuit is the perfect place to experience Audi’s vision for an electric future. The track is drenched, but that just makes it Audi quattro weather.

SHARP Drives: Cruising the Coast With Audi

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SHARP Drives: Cruising the Coast With Audi

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SHARP Drives: Cruising the Coast With Audi

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SHARP Drives: Cruising the Coast With Audi

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We began out day on a trail on Old Baldy Mountain, in Vancouver Island’s Cowichan Valley. Led by ecologist Ross Reid, a 37-year-old former skiier and snowsports videographer, our small group was shown the delicate network that makes up a forest. Not just the trees you see, but a web of organisms existing in symbiosis. At the top of the mountain, heavy fog obscured the views, Douglas Firs and Arbutus trees looming out of the mist.

Likewise, the longterm future of the automotive industry remains a little murky. However, if humans are to stop and realize that we’re part of that web of life — rather than just travellers passing through — a sustainability mindset becomes a necessity. In the case of Audi, that means engineering for a performance that’s conscious of its environmental footprint.

audi e-tron interior

A racetrack seems the least likely pairing to a walk in the woods, but in this case, each reflects each other. Audi has long been the choice of those engaged in outdoorsy pursuits, especially on the west coast. Audi wagons, sedans, and SUVs laden with mountain bikes or snowboards and skis are a common sight on the Sea-to-Sky highway or on routes to any other of BC’s outdoors recreation areas. This customer base cares about the environment — it’s where they live and play — so it’s both ethical and smart business for Audi to focus on a more sustainable future.

We begin with the Q8 e-tron, whose roots are derived from the original Audi e-tron electrified SUV. Now one of nine electrified models, including a plug-in hybrid, the Q8 e-tron represents an uncompromised approach to sustainable motoring. With maximum long-range performance of up to 459 km for the more conventional SUV shape or 476 kms for the sleeker Sportback, the Q8 e-tron is the ideal vehicle for either skiing trips or just day-to-day tasks. It’s flexible, spacious, and smooth riding.

SHARP Drives: Cruising the Coast With Audi

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SHARP Drives: Cruising the Coast With Audi

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And thanks to a low-slung battery pack, it’s not out of place on a racetrack. Audi’s clever quattro all-wheel-drive has long allowed it to build performance SUVs that have surprisingly strong grip and speed around a track, but the combination of instant electric torque and lightning-responsive e-quattro are on another level. Even on the circuit’s tighter curves, and despite the drenched tarmac, it’s easy to place the Q8 e-tron right where you want it, and surge out of the corner exit.

An added level of performance is found in the RS e-tron GT. The shocking grip and acceleration is perhaps not quite a surprise for a performance EV, but the RS e-tron GT also delivers in the corners. As is the case with the Q8 e-tron, its battery pack is mounted low in the floor to maximize cabin space and lower the centre of gravity. That means it’s just inches off the tarmac, and the car corners flat, maximizing the grip available.

audi driving through the woods

In the most aggressive of driving modes, a little patience is required before pressing the accelerator. At 612 lb-ft of torque, the surge is huge, blitzing well over highway speeds in even short straightaways. Vancouver Island Motorsports Circuit was designed to maximize the number of corners in the minimum of real estate, but the RS e-tron GT manages to snap through any straight section on fast-forward, then cling on in the wet corners with the tenacious grip you expect from an Audi.

The rain doesn’t let up for an instant, the cars flashing past the front straight with roostertails of water. Victoria is generally sunnier than Vancouver, with as little as one-third the rain. Today, though, nature chose to remind us of its immense power. On one hand, you ignore that power at your peril. On the other, embracing a sustainable future allows you to flex great power. Audi channels the liquid rush of a rainstorm alongside blazing energy of sunshine: these cars bring performance and sustainability to new heights — together.