Electric Car or Not, Ken Block’s Gymkhana Still Delivers
Does removing an ICE car from a Ken Block Gymkhana film ruin or take away from the experience at all? No, it does not.
Ken Block and Hoonigan unveiled the latest video in the beloved Gymkhana series: Electrikhana on Tuesday. It features the Audi S1 E-Tron Quattro Hoonitron screaming through the glitzy, shut-down streets of nighttime Las Vegas. It comes 14 years after the first film aired, but the series still delivers.
I think it's safe to say that when Block and his team set out to make the first Gymkhana video, featuring a 2006 Subaru Impreza WRX STI in an airfield, nobody could have anticipated just how popular it would turn out to be. But now, countless sponsorships and hundreds of millions of views later, it's garnered the kind of commercialization that would ruin a lesser franchise. At their core, though, the films have always been about one thing and one thing only: watching Ken Block do incredible stuff behind the wheel of a car.
Tuesday's installment maintained largely the same and dependable ingredients: Block, an incredible setting, fantastic camera work, nearly 10 minutes of uninterrupted automotive stunts, and more reverse-entry drifts than you can count. The man is a king at sliding into a corner ass-first. The only variable here was the car; the Hoonitron is an EV, you see, and you'd be right to wonder if trading out such a vital part of the films' past—a roaring internal-combustion engine—would take any of the magic out of things. It doesn't.
For the first minute or so of the film, I watched with loaded expectations. I know what the accusations levied against EVs are. But I needn't have worried. In fact, the car adds to the theater of it all. Electrikhana is already one of the most theatrical films, shot completely at night and illuminated by the neon glow of The Strip. The Hoonitron's tire-shredding talents are on full display here, creating clouds of smoke that would make even the best of the best at Formula Drift jealous. It's a legitimately cool build and watching it dance in a way I've never seen an EV move was fantastic. I sat back and let the familiar awe and wonder of watching a Gymkhana film wash over me. All of a sudden, it was 2008 again. I had YouTube fired up on the family desktop, and I was calling my friends over to check out this cool new video I'd found with a name I had to sound out for the first time.
With the exception of a few heavy-handed Audi product placements, which made Electrikhana feel briefly like a Marvel movie, the film benefitted from a production slickness that can only, in turn, be translated into our viewing pleasure. It doesn't bother me that we commoners will never be able to drive like Block or build something like the Hoonitron. The series has always been about aspirational builds at the hands of an aspirational driver in an aspirational setting. They're pure escapism and entertainment.
I also appreciate that Block and his team used this platform to go with a batshit EV instead of another ICE car. The thrum of an engine might be missing, but this was like watching an RC car throw itself around The Strip, just with more banshee-like shrieking. It also serves to further normalize seeing EVs doing cool things.
I don't know if any Gymkhana film will ever live up to Gymkhana Five: San Francisco—which includes one of my favorite shots of all time; you know the one—but it's good to see the series pushing on strong in this new age.
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