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The mad Audi RS Q e-tron is gunning for another Dakar win

This is what the elder Sainz will drive soon
Audi RS Q e-tron rally

Ah, the RS Q e-tron. Even its name suggests complexity, a need for very specific knowledge of both Audi and its intent. If someone were to ask us to explain it, we’d first ask, ‘How much do you want to know?’, followed by, ‘How much time do you have?’. Because this thing is complex. Even describing the powertrain is something only worthwhile in the company of fellow enginerds.


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It has the 2.0T engine from Audi’s DTM racer, but only uses it as a generator to feed electric current to a 50kWh battery, which then supplies a pair of electric motors from Audi’s Formula E entry to give the RS Q the rally-raid-appropriate four-wheel drive. Even though the front and rear axles aren’t mechanically linked in any way and the whole thing is sorted with software.

Audi RS Q e-tron rally

What it also had, besides unexpected successes throughout its maiden year, was rather too much heft. There’s no getting around the weight penalty of large batteries, complex drivetrains and a seriously beefy spaceframe.

Well, we say that.

Turns out there actually is a way to take huge chunks of chonk out of the RS Q... it just requires changing every single body part. So you can see the same basic ideas as the original RS Q, but with a new visual lightness to match the ‘several dozen kilograms’ shaved for the so-called ‘E2’ version. Several... dozen... kilograms. Combining dozen and metric feels like heresy somehow, but that might be beside the point. Moving on.

Audi RS Q e-tron rally jump

The lower-by-the-dozen weight also sits lower than the original RS Q, while the simplified bodywork also confers an aero improvement to the tune of a 15 percent reduction in drag – despite the larger frontal area presented by the more spacious cockpit. Phrasing.

The top speed is still limited to 170 kph, per regulations, so the advantage here is efficiency – going further on less energy, and putting less stress on the mind-bending array of drivetrain components. Which probably have enough stress to be getting on with, given that they’re shifting the two or so tonnes of complexity that is the Audi RS Q e-tron E2.

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