Ken Block’s Gymkhana video series remains one of the most popular of any genre, so a new release is always keenly anticipated.
This week, the latest instalment – Electrikhana – dropped, featuring the all-electric Audi S1 ‘Hoonitron’ which was tested to its limits on the streets of Las Vegas.
It was a bold step into the future as the first Gymkhana to have an electric car as its headline act, but did it work? How did Electrikhana stack up compared to previous Gymkhana offerings?
That’s exactly what we asked our writers straight after this first watch of it, and here’s what they had to say:
You don’t miss the internal combustion engine
If there is anyone that can finally convert (no pun intended) the naysayers over to liking electric vehicles, it’s Ken Block.
Block’s unique brand of automotive hoonary has seen him up the stakes – and the horsepower – year-on-year, but now he’s taken a sideways step into the world of EVs.
Many of his fans are skeptical, but they needn’t be. We get the same proven formula, just dialed up a notch thanks to the Audi’s instant power delivery which allows Block to pull off some physics-defying zero-axis donuts and rear-entry slides.
One does worry about his lungs after that shoot though. More power and more torque means more tire smoke – a lot more – and we definitely lost the HHIC to the clouds on more than one occasion in Electrikhana.
Another thing lost was engine noise. But, truthfully, I didn’t even notice the lack of sound. Not over the sound of gearheads crying about it at least! But seriously, there was noise – it might not be the noise some of you asked for, but this is something fresh, something unique. It’s OK to be different every once in a while.
Sure, I might prefer the locations of other Gymkhana videos (looking at you San Francisco), but this was never intended to be an advert for the Vegas tourist board. Instead, it was supposed to really showcase what an EV can do, and it does that in spades.
Leaves you wanting more
There’s been quite a wait since we first heard of the new Electrikhana plans, and now that it’s finally here, I can’t help but feel I’ve only gotten a taste. Admittedly, I don’t know if that’s a good or a bad thing though.
Las Vegas is quite the spectacle, but it’s quite, erm, flat. On my second watch on the TV screen the colors of the city looked amazing, but I felt like Las Vegas Boulevard limited what was possible for the star car to do.
Don’t get me wrong, the driving was massively impressive as always, and the shredded tires satisfied as they should, that smoke was incredible, but being so close to the desert, I was really hoping to see the Hoonitron drive out of the city and into the vast unknown.
I get the feeling this was an introduction to what Hoonigan has plannedMason Runkel
I suppose ripping around the solar energy plant used in the credits would have caused dust clouds large enough to blot out the sun and cause a power outage, but I was still hoping to see Block tear into frame as soon as it first popped up.
Overall, I’m just left wanting more. Despite the fantastic garage sequence, and my personal favorite, the donuts in the casino lobby, I get the feeling this was an introduction to what Hoonigan has planned, and I’m hoping to see more in in the future with this project.
A missed opportunity
I remember how excited I used to get for Gymkhana release day. ‘How could Ken Block possibly improve on the last one?’ I’d ask myself. But time and time again, he did.
I’m no longer 14 years old, so things have changed – it takes a lot more to impress me. But even still, I can’t help but feel a bit short-changed by the latest offering. This might sound harsh, but I really don’t think it offered anything new, and didn’t make best use of the aspect that was fresh: the car.
The bespoke Audi S1 ‘Hoonitron’ is a stunning piece of engineering and is pleasing on the eye, but I didn’t watch Electrikhana and want one for myself like when I watched Gymkhana Five and longed for a Ford Fiesta H.F.H.V.
The elephant in the room is of course the electric powertrain. No matter what Hoonigan did with this one, they were always going to face a barrage of moaning from certain corners of the internet – so the entire team deserves credit for being brave enough to make the headline act in such a viral series electric.
But unfortunately what we saw, in my view, were mostly the limitations of the car rather than its strong points. There was that high-speed 360-degree spin – but that looked more impressive in the behind-the-scenes Instagram posts than the actual film – and mostly it looked a touch heavy and less dynamic than previous Gymkhana star cars.
There were some tasteful nods to Audi’s illustrious motorsport past, but why weren’t these better utilized? Why wasn’t there a dramatic drag race held down the Las Vegas Strip between the Hoonitron and the old Quattro rally cars and Le Mans racers? The Hoonitron would surely have won – thus proving the real strength of electric to motorheads.
And as my colleagues have said, the playground was a touch uninspiring compared to previous venues which only added to my feeling that Electrikhana was a brilliant idea but a less brilliant watch. It felt like any other Gymkhana film we’ve all seen before, just with an electric Audi in it instead.
Keeping such an established and famous series like Gymkhana interesting and with fresh ideas and viral moments is an unenviable task. But with the bar set so high, I’m not sure that’s enough for one of these films.