Audi RS Q e-tron review: Dakar buggy is like nothing you’ve seen before

LOOK closely. There’s one part on this car you probably see on the roads every day.

You might know someone who has one, or you might even have one yourself.



Give up? It’s the windscreen from an Audi A4.

In every other way, Audi’s incredible Dakar racer is like nothing you’ve seen before.

It’s got 6,000 parts — double the amount of an average car — and just that ONE thing is off the shelf.

What makes it move is a combination of three Formula E motors and a DTM (German touring car) engine.

The truth is, a pure-electric car wouldn’t cut it on Dakar yet. 

The marathon stages are too long. Plus, soft desert sand devours range. Plus, you would need a really long charging cable stretching across Saudi Arabia.

So Audi dreamed up this Frankenstein moon buggy instead.

I think I know how it works. The 2-litre petrol engine acts as a generator, along with an electric motor, to charge a 52kWh battery, which then feeds two other electric motors, one on each axle, to drive the wheels.

You’ll blink first

So it’s electric all-wheel drive. All that has the potential to make 680hp but to abide to Dakar rules it’s been restricted to 392hp. Bah.

Actually, thinking about it, that’s probably enough when you’re surfing up a dune the size of a tower block and you can’t see the drop on the other side. Now, forgive me if this next bit reads like a list — but there’s so much cool stuff to share.

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The Audi RS Q e-tron has one forward gear. Seemples. Just press and go. You’ll blink first.

The tyres are 37 INCHES. They’re huge. And heavy. The suspension travel is hilarious. 

The triple-layer underbody protection is 54mm thick.

The body is carbon fibre-reinforced plastic and Kevlar. The roll cage is aerospace steel. The dash has more screens and buttons than Darth Vader’s TIE Fighter. Lines and lines of software code run pretty much everything on this car, including the virtual centre differential. It distributes torque to each axle in milliseconds. In total, there’s something like 4km of cables. All working as one.

Energy is also recuperated during braking. Even when you tug the hydraulic handbrake to do skids. Excellent.

But best of all, it has number plates. So it’s road-legal. You could do the Friday big shop in one.

Today is day nine of the legendary two-week Dakar Rally and you may ask: How are Audi doing? Er, they’re not winning. Toyota are, with a Hilux, although British team Prodrive are running them close.

Play to win 

Audi are here to learn first time out with such an experimental car. But rally god Carlos Sainz did score an early stage win.

Team boss Sven Quandt compared Audi’s Dakar debut to the first moon landing.

He said: “Back then, the engineers didn’t really know what was coming.

“It’s similar with us. If we finish the first Dakar event, that’s already a success.”

I’ll give him that.

But we all know, Audi play to win. As we’ve seen in WRC, Le Mans, Formula E and more. 

Bosses have already committed to Dakar in 2023 and 2024. Tick that box then it’s F1 in 2026. So we keep hearing.

Until then, it’s official: Audi A4 drivers have the coolest windscreen in the world.


KEY FACTS: DAKAR RALLY

Jan 1-14, Saudi Arabia

12 timed off-road stages: 4,252km

Liaison sections: 3,847km

Total distance: 8,099km

Start: Jeddah

Finish: Jeddah

Rest day: Riyadh (Jan 8)

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