Nikola NZT off-roader to pack 3.5 times more horsepower than its nearest rival
Four months ago, Nikola was promising its battery-electric side-by-side off-roader was going to make 555 hp (414 kW). To put that in context, the last similar vehicle we drove was the Yamaha YXZ1000R, which was insane fun at just 90 hp (67 kW). And, being electric, the Nikola's ludicrous 490 lb-ft (664 Nm) of torque would be available all at once, any time you put the pedal down.
That's fine for a sportscar, we thought, but there's no way an off-road side-by-side makes it to market with those kinds of figures. That would be crazy, bordering on irresponsible.
We were right. The new specs from Nikola are now out, and instead of 555 hp, the top spec version will make 590 hp (440 kW) and 722 lb-ft (1,047 Nm) of torque before gear reduction. We're speechless. We must experience this.
There will be four models, each named for its corresponding kilowatt output: the NZT 440 (590 hp), NZT 352 (472 hp), NZT 280 (375 hp), and the bottom-of-the-line, base model NZT 198, which will make a puny 266 hp – or nearly a hundred more horses than the Can-Am that's currently the most powerful side-by-side you can buy. And let's not forget, again, that it's electric, so you don't have to rev it to get to the thrust. It's all available, all the time.
It goes without saying, finding the floor with the pedal on any of these beasts will take a fair bit of nerve. Do it from a standstill and hang the hell on because you'll be blasting through the desert or the bush at more than 60 mph (96 km/h) around 3.5 seconds later.
All models will be 4WD and IP67 waterproof rated, with power steering, 33-inch Kevlar reinforced tires, 20-inch suspension travel on each wheel thanks to Fox Podium internal bypass shocks, a large tablet-style display, and front and rear winches.
In safety terms, they'll run ABS brakes, stability control, anti-rollover systems and torque vectoring, presumably in switchable modes. We suspect even the bravest drivers will be very happy these features are included.
There will be three options for battery packs: 75, 100 or 125 kWh, giving a range between 90-150 miles (145-241 km) of typical off-road use, which is vastly more than the 25 miles (40 km) per day the average UTV driver uses these things for. Charging will be via wall socket or J1772 quick charge outlets. And there's no range penalty for buying the higher powered models, either, because with electric motors there's no tradeoff between power and efficiency unless you actually stomp the pedal right down and use that extra power.
The Nikola's quiet riot will give drivers the ability to go absolutely banzai in the bush without disturbing campers or park rangers. Mind you, its zero-emissions environmental cred will take a bit of a hit from the fact that people are going to tear the ground to pieces with these things, flinging giant rooster tails of Earth skyward every time they hit the throttle, so you won't exactly be able to call yourself an eco-warrior behind the wheel of an NZT.
There's one area where the Nikolas will struggle: weight. Where the competition weighs in between 1,558 and 1,848 lb (707 and 838 kg), the Nikola will be between 2,300-4,200 lb (1,043-1,905 kg), depending on specifications – chiefly due to the battery pack, we'd imagine. But since even the smallest battery pack has a whopping 90-mile range, and batteries are still famously expensive, we'd assume a lot of folks will go for that and keep the weight to a minimum.
Either way, even the smallest of these things is so damn powerful that it'll eat up any weight penalty and likely still come out ahead of the gas burners. We're very much looking forward to seeing how the electrics stack up in racing terms – and in sales figures.
Side-by-sides are a fairly niche product, and, like the Teslas they share name inspiration with, the Nikolas will hit the market at a premium price point that fits their outrageous performance figures. The base model will start at US$28,900, a couple of grand higher than the base model Can-Am Maverick X3 RS Turbo R, which is an awful name if ever we heard one. No price has been given for the top-spec 590-hp NZT 440, but production is slated for the end of 2018 and deliveries in 2019.
Check the vehicle out in the video below.
Source: Nikola NZT