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

I have pushed some fairly great gasoline-powered cars in off-road races, from my have Course 1600 buggy in events in California to a Course 11 Volkswagen Beetle in the Baja 1000. I’ve also competed in stock electrical vehicles, together with running a Rivian R1T in the Rebelle Rally (two times) and a Volkswagen ID 4 in the Mexican 1000. But I have never ever been capable to place these two powertrain forms collectively — until finally 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. Electric power comes from a 52-kilowatt-hour battery that is billed by a 2.-liter turbocharged I4 motor. So, certainly, this Audi even now burns gasoline, but only so it can cost the battery. Don’t forget, Dakar race stages can sometimes exceed 500 miles present-day battery technological innovation just won’t be able to provide that type of vary. For each Dakar rules, the RS Q E-Tron is minimal to just 386 horsepower.

Of system, my exam push is not something as grueling as what this auto goes by means of in Dakar. Alternatively, I’m in Sardinia, with specialist Dakar navigator Emil Bergkvist driving shotgun. My endeavor is to get by way of a sighting lap, a few sizzling laps and a cooldown lap on a short rallycross program.

To start with, while, I want to get the lay of the cockpit. There is a display in entrance of me (with my title on it!), exhibiting details about tire stress, velocity, the battery’s state of charge and no matter if I’m in ahead or reverse equipment — the essentials. A monitor in the center of the cabin displays the exact same information, as well as brake bias and the remaining fuel. This screen also has controls for the wipers, hazard lights and, of course, the air conditioning. It receives warm out there.

The steering wheel has 8 buttons, but I will not have to use matters like the convert alerts, horn or speed limiter, so I set most of these out of my head. Rather, I emphasis on the placement of the large brake and throttle pedals less than my ft. With almost everything in examine, Emil gives me the Ok to go, and I head out toward the system.

The rallycross phase has a lot of turns and there are a large amount of alternatives to get this all-wheel-travel race motor vehicle sideways. Just not as well sideways. Immediately after an first sighting lap, I rapidly notice it can be tough to know particularly wherever the E-Tron’s big BF Goodrich tires are, only that they are way outboard of the cockpit. It’s also tricky to glance exactly where I want to go due to the fact the E-Tron’s A-pillars are substantial. I uncover myself attempting to go my head to get a far better line of sight in turns, but my race seat would not allow for for considerably movement — and I am not even donning a head-and-neck restraint.

The gauge cluster shows me almost everything I want and absolutely nothing I don’t.


Lifting off the throttle in advance of my first flip, I be expecting the electric powered drivetrain to deliver some regenerative braking, but as an alternative, the car or truck coasts. The good thing is, I have lifted early adequate to remaining-foot brake and get the vehicle slowed down for the corner. Emil tells me the E-Tron does have some regenerative braking, but it can be been turned off for my exam session, which truly can make items a minimal less difficult, due to the fact mechanical brakes are what I am applied to acquiring in my personal race car or truck. But I am a minimal bummed — I want to know how a lot regen this matter delivers to get the rig slowed down.

The RS Q E-Tron’s tender suspension allows for a veritable crap-ton of body roll, but soon after a couple corners, I get made use of to all the motions. Emil coaches me a minimal, telling me to get back on the throttle a lot quicker than I feel, even ahead of the suspension fully settles. Just before prolonged, I’ve received the E-Tron drifting a little bit, countersteering to execute perfect slides.

I’m a very little stunned how light-weight the steering is, but frankly, if I experienced to pilot this point for hundreds of miles just about every day for 12 Dakar levels, I would like a split from heavy steering, as well. I could steer the E-Tron with a person finger if I required to, and I never ever have to seesaw the wheel to get it to switch in. (Alright, it’s possible after when I cooked it too rapidly and understeered into a corner, but which is my have damn fault.)

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


The gasoline motor is programmed to switch on when the battery reaches a specific state of cost, but the co-driver also has handle. Midway through my session, Emil flips a swap and the drone of the gasoline motor fills the cabin.

Correct away, I hate it. The gasoline engine is loud, and for the reason that it truly is only operating as a generator, it doesn’t rev in line with my acceleration. It just hums at a constant speed, sending power to the battery. Again, this is the only way Audi could truly make the RS Q E-Tron a contender in a lengthy rally phase, but I significantly favor both the futuristic whine of a purely electrical powertrain, or the rumble of a gas engine operating its way by means of the revs.

On that take note, for upcoming races, swappable batteries could be a solution, as my buddy Kyle Seggelin intended for his home-created electric Toyota 4Runner for the King of the Hammers off-road race. But swapping batteries nonetheless takes a ton of time. In a planet where 50 gallons of fuel can be dumped into a vehicle in underneath 30 seconds, Audi would eliminate valuable time swapping out batteries. Having a fuel engine demand the batteries ensures propulsion for the complete phase — no exterior charging important.

I’m all set to go!


In this year’s Dakar Rally, Emil and his driver, Mattias Ekström, did the greatest of the a few RS Q E-Trons, earning a best-10 end. Nonetheless, teammates Stéphane Peterhansel and Edouard Boulanger just lately received the Abu Dhabi Desert Obstacle in the RS Q E-Tron, and the auto will go on to compete in the Andalucia Rally in Spain this June. And of study course, you can find generally Dakar 2023.

The RS Q E-Tron is a excellent showcase for how existing inner combustion and battery systems can perform collectively in a race software. Me, although? I’ll adhere with pure gas or electrical.

Editors’ be aware: Vacation prices connected to this tale had been lined by the manufacturer, which is prevalent in the vehicle market. The judgments and viewpoints of CNET’s personnel are our own and we do not settle for paid editorial content.