Nowadays, electrification isn’t just taking over regular cars, but also the world of performance vehicles. Some of the most prominent examples of this range from Bentley investing $3.4 billion to go all-electric by 2030, to Audi building a battery-powered S1 Hoonitron that saw Ken Block’s infamous Gymkhana series becoming the Electrikhana earlier this month. Can EVs be fun, though? We’ll answer that with some recent viral battery-powered velocity moments.
The definition of driving fun varies according to the one jumping behind the wheel. However, most people would progably agree to a few core values, starting with big horsepower and velocity numbers, but also involving sharp handling and an immersive driving experience.
The instant electric torque and massive setups automakers have thrown into their halo products to convince enthusiasts to adop plug-only go-fast machines mean that speed is not an issue these days. Heck, the Tesla Model S Plaid, with its 1,020 hp tri-motor setup and its official 9.23s quarter-mile time can put contemporary ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) supercars to shame at the drag strip.
Ken Block’s Audi S1 Hoonitron and its virtual LS swap
What about the other aspects? Well, Ken Block’s Electrikhana video saw the rally driver and slide master delivering some insane stunts in Las Vegas, with wheel speeds going up to 120 mph (while the car was stationary or moving backwards), which made for one of the most infamous reverse entries the world has ever seen. The Hoonigan-in-Chief had to deal with the less-than-comfortable, F1-style driving position and adapt to the lack of a clutch. Nevertheless, Audi’s $10M+ S1 Hoonitron did offer him a pair of Formula E race car 800V electric motors (between them, these deliver 2,212 lb-ft or 3,000 Nm of torque), each with its limited-slip differential.
So, the seasoned slip angle performer adapted and delivered high-speed 360s and a considerably more vicious tire slaying. For one, the production saw the S1 Hoonitorn chewing up 100 tires, which is 2.5 times more rubber than a gas-powered Gymkhana like his 1,400 hp 1965 Hoonicorn Mustang used in 2016.
Sure, the S1 Hoonitron could be switched to RWD, and it came with a drift-grade handbrake. But Electrikhana brought along a somewhat eerie tire-burning soundtrack devoided of any suck-squeeze-bang-blow noises. Then there’s the presumably generous scale footprint of the vehicle. Audi specified no weight number, but the machine uses four 17.3-kWh Audi Q7 e-tron lithium ion battery packs. So, at least to these eyes, it seemed that there weren’t quite as many jumps and close-call precision stunts as usual—that casino lobby center-axis donut session was dope, though.
With that in mind, the digital artist known as BradBuilds, which is one of the community’s most active 3D model builders, rendered an Audi S1 Hoonitron with a twin-turbo V8, which awaits you in the Instagram post below. It goes without saying that LS-swapping the Hoonitron would’ve added to the excitement factor of the video and we’d love to see a tribute build of the sort in the future.
Heck, this would almost be like somebody putting actual turbos on a Porsche Taycan Turbo—by the way, the German carmaker has been spied testing a more powerful 1,000+ hp Taycan that should give the Tesla Plaid a hard time (right now, the two-motor Taycan is no match for the Plaid on the drag strip, but the Porsche has secured the Nurburgring production EV record). Touted to be called Taycan Turbo GT, the new range-topper is expected to land next year for the 2024 mid-cycle revamp of the Porsche EV.
Then again, Audi and Ken Block are doing pioneering work here, delivering the kind of enthusiastic electric AWD assets we’ll need to see on production cars once ICE vehicles are pushed off the market by the ever-stricter emission standards.
The Rimac Nevera and its Bugatti Chiron-bashing adventure
Another electron-only machine that’s guaranteed to get an occupant’s heart racing is the Rimac Nevera, an AWD hypercar with 1,914 hp and 2,360 lb-ft of twist on tap.
Rimac is no longer just a Croatian startup with a promising future. That’s because, as of 2021, the company is part of the Bugatti Rimac joint venture, which has seen the VW Group’s Bugatti shares being pushed into this new union (Rimac holds 55%, while Porsche, which has begun its own electric revolution, has the other 45%).
And while CEO Mate Rimac is said to have mentioned a plug-in hybrid setup for the next Bugatti model, we can talk about a drag race that wasn’t supposed to happen for now. Earlier this fall, during an event called Supercar Owners Circle, which went for a stint in Croatia, a Nevera and an 1,500 hp Chiron lined up next to each other for a drag race.
The speed devils didn’t battle on a prepped surface, but since we’re talking about a pair of AWD machines, they didn’t seem to struggle with traction all that much. And, as you’ll notice in the video below, the EV left the quad-turbo, 8.0L W16 hypercar trailing in its wake.
The clip, which comes from YouTuber 912fordgt, also allows us to see another fun side of the $2+ million Rimac Nevera—more than one example of the beast switched to its Drift Mode (RWD only with about 1,000 hp being sent to the rear wheels only) for some extreme burnouts.
Fortunately, not all EV hooning has to be this expensive. For one, Dodge’s recent Charger SRT all-electric concept, with its Banshee electric muscle, has shown us that Mopar is ready to trade off some driving range for an engaging driving experience. The show car, whose retro-influence design and multi-speed transmission obviously impact the range, will morph into the first electric production muscle car in 2024, so we still have some waiting to do.
In the meantime, we’re certain that the 2022 SEMA show, which opens its gates tomorrow, will deliver a hefty share of jaw-dropping EV swaps that can keep this side of the hobby fun.