January 30, 2023

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Driving Dakar: I Get Behind the Wheel of Audi’s Electrified RS Q E-Tron Race Car

I have driven some really amazing gasoline-driven automobiles in off-road races, from my individual Course 1600 buggy in activities in California to a Class 11 Volkswagen Beetle in the Baja 1000. I have also competed in stock electric motor vehicles, like managing a Rivian R1T in the Rebelle Rally (two times) and a Volkswagen ID 4 in the Mexican 1000. But I’ve in no way been ready to put these two powertrain kinds together — right until now.

The RS Q E-Tron is a hybrid off-street racer, and Audi entered a few of them in this year’s Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia. Energy will come from a 52-kilowatt-hour battery that’s billed by a 2.-liter turbocharged I4 engine. So, indeed, this Audi nevertheless burns gasoline, but only so it can cost the battery. Remember, Dakar race phases can often exceed 500 miles current battery technology just are unable to supply that sort of variety. For each Dakar guidelines, the RS Q E-Tron is constrained to just 386 horsepower.

Of program, my test generate isn’t really just about anything as grueling as what this auto goes as a result of in Dakar. As an alternative, I’m in Sardinia, with specialist Dakar navigator Emil Bergkvist riding shotgun. My process is to get by means of a sighting lap, 3 hot laps and a cooldown lap on a brief rallycross course.

Very first, nevertheless, I will need to get the lay of the cockpit. You can find a screen in entrance of me (with my title on it!), showing facts about tire force, pace, the battery’s point out of cost and regardless of whether I’m in ahead or reverse gear — the essentials. A monitor in the heart of the cabin displays the identical facts, as well as brake bias and the remaining fuel. This show also has controls for the wipers, hazard lights and, certainly, the air conditioning. It will get sizzling out there.

The steering wheel has 8 buttons, but I is not going to have to use factors like the flip alerts, horn or pace limiter, so I put most of these out of my intellect. Rather, I concentration on the placement of the large brake and throttle pedals beneath my ft. With every thing in test, Emil gives me the Okay to go, and I head out towards the training course.

The rallycross stage has lots of turns and there are a great deal of alternatives to get this all-wheel-drive race automobile sideways. Just not as well sideways. Right after an first sighting lap, I quickly understand it is tricky to know precisely where the E-Tron’s huge BF Goodrich tires are, only that they are way outboard of the cockpit. It can be also challenging to look where by I want to go because the E-Tron’s A-pillars are significant. I uncover myself making an attempt to shift my head to get a far better line of sight in turns, but my race seat would not allow for considerably movement — and I’m not even putting on a head-and-neck restraint.

The gauge cluster reveals me all the things I will need and very little I will not.


Audi

Lifting off the throttle in advance of my to start with turn, I count on the electrical drivetrain to deliver some regenerative braking, but in its place, the motor vehicle coasts. Thankfully, I’ve lifted early enough to remaining-foot brake and get the motor vehicle slowed down for the corner. Emil tells me the E-Tron does have some regenerative braking, but it truly is been turned off for my check session, which essentially will make points a small easier, considering the fact that mechanical brakes are what I’m employed to having in my individual race car. But I’m a minor bummed — I want to know how significantly regen this matter presents to get the rig slowed down.

The RS Q E-Tron’s delicate suspension will allow for a veritable crap-ton of physique roll, but after a couple corners, I get made use of to all the motions. Emil coaches me a little, telling me to get back on the throttle more rapidly than I believe, even before the suspension totally settles. Right before long, I’ve obtained the E-Tron drifting a bit, countersteering to execute best slides.

I’m a minimal stunned how light-weight the steering is, but frankly, if I had to pilot this matter for hundreds of miles every single day for 12 Dakar stages, I’d like a crack from heavy steering, far too. I could steer the E-Tron with a person finger if I preferred to, and I never have to seesaw the wheel to get it to transform in. (Ok, it’s possible as soon as when I cooked it as well fast and understeered into a corner, but that’s my very own damn fault.)

In the Dakar Rally, the RS Q E-Tron has to journey hundreds of miles at a time.


Audi

The fuel engine is programmed to change on when the battery reaches a specific point out of charge, but the co-driver also has handle. Midway as a result of my session, Emil flips a change and the drone of the gasoline engine fills the cabin.

Suitable away, I hate it. The fuel engine is loud, and because it can be only performing as a generator, it does not rev in line with my acceleration. It just hums at a continuous velocity, sending electric power to the battery. Again, this is the only way Audi could actually make the RS Q E-Tron a contender in a lengthy rally stage, but I considerably favor either the futuristic whine of a purely electric powered powertrain, or the rumble of a gas engine doing work its way by way of the revs.

On that observe, for upcoming races, swappable batteries could be a option, as my buddy Kyle Seggelin built for his residence-designed electrical Toyota 4Runner for the King of the Hammers off-street race. But swapping batteries however can take a ton of time. In a globe wherever 50 gallons of gasoline can be dumped into a car or truck in underneath 30 seconds, Audi would reduce important time swapping out batteries. Acquiring a fuel motor charge the batteries assures propulsion for the whole stage — no external charging vital.

I’m completely ready to go!


Audi

In this year’s Dakar Rally, Emil and his driver, Mattias Ekström, did the finest of the a few RS Q E-Trons, earning a leading-10 end. Having said that, teammates Stéphane Peterhansel and Edouard Boulanger lately received the Abu Dhabi Desert Problem in the RS Q E-Tron, and the motor vehicle will go on to compete in the Andalucia Rally in Spain this June. And of class, there is certainly normally Dakar 2023.

The RS Q E-Tron is a great showcase for how current interior combustion and battery systems can operate with each other in a race application. Me, nevertheless? I will adhere with pure gas or electric.


Editors’ be aware: Vacation charges relevant to this tale have been protected by the maker, which is widespread in the automobile sector. The judgments and views of CNET’s staff are our possess and we do not take paid editorial content.