From the November 2022 issue of Car and Driver.
The Ford Eluminator concept truck ruined me. Ever since Ford announced its electric crate car, I’ve been daydreaming about putting one (or two) in a ’90s Bronco. But then I drove Ford’s own 1978 F-100 retro rod on the street in Charlotte, and it’s so good that nothing I could create will ever compare. The Eluminator drives like a Mustang Mach-E GT Performance with a cool old truck body draped over its running gear, which is exactly what it is. It’s stiff, nimble and extremely fast, and I could never hope to build something like it. But Ford can, and certainly should, because the Eluminator equals a quality that can be elusive to EVs: personality.
If you drive one particular electric vehicle all the time, you may never realize that they all drive exactly the same. When I was at our EV of the Year test, I started to get discouraged when I switched between the Lucid Air and the Volvo C40 Recharge and realized both drive like the Tesla Model S Plaid, which drives the same as the Rivian R1T. Sure, there are variations in suspension and steering and brakes, but pin the accelerator to the floor and what happens next will differ only in degree: smooth, quick acceleration. I love the no-wait explosives that EVs offer, but the homogenous behavior is a real bummer. Which means that for an EV to differentiate itself, the rest of the car better be weird. Like maybe it’s shaped like a 44 year old regular cab pickup, or takes the shape of a BMW iX.
BMW is doing a sort of A/B test on customers, offering traditional cars that happen to be electric (the i4) alongside avant-garde lunar modules like the iX. Give me the freakmobile. In the i4 M50, you look around the cabin, see a 3-series sedan, and then get sad when it doesn’t behave like an M3. In the iX M60, your frame of reference is obliterated by crystal-finish switchgear, an electrochromic roof and a soundtrack scored by Hans Zimmer. Even the body shape defies easy comparison—I think it’s a rogue wagon that happens to have 811 pound-feet of torque. Lower the suspension two inches and it’s an M5 Touring of another dimension.
While BMW positions its gas-powered and electric sedans as different models, Genesis is brave enough to offer internal combustion and EV versions of the same dang car, the G80. I drove them back-to-back and expected to prefer the EV—with 365 horsepower, it hits 60 mph in 4.1 seconds, which is 0.6 seconds faster than the V-6 car. Alas, speed is not everything. The Electrified G80 (catchy name alert!) is quiet, refined and effortlessly fast. But when you get in after driving a G80 Sport with the V-6, you’re immediately reminded of the sensory engagement you’re missing: hearing the turbo spool as the torque builds and the transmission breaks down an upshift, accompanied by ‘ a harmonious burr from the exhaust. It’s dinosaur technology, I know. But in an otherwise conventional car, the engine is the center of the experience. The Electrified G80 is an attractive figure. It’s such a shame about its EV nature, I was about five minutes from unscrewing the rear number plate to find the charging port before I turned to the owner’s manual and discovered that a corner of the grille flips open for charging . Which begs the question: Why does an EV have anything resembling a grille?
When it comes to electric cars, the weirder the better. Let’s make them look like 1978 F-100s. Let’s make them look like flying saucers. Gives me neon purple underglow lighting that gets brighter when I step on the accelerator. Put the steering wheel in the middle of a front bench seat on my six-wheel-drive convertible. Let’s have a clean break to the freak side. General Motors has already brought back the Hummer. But this is a job for Saab.
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