Cars

Jay Leno Fails to Hide His Disappointment With This New $1.3 Million Car

Jay Leno is no stranger to odd or obscure cars. And while he’s well-known for his classic car appreciation, as demonstrated by his restored Bronco, he’s also a big fan of EVs. He’s owned a Tesla for several years and had several positive things to say about the Mustang Mach-E. That being said, sometimes he just doesn’t click with a car. And that happened recently with the new $1.3-million Drako GTE electric sports car.  

The Drako GTE

On paper, the Drako GTE impresses.

It has 1200 hp, for a start, generated by four motors, one for each wheel. It’ll also go 206 mph, and Automobile Magazine reports that it’s faster around the Nurburgring than Mercedes’ four-motor electric SLS. In addition, according to Road & Track, Drako claims the GTE develops 6490 lb-ft of torque. However, as we’ve explained with the recently-teased electric Hummer, that’s wheel torque, not actual motor torque.

2020 Drako GTE front
2020 Drako GTE front | Drako Motors

Motor Trend reports the Drako GTE rides on a modified Fisker Karma platform, although Motor1 reports Fisker didn’t actually provide a chassis. In any case, Drako modified the Karma’s design so much, the only thing the GTE shares with that car is its doors. However, even those aren’t stock: instead, the entire body is made of carbon-fiber.

At this point, you may be asking what’s so special about this EV. Sure, it’s powerful, but the Drako GTE isn’t the first car with carbon-fiber body panels, nor is it the first EV with four motors. However, what’s different is Drako’s software and engineering approach. In an interview with Automobile Magazine, executive VP and co-founder Shiv Sikand explained that the GTE’s 90-kWh water-cooled battery wasn’t built for longevity, but performance.

“This is not a 10,000-mile battery. We want the car to keep right on accelerating until it hits its 206-mph Vmax.”

Shiv Sikand, executive vice president and co-founder of Drako Motors

And though the GTE isn’t the first EV with four motors, Sikand claims it’s the first to have no differentials. Each motor has its own gearbox, with sensors collecting torque data. This data feeds into one central ECU, and proprietary software can adjust the output of an individual wheel 1000 times a second. Sikand calls this system a “virtual triple differential,” and claims limited-slip differentials like the Porsche Taycan’s were “primitive” in comparison.

How Jay Leno felt about the Drako GTE

Overall, Leno’s reaction to the electric supercar was mixed.

On the one hand, he was receptive to Sikand’s perspective on the future of performance cars. Namely, that there will be a shift to electronic and software-based tuning, rather than purely mechanical modification. And Leno also appreciates new car companies coming forth with new ideas and products.

However, he did level some fair criticisms at the Drako GTE. It’s a $1.3-million car that’s based on a re-used Fisker platform. And although Sikand claims there’s “not very many Fisker components” left, he also claimed the GTE retained the Karma’s crash structures, which is why Drako didn’t have to crash-test it. However, reusing the same VIN also means the GTE isn’t EU-legal.

2020 Porsche Taycan
2020 Porsche Taycan | Porsche

And for a car with allegedly 1200 hp, Leno didn’t necessarily find it particularly quick. He commented on how the Porsche Taycan is significantly cheaper but is almost as quick on normal roads. He even said that “top speed is irrelevant.”

Furthermore, there are rather design features that seem rather odd. There are no door handles, not even pop-out ones. What happens if you don’t have the key, or its battery goes dead? The hood also has no support struts: it fully comes off in one piece. EVs do need less maintenance, but that is a slightly inconvenient decision. And while the Drako GTE has charging ports for both AC and fast-charging DC chargers, you have to open the trunk to access them.

Do the criticisms hold up?

The specific Drako GTE Jay Leno drive seems to be a kind of rolling development car. In that sense, the charging port location and hood can be explained away. And Sikand did note that customers will be able to specify where they want their charging ports.

The on-road performance can also be explained via the gearing. As Engineering Explained’s Jason Fenske explained about the Ford Mustang, gear ratios can make a big difference in top speed and acceleration. Gearing a car for a higher top speed means sacrificing low-end acceleration. And because the GTE has a one-speed gearbox, unlike the Porsche Taycan’s two-speed, Drako was forced to compromise on acceleration to achieve that top speed.

And, to be fair, Jay Leno didn’t drive the Drako GTE on a racetrack or road course. Automobile Magazine did, and professional racer Andy Pilgrim reported that he could “twist the car mid-corner, almost at will.” 200+ mph top speeds and racetrack performance don’t make a big difference to most consumers, but for high-end clientele, they do.

However, that’s also the Drako GTE’s biggest problem. To truly access its capabilities, you have to have access to racetracks or be able to shut down a public road for your own amusement. A Porsche Taycan will most likely be much more enjoyable in every-day occasions, at 1/12th the price. It’s also faster around the Nurburgring, to boot.

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