Taming 1,500 Lb-Ft Of Torque In Superformance’s All-Electric Cobra Prototype


The 2019 biopic Ford v Ferrari boosted recognition for Carroll Shelby and his iconic, eponymous racecars so much that demand for anything bearing a Shelby badge skyrocketed. The cars that appeared in the movie came courtesy of Shelby-authorized replica builder Superformance and now, as a new generation clamors for modernized classics, Superformance plans to build an electric version of the iconic Cobra roadster.

I recently visited Superformance’s Irvine showroom, which houses everything from early “Slabside” Cobras to GT40s, Daytona Coupes, and even a Corvette Grand Sport. Nothing, safe to say, that ever hinted at a Cobra EV equipped with a Tesla P100D motor that currently puts down an obscene 1,500 lb-ft of torque. After first driving a 502-horsepower gasoline Cobra for a bit of context, I then jumped behind the wheel of the electric prototype to experience electrification’s profound performance potential for such a potent, yet nearly silent, sports car.


Reinventing An Electric Icon

Even having completed a full week of high-performance driving instruction at Radford Racing school, I still approached the electric Cobra with a bit of trepidation. But Superformance and Shelby Legendary Cars sales and promotions manager Rich MacDonald, who actually appeared in Ford v Ferrari and served as liaison during filming, gave me the grand tour and a quick primer on how to drive the prototype in the hopes of avoiding an uncontrollable burnout. After all, so much instantaneously available torque means that once the tires break loose, they immediately torch up to 18,000 RPM.

MacDonald’s own Cobra history dates back to 1963 at Riverside International Raceway, when his father, Dave MacDonald, drove the first Cobra to ever win a motorsport event. Filming that momentous occasion in Ford v Ferrari required wrapping a MkII Cobra in matching livery—and after shooting wrapped, Rich then bought the car, which now serves as his daily driver.

Key Features

  • Tesla P100D motor de-tuned to 1,500 lb-ft
  • LG battery cells with around 100 miles of range
  • Weighs less than a gasoline Cobra
Specifications

  • Engine/Motor: Tesla P100D
  • Torque: 1,500 lb-ft
  • Transmission: Single-speed
  • Range: ~100 miles
Pro

  • 1,500 lb-ft of instantaneous torque
  • Solidly built without creaks and rattles
  • Cobra style with modern technology
  • Somehow weighs less than a V8 Cobra
Cons

  • No V8 engine and exhaust sound
  • No manual transmission
  • $200,000 price tag

Tesla P100D Motor In The Trunk

Even with his decades of experience, MacDonald pulled out the Cobra EV tentatively himself while explaining that, in fact, Superformance already detuned the Tesla motor from 4,500 lb-ft down to a more “manageable” 2,500 lb-ft. But street driving with so much low-end grunt dictated dialing back the insanity even, further largely because the electric Cobra, at just under 2,400 pounds, actually weighs less than a comparable gas-powered version.

Lurking in the trunk, the P100D unit looks almost cribbed from Back to the Future‘s DeLorean, right down to the ominous “High Voltage” sticker. After demonstrating how to roll into throttle—if we can call the accelerator pedal a “throttle” in an EV—MacDonald handed me the keys.

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LG Batteries With 100-Mile Range (Or More)

Firing up the electric Cobra produces less of the fireworks that make any ICE Cobra such a spectacle. But even without that overwhelming sound (and smell!), in many other ways, the driving experience still retains a similar feel. Superformance asked Gotech Performance in Florida to rework the MkIII Cobra’s engine bay to house the LG battery cells, which help to keep the center of gravity low and produce an impressive 49-51 weight distribution front-to-rear.

The batteries allow for approximately 100 miles of range in this prototype, though MacDonald told me that Superformance plans to house more cells in the transmission tunnel in the hopes of raising that figure to 150-160 miles for the production version.

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Controlling An EV Cobra

Even calling the actual process of turning on the Cobra EV “firing up” feels like a bit of a stretch. In fact, I used the small touchscreen visible above. Surrounded by vintage gauges and a USB port, the dim screen will undoubtedly receive refinement before Superformance begins customer deliveries.

Without power steering, turning at slow speeds requires a bit of muscle but not too much and then, after easing into the drive, I found the rack-and-pinion setup perfectly responsive. A lack of creaks and rattles emerged as one of the main surprises while I drove the gas-powered MkIII with 26,000 miles on the odometer and the same held true here, even without a raucous 392ci V8 and side pipes to cover up any untoward noises.

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Assisted Brakes Somewhat Required

Power-assisted Wilwood brakes hide behind chromed 18-inch wheels, two of the only concessions to modernization that Superformance otherwise allowed on the Cobra EV—given that it is, after all, an electric car. But with the Tesla motor’s regenerative braking at the rear axle, engineered to work for a big sedan that weighs more than twice as much, I barely touched the brake pedal other than in the name of science. Unlike some front-wheel-drive EVs (the Polestar 2 Long Range Single Motor, mostly), rear-axle regen prevented any sensation that my hind legs might outrun my fronts. MacDonald and I both mused that, in the name of safety, Superformance should probably make sure the brake lights illuminate during regen by the time production begins next year.

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Charger Plug Under The Classic Fuel Filler Cap

On public roads, pushing the limits of either an ICE or EV Cobra quickly exceeds any semblance of safety, not to mention legality. But throughout the course of my day with Superformance’s cars, I discovered an eagerness building up—potential energy, you might say, coursing from the vehicle into my brain as the thrill of speed overwhelmed my limited capacity for logical reasoning. The electric Cobra almost proved the most thrilling, to an extent, because I started out so timid before even building up the courage to reach normal driving speeds. But after that short adjustment period, the EV clearly wanted more, faster, to push harder than I felt willing to go.


Fun little details emerged as I shot still photos of the Cobra EV later. A charger plug under the fuel filler cap perfectly encapsulates Superformance’s blend of modern technology and classic style, while the missing side pipes meant no concerns about “snake bit” while getting climbing out of the car.

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Minimal Exterior Cues

But to most onlookers, little in the way of external cues hint at the powertrain lurking beneath the electric Cobra’s skin—until those rear tires chirp and almost silently blast the flared AC body to infinity and beyond. A more informed eye might notice the larger wheels, nonexistent exhaust, and lack of racing stripes, though.

Where the MkIII Cobra I drove earlier produces an almost overwhelming, nonstop sensory bedlam where unruly noise, mind-melting acceleration, and that gasoline smell of carbureted fossil fuels all meet together, the EV prototype’s more composed performance somehow remains nearly as engaging, if decidedly less visceral. Superformance plans to perform real testing and confirm a theoretical top speed around 160-170 miles per hour, a 0-60 time under three seconds, and real range estimates soon. And customers who need an electric Cobra in their lives will be able to place orders in the near future, too.


For me, the heritage of a V8 Cobra still wins out but then again, I probably sits in the minority who prefer an early “Slabside” (a term connoisseurs prefer to avoid) equipped with the 289. And yes, I can make that claim definitively now because after we parked the Cobra EV prototype, MacDonald and I moseyed over to his own MkII and took that personal piece of Ford v Ferrari for a quick spin on the same lap, too.

Sources: superformance.com, youtube.com, imdb.com, and wilwood.com.

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