Here’s something many people didn’t expect: The dearly departed Ken Block is back on YouTube one last time, with “Electrikhana Two” capping off fifteen years of automotive mayhem. Hell, it’s more than just that, “Gymkhana” is an automotive cultural icon, an inspiration to millions. For this posthumous Gymkhana film, Block tears up the streets of Mexico City, and his Audi S1 Hoonitron received a raft of upgrades to hoon even better.
Traditionally, electric vehicles can’t just be locked into a gear to limit wheel speed since a fixed gear ratio takes them from rest to V-max. However, for Electrikhana Two, the Audi S1 Hoonitron features torque-limiting steps to simulate gears, much like you’d find in the incoming Hyundai Ioniq 5 N. While simulating gears may offer a disadvantage in speed over a single fixed ratio, it should add control, something that Block put to good use in the filming of this hoonage.
Of course, limiting wheel speed via simulated ratios isn’t the only crazy trick EVs can pull. Because reverse gear in an electric vehicle is just reverse polarity on the motors, you can theoretically throw an EV into reverse at any speed. Oh, and in an EV with dual electric motors, it’s technically feasible to vary torque split electronically, or even have one motor turn forward and another turn in reverse for epic four-wheel standing burnouts.
The addition of simulated gears offers an excuse for more in-car shots, which have the happy effect of putting more focus on the banshee wail of the electric motors. Sure, it’s not a V8, but an uninsulated high-torque electric motor sounds like God’s own Cuisinart, offering up a frequency similar to supercharger whine but all the time. Once you get down to the raw elements, electric cars can sound exciting, and Electrikhana Two offers a glimpse of that.
Sound design isn’t the only part of Electrikhana Two that feels improved over its predecessor. The proximity-induced sketch-factor that felt somewhat limited by the wide streets and inky cloak of Las Vegas at night is more prominent in Electrikhana Two, particularly in this use-all-the-road, eyes-closed, oh-shit slide around YouTuber JUCA’s Volkswagen Beetle. This is what Gymkhana’s all about — dirty, smoky, tight sideways driving on the absolute edge. This moment gave me flashbacks to dropping a wheel off the dock, and is perhaps one of the most promising sign of a future that never was.
Speaking of highlights, who hasn’t wanted to slide a car around a major airport? It was cool when Top Gear did it with a BMW M5 Touring and a Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG wagon, and it’s still cool when Block tore up the Benito Juarez International Airport. This shot of a massive slide right outside the terminal is nothing short of epic, and perfectly fitting for this final installment.
Throughout the antics of Electrikhana Two, I can’t help but feel a sense of loss shadowing awe. This is Block’s final Gymkhana film. The car world lost one of its heroes, and there’s no respawn point where he’s at. These landmark films that pushed boundaries and ignited desire will no longer be helmed by the same visionary. It’s possible that Travis Pastrana could take up the mantle as his Gymkhana films have been consistently excellent, but with Block no longer drifting this Earth, and major Hoonigan talent like Brian Scotto and Eugene Hertrech Jr. moving on to other ventures, something tells me the future of Hoonigan, and indeed the future of automotive media, isn’t going to feel familiar.
Whatever the future brings, we’re glad Ken Block strapped into the Audi S1 Hoonitron for one last ride. None of us expected there to be another Electrikhana, so this ultimate installation is a pleasant surprise to say the least. Thanks for an incredible era, Ken. Rest easy.
(Photo credits: Audi, Hoonigan)
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