We live in interesting times, so the old saw goes, and it’s never been more true than in the world of automobiles being made today, where the howl and roar of liquid-fueled engines is beginning to recede into the distance as eerily quiet electric cars demolish gas-powered competitors at drag strips. We all know that Teslas cars are fast, but are there any street-legal, gas-powered cars out there that can best the current penultimate production electric chariot, Tesla’s 1,020 horsepower Model S Plaid?
There still are – sort of.
Ken Block and his friends (and family) at car modder and driving specialists Hoonigan decided to take their popular This vs. That YouTube series and make a slight name change to This vs. Plaid, and then pit the demure-by-comparison EV against a range of exotic and customized gassers, including a modified 1,700hp V-10 powered Audi R8, a ferocious V-12 Lamborghini Aventador SVJ and ultimately, Block’s borderline insane 1,400 horsepower twin-turbo V8-powered all-wheel-drive monster Mustang, better known as the Hoonicorn V2.
The races were highly unofficial, with no timing lights or officials; it basically came down to: Can You Beat The Tesla Plaid? Two different Plaids were used, including one from owner Adam Jorgenson, who has modified the EV by tinting the windows and… that’s about it.
Surprise twist: In the first video (below), renowned wheelmaster Ken Block relinquishes the Hoonicorn’s driver seat to an up-and-coming rally car racer he is supporting: His 15-year-old daughter, Lia. Having grown up around Ken and the Hoonigan crew, she is, of course, no stranger to fast cars and tire smoke. But does she have what it takes to paddle-shift all of the Mustang’s fire-breathing internal P5 racing-fueled combustion power to the Hoonicorn’s all-wheel drive system, which features special wheels, sticky tires and more noise than a thousand Honda Civics all at redline? She does indeed, taking the first race by a comfortable margin, while the Plaid, with a two-car-length starting buffer, just takes the second race. The Hoonicorn just edges the Tesla in the third race, a 500-foot sprint. Here’s the video:
Let’s be clear, this really isn’t a fair fight. The gonzo all-custom Mustang is making 400 more horsepower than the 1020hp Tesla Plaid, and the EV’s big battery makes it a massive 1,766 pounds heavier than the stripped-out Ford with the two turbos as hood ornaments. Both cars have All Wheel Drive systems, with the Tesla likely having a small traction edge partially due to all that down-low battery weight and tech, and it doesn’t have to change gears… since it only has one. Meanwhile, Lia had to time her shifts precisely to make maximum velocity. Despite the big advantages for the Hoonicorn, the finishes were pretty close, and it’s not really a production-car face-off; the Hoonicorn is one of one, a highly modified specialty car you probably can’t get license plates for. But anyway.
And as if 1,400 horsepower isn’t enough, the series really sort of kicked off last year when Team Hoonigan recruited Jorgenson and his new Plaid to square off against a McLaren 720S. This time, the numbers for each car squared a bit more equally, with the carbon fiber McLaren packing “only” 1,000 horsepower in a slightly heavier 3,100 pound chassis, but still a solid 1,600 pounds down on the Tesla. The McLaren is also rear wheel drive instead of all-wheel drive, and it packs a 7-speed paddle-shifted dual-clutch gearbox. Owner and driver Anthony Bui says he pumped up the 720S with an aftermarket exhaust system, a higher state of tune, carbon-fiber wheels, body kit and some other tweaks, plus some C88 hi-test go juice. The Tesla is pretty much stock and seats five. Comfortably. Everyone bets on the McLaren to sweep. Result? No contest as the Tesla repeatedly leaves the McLaren far behind like a wheezy Geo, winning every race, including the handicapped contests, where four members of the Hoonigan crew hop into the Tesla as “ballast”and the driver-only McLaren gets a car-length head start. It doesn’t matter.
It’s a bit more level of a playing field seeing how the 2018 McLaren is a street-legal production car, mods and all. The Tesla wins by a nose in the last handicapped race, but considering it’s likely over a ton heavier than the McLaren at that point makes the win that much more dramatic.
Next up, in a video posted February 7, 2022, it’s a Plaid versus a built Audi R8. Jonathan Parzivand puts his bone stock Tesla Plaid on the line, while Hank Iroz of tuner shop Iroz Motorsport pilots the Audi, which is packing a stock-looking but immensely built-up twin-turbo V10 that can put out an apocalyptic 1,700 horsepower through an all-wheel-drive system spinning semi-slicks. No surprise, the Audi takes the checkers in an even start race from a dead stop, but the Plaid isn’t too far behind even though it gives up over 1,100 pounds and a huge chunk of power to the Audi. However, Iroz says he can’t bring the full 1,700 ponies to bear on this track and is running the car at “only” about 1,400 horsepower. Coupled with the Audi’s all-wheel-drive system, it’s still enough to humble the Plaid in each race.
Lamborghini makes some fairly quick supercars as we all know, and the Plaid returns in a video posted on Valentine’s Day this year to face a 780hp Aventador SVJ from Daily Driven Exotics. The Plaid gives away 1,200 pounds to the top-spec SVJ, but the 2019 Lambo’s big 6.5-liter V12 falls 240hp short of the Plaid’s 1020hp. Damon Fryer competently pilots the SVJ, getting the hotter start in both standing races, but the Plaid, driven again by Jonathan Parzivan, gaps it in both heats, even when the Lamborghini has a two-car head start in the second heat. In the roll-on-from-70mph race to a 1,000 foot marker, the Plaid again takes the checkers quite handily. Still, the races are worth watching just to hear the howl of the SVJ’s V12 crossing 9,000rpm. Sweet music for petrol engine lovers to be sure.
And it’s in this video that the Hoonigan crew truly make their feelings known about the Tesla Plaid, calling it “boring” and that is perhaps an apt description of a car that makes little noise and can shame the exoitc Lamborghini simply by pushing the accelerator pedal to the floor.
The Hoonigan teams laments about the future of racing, but as these videos make clear, the vast, vast majority of production-spec (or even tweaked and tuned) exotics will fall to the Plaid’s 9.2-second quarter mile time, massive torque and push-button, not-a-lot-of-skills-needed low bar for drag racing wannabes. Boring? Perhaps. Fast? Definitely, and keep in mind we are in the VERY early days of electric car development from any manufacturer, and large strides will be made in a short time when it comes to electric propulsion.
That’s made abundantly clear in this last video, where the Tesla Plaid is repeatedly spanked at the drag strip by what will be its real nemesis going forward: Another electric car. Unrelated to the Hoonigan crew, the team over at Drag Times managed to put together what is probably the biggest faceoff yet between Cars Of The Future. The Tesla Plaid we know, but the Rimac Nivera, a hand-built $2.4 million, 1,914-horsepower all-electric luxury hypercar out of Croatia, is a different animal yet again from the Plaid. While the three-motor Plaid can quietly scorch the quarter mile in a tick over nine seconds, the Nevera, with a motor driving each wheel, can cross the line in 8.5 seconds – a huge difference. And in every race shown in the video, it just humbles the Plaid, which is incredible to see when you grasp the titanic electrical forces at work. Watching this video, the phrase that keeps coming to my mind is: Here’s another peek at the future of automobiles, including exotics.
I talked with Rimac founder and CEO Mate Rimac in 2021 about a line of electric bicycles they were planning. In the unpublished interview, he hinted that big things were coming for the bespoke but future-focused EV car maker he started essentially in his garage at age 19 in 2009. He’s done pretty well in a relatively short time. In 2021, Rimac bought exotic speed machine icon Bugatti from VW. Bugatti was the first carmaker to produce a street-legal gas-powered car to go over 300 miles an hour, at which point they basically said “we’ve proven our point” and would not try to top the record, which was soon topped by the Hennessey Venom F5 at 311mph and then the bonkers $2 million Shelby SSC Tuatara that ripped off a 331mph pass.
The Bugatti record-setting run was pre-Rimac, so never say never about the brand taking a shot at the Tuatara, and the Nevara is geared for a top speed of about 260mph. To be fair, the Rimac car raced here is pre-production (but clearly very close to production) and when it does roll off the line, they could be even a bit faster than this unit. Combine the Rimac tech with Bugatti’s high-speed prowess and we think some limited-edition cars from Rimac may very well top 300mph (482kph) in the near future. CEO Mate has a thing for going fast.
Yes, the multi-million dollar limited-run Nevara (Rimac is only making 150 units) is far out of reach from most mortals while a good day/week/year on the stock market could net a savvy investor the $130,000 Tesla Plaid, which Tesla is making as many of as possible, no doubt. But the overriding theme from these videos is clear: Boring as they may be, electric cars can beat the daylights out of most any production gasser across most any performance metric, no matter the price. The only real competition electric cars will have going forward, in terms of performance, are other electric cars. They will only get faster as the model years march on.