Goodwood Festival of Speed: Ultimate EV showcase
Celebrating its 30th year, the Festival of Speed is now a world-renowned automotive event, and as such many manufacturers descend upon England’s greatest sporting estate to premiere their cars for the first time. And visitors to the 2023 event were treated to the biggest number of debuts ever seen, including a large number of EVs.
The Goodwood Festival of Speed is a very different event to what it was in 1993 when the grounds of Goodwood House welcomed visitors. Back then it paid homage to historic road and race cars and bikes, the entry list was relatively small and crowds were estimated to be around 25,000. Today the event looks forward almost more than it does backwards, with Electric Avenue displaying the very latest electric cars and Future Lab showcasing a broad range of future technologies.
Still, the most important aspect of the event – timed runs and open paddocks (so spectators and their kids can get up close and personal to the cars and the great drivers and riders of today and yesterday) still stands now. As does the ‘central display’ outside the front of the House (albeit 30 years ago it was an Aston Martin DB7 mounted on a plinth, rather than a group of cars suspended at great height from a sculpture), and prize giving for fastest time of the day. Back then it was 56.34 seconds, and it went to Willie Green in a Surtees TS20, a Formula One car used during the 1978 season.
By comparison, this year it was the 5.2-litre V10 engined Solus GT in the hands of McLaren factory driver Marvin Kirchhöfer, who clocked a spectacular 45.34 second time. It was good to see an electric car feature in the top ten too, with the Rimac Nevera setting a time of 49.32 seconds. Still, nowhere near the all-time record which belongs to Max Chilton in the McMurtry Spéirling fan car which set a 39.08 second run last year. It obviously spurred a lot of interest from people with money as the McMurtry is now available to buy – with wider tyres and revised fan-powered aero. Called the Speirling Pure, it was on display and on the hill as part of the Goodwood 75 Batch, luring people in with a £984,000 budget!
Suffice to say it’s just as competitive 30 years later, and the event is now world-renowned attracting 210,000 people. And 2023 had more than three decades to celebrate – there were a number of anniversaries including: 75 years since the Goodwood Motor Circuit opened in 1948 and 25 years since the foundation of the Goodwood Road Racing Club in 1998. It was just such a shame that that the Festival of Speed could not go ahead Saturday with forecasted high winds posing a serious risk to the various temporary structures across the site – a decision was not taken lightly we’re sure.
Still, there was plenty to rejoice in for the other three days, including the world debut of the Hyundai IONIQ 5 N, which aims to please petrolheads, with widened wheel arches and red accents inspired by the hot hatches of the 1980s and ’90s no doubt, punctuations in the torque delivery to mimic gear changes and piped-in sound via a ten-speaker system with one of the soundtracks including a four-cylinder turbocharged engine from the i30N.
The IONIQ 5 N represents a new segment of driver-focused high performance EVs through new technologies, including body and chassis reinforcements to provide higher torsional rigidity and direct steering and enable rally-inspired cornering, up to 478kW (641bhp) but with increased endurance thanks to industry leading thermal management and regenerative braking. You can watch it performing smoking donuts alongside the WRC Rally1 i20N on Goodwood’s YouTube channel.
Other EVs not to be missed included the Audi Hoonitron; a one-off all-electric tribute to the legendary Quattro, which starred in the film Electrikhana in Las Vegas with the late Ken Block at the wheel. It got sent up the Hill by Audi Le Mans legend Tom Kristensen.
Sadly neither Porsche’s Mission X nor Caterham’s Project V could be seen in action but both were worth a closer look at their respective stands. With the latter weighing under 1200kg and 220kW (295bhp), it certainly redefines the term electric sports car. Another car that might not ever make production was the AIM EV Sport 01, penned by a man who designed the Nissan GT-R, Shiro Nakamura, as well as the Alpine A290_β ( hot hatch version of the incoming Renault 5).
Pininfarina’s beautiful hypercar – the Edizione Nino Farina – named after the first ever F1 World Champion, nephew of Battista, the founder of the marque, had Nick Heidfeld at the wheel taking advantage of its 1397kW (1874bhp) quad motor set up.
One of our highlights was the all-electric version of the new 5 Series, the BMW i5, which beats the E60 M5’s 503bhp V10 even when in its normal 380kW (510bhp) mode. In Boost mode, it’ll deploy 449kW (602bhp) to all four wheels via two electric motors. Conversely, it’ll also do 320 miles on a charge – or 361 miles in the lower-spec eDrive model.
Recently impressed by the MG4, we were also delighted to see three global debuts from the brand at Goodwood, including the Cyberster, MG4 EX4 concept and the MG4 XPOWER. The latter - MG’s most powerful production car capable of delivering 320kW (429bhp) - shared top-billing with the Cyberster roadster which proved to be equally rapid on the hillclimb. The EX4 concept boldly reimagines the Metro 6R4 rally legend of the 1980s, but moving with the times, is now underpinned by the aforementioned MG4 XPower’s extremely powerful electric drivetrain.
electric roadster concept
Now in its third year, the Electric Avenue gave visitors the chance to see the very latest EVs side by side with no pressure to put a deposit down and knowledgeable individuals to chat to. At the smaller end of the scale was the MINI Electric Convertible, ORA Funky Cat, smart #1 Brabus and Abarth 500e Turismo Convertible, while going up in size a little there was the Toyota bZ4X, Lexus RZ 450e, Renault Megane E-Tech and Ford Explorer. Porsche was also present with its Taycan Cross Turismo, as well as the EQS 450 4Matic from Mercedes-Benz and Maserati unveiled its Grecale Folgore, which is very exciting, especially when you consider companies that have historically offered similarly sporty vehicles – think Ferrari, Lamborghini, Aston Martin and Bentley – are yet to offer an electric car.
On the more luxurious side of things, there were cars like the Hyundai IONIQ 6, Genesis X Convertible and Lotus Eletre R (on their own stands), and one that divided the crowds was the Charge '67 by Charge Cars – an all-carbon, all-electric 1967 Mustang Fastback. Should a car like that have a throaty V8 roar or is the cutting-edge technology a way of future-proofing an iconic classic?
There were also some exciting new entries from Alpine with its A110 E-ternité concept and companies you may not have heard of such as the Human Horizons HiPhi Y and Z and BYD (Dolphin) and Nio (ET5) – the first time cars from the Chinese manufacturers have come to Europe.
While there’s no denying the sound of guttural, aggressive engine notes and the smell of petrol fumes that fill the air at the Festival of Speed is enticing, even the purist of EV heads were treated to a spectacular event this year. Apart from the overwhelming crowds, this is an event that I’ve personally attended for 23 years now and it never fails to disappoint. We're already looking forward to 2024!