There has been a recent suite of electric cars teased or announced with a performance focus. Ford has taken the Mustang Mach-E and given it two new GT options with performance and driving dynamics in mind. Mercedes has said AMG versions of its EQ all-electric cars are coming. And more recently Hyundai has teased N-line performance EVs, essentially suggesting that “hot” versions of its electric cars are being worked on.
For a car fan, albeit a reasonably green one, more performance-tuned EVs is a tantalizing prospect. Arguably, most of the current crop of EVs lack the real driving dynamics of gas-guzzling performance cars. A Tesla Model S might destroy most performance cars in a straight line. But when it comes to tackling corners and getting a thrill from neatly clipping an apex, Elon Musk’s flagship EV is generally considered to leave driving fans feeling a little cold.
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Let me paint a picture for you. Back in November 2018, I went to Spain to test a new Audi A1 (opens in new tab) for Tom’s Guide sibling publication TechRadar. While I was there I had the opportunity to take the latest Audi R8 (opens in new tab) for a few laps on the Ascari racetrack in Spain.
This was both a thrilling nerve-wracking opportunity; I was there to test a speedy but refined hatchback, not a car that costs well north of $100,000. Furthermore, I’d not driven on a track before and Ascari is known as a fast and challenging race track. Oh, and it was also raining.
Nevertheless, I squeezed into a racing suit, popped on a helmet, listened to where the braking points are on the track and then set off. While I was considerably slower than less experienced motoring journalists — I write about phones and the PS5 after all — slipping out of a chicane onto a straight bit of track and burying the accelerator into the floor to be met with the howl of a normally-aspirated V10 was utterly thrilling.
Every time I now spot an Audi R8 hunched down into a London road, I’m cast back to that wet day at Ascari, complete with the smell of petrol and the roar of one of the finest sounding internal combustion engines around.
And I’ve been worrying that the acceleration to electrification in the automotive world will see such cars and their driving experiences fade away.
Granted, my experience of driving all-electric vehicles is limited to the impressive if slightly dull Nissan Leaf; I’ve yet to experience the reportedly mind-bending way the Model S sprints from zero to 60 miles per hour.
However, the Leaf did give me a taste of EV acceleration, thanks to the instant delivery of torque from the moment the accelerator is pressed, making it a wonderfully nippy car. As I'm (arguably) not a simpleton, I won't compare the Leaf to the R8, but rather the Ford Fiesta ST, a car of similar-ish size, albeit over £15,000 cheaper.
One of the classic hot hatches, the latest Fiesta ST is arguably a bit of a dinosaur compared to electric cars. It has a good suite of tech but makes do with a manual gearbox and a revvy little three-cylinder engine.
But, my word, is it a thrill to drive. It’s ride is a little harsh on bumpy roads, but drive it fast and you won’t notice it.
Not just because you’re surrounded by the “parrrp” of the 1.5-litre EcoBoost engine, but you'll be concentrating hard on the stick shift as you work to rapidly down change going into a corner, build up the revs and nail an upward shift on the way out.
Sadly, such no-frills driving thrills aren’t really available in the EV world, beyond the Audi e-Tron GT and Porsche Taycan, both of which cost a hefty chunk of cash. But 2021 is looking like the year that could change.
As mentioned, the potential for Hyundai to make hot EVs and Ford’s efforts to inject some true Mustang pedigree into the Mach-E, which arguably is only a Mustang in mane and not spirit, is a promising sign for dynamic performance electric cars.
And with AMD getting in on the action this year, I’m confident that we’ll soon have a crop of EVs that make all that instant torque feel fun to manipulate through the front and rear wheels, as well as make surging out of a corner a joy. AMG has already shown how it can turn standard Mercs into apex-eating beasts, so I’m confident it can do the same for eclectic cars.
However, AMG EVs aren’t likely to come cheap. But if Mercedes, Audi and Porsche — as well as Ferrari with its first all-electric car on the horizon — push out more performance EVs, we can expect those innovations and tech to filter down to more affordable cars.
I would happily squeeze my frame behind the wheel of a Ford Fiesta GT-e, VW e-Golf GTi or an electric Honda Civic Type-R. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for 2022’s EVs.