Ferrari or Tesla, Lucid or Lamborghini: Which EV is more electrifying?

Big-name auto brands say they value skill and sentiment more than mere speed – and expect their customers will do too

The Tesla Model S Plaid 2 goes from 0 to 100kph in 2.1 seconds, but speed may not be a deciding factor for all motorheads, say carmakers. Photo: Telsa
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There was a time when the likes of Ferrari, Lamborghini, McLaren and Porsche dominated all performance metrics. They were among the elite brands that could see off all comers in any measure of speed or acceleration.

However, the onset of electrification has levelled the playing field in some respects, as the fastest accelerating cars available today are the relatively unexotic Lucid Air Sapphire and Tesla Model S Plaid.

These battery blasters can destroy anything Ferrari, Lamborghini or Porsche builds in terms of 0-100kph sprints or quarter-mile drag races.

The Model S Plaid dispatches the 0-100kph split in 2.1 seconds and hits 322kph flat out, while the Lucid Air Sapphire is even faster, scorching to 100kph in 1.95 seconds and maxing out at 330kph.

They’re so rapid that even Bugatti’s all-conquering Chiron (priced from $3 million) can’t match the off-the-mark acceleration of these two electrified upstarts.

The dramatic shift in balance of power hasn’t been lost on the senior management of ultra-premium brands in Italy, Germany and the UK, but the message they convey is that they’re not focusing merely on straight-line performance. It’s more a case of maximising emotional appeal, delivering class-leading cornering and braking capabilities, as well as making the driver feel intimately connected with the car.

'We don’t want to make cars without character'

Lamborghini will roll out its first battery-electric vehicle, the Lanzador, in 2028, but the Raging Bull’s chief technical officer, Rouven Mohr, isn’t too concerned about outdoing Tesla and Lucid in a drag race.

“Every EV can accelerate fast,” Mohr was recently quoted as saying. “You don’t take your car out on a Sunday for a drive to go from 0-100kph in 1.9 seconds again and again. Maybe once or twice, but after that it’s boring.

“We don’t want to make cars without character, so we don’t actually want to build the perfect car, if a perfect car is one that does everything for you. This isn’t the PlayStation.

“Where we will focus is on the control of the car, how it reacts to inputs and more. I won’t talk about rivals by name, but I don’t think there’s an EV on the market today that does this well. All this talk about 0-100kph times is meaningless. Really meaningless. We want so much more from our cars at Lamborghini.”

Ferrari is also on the verge of major shift to electrification, in line with ever-tightening CO2 emission standards around the world. It will launch its first EV next year, and the company says the car will offer the highest power density of any battery-electric vehicle.

“Electrification is a must as we need to reduce emissions, but we can also use this to further enhance performance,” says Ferrari chief executive Benedetto Vigna. “Contrary to the general notion, electric motors are not silent; each has its own signature.

“The [Ferrari] motor will speak the language of the car. We will develop our own core components, so the first full-electric Ferrari will still be a Ferrari, leveraging the extensive know-how of our Formula One team,” Vigna adds.

“The first full-electric Ferrari will combine class-leading longitudinal acceleration with driving thrills,” says chief research and development officer Ernesto Lasalandra. He also promises “much more emotion” than any existing EV offering.

“As for autonomous driving, it’s clear for us that we will stop at L2 and L2+ level. We will not go L4 or L5,” Lasalandra adds. “We will have Ferraris with a lot of new technology, but it will be used always to enhance the driving experience. We always want to put humans at the centre of the experience.”

'It’s about a premium driving experience'

BMW is similarly working on an electrified strategy for its future performance-focused M cars – The National recently sampled the ballistic i7 M70 electrified limo and came away impressed.

The next-gen M3 will also be battery-powered, says BMW development boss Frank Weber, and one of its key ingredients is a new Heart of Joy control unit that allegedly ensures there’s no loss of character in the absence of a sonorous petrol engine.

“This is a controller that has taken the last 20 or 30 years of our experience into a control unit. Everything that is driving-performance related, chassis-control related, propulsion power train related is now in one integrated control unit,” says Weber.

“We do it ourselves – we don’t buy it. The software is proprietary. This is why we talk about it. We say, see, this will enable driving-dynamics functions that you will love. Some of you have an interest in ‘the ultimate driving machine’ – you will see functions in [the Heart of Joy] that are crazy.”

'It is our duty is to tap into our vast engineering expertise'

Audi’s chief marketing officer, Henrik Wenders, says the shift to electrification provides new opportunities for performance-focused models. “Apart from the terrific acceleration, it’s also about a premium driving experience whereby there’s a real feeling of precision, and every detail being superbly executed.”

“So, at Audi, our duty is to tap into our vast engineering expertise to deliver all these attributes in our electric vehicles,” Wenders adds.

If you’ve ever sat in a fast modern-day EV – such as a Porsche Taycan Turbo S or Audi RS e-tron GT – and experienced the violence of a full launch-control start (especially two or three times in a row), you’ll know first-hand that it borders on being physically uncomfortable. The accelerative capabilities of high-performance EVs are already beginning to challenge what the human body can bear without eliciting feelings of nausea.

There’s also the issue of safely deploying the extreme performance of high-powered EVs on public roads with other motorists in the vicinity. When a car is capable of going from standstill to 100kph in under 3 seconds, it demands a lot of the driver, especially if traction is overwhelmed on a wet road, or an obstacle suddenly appears in the car’s path.

We’re reaching a point where simply extracting more power and acceleration from a car is no longer necessary or prudent. The consensus among the premium performance brands is that it’s more important to engineer a package that matches straight-line speed with agility, tactility and sensual appeal. This is where the current supercar elite – Ferrari, Lamborghini et al – aspire to remain a cut above the EV horde.

Updated: January 23, 2024, 3:57 AM