10 things you need to know about the Ariel Hipercar
We've been behind the wheel of Ariel's jet-engined creation. Here's all you need to know
Malevolent. I’ve been looking for a single word to encapsulate Ariel’s Hipercar, and that’s the best I’ve come up with so far. Have a go yourself in the comments beneath. In the baleful glare of those unblinking eyes it’s got the demeanour of a mechanical werewolf.
It is a challenging thing. It ain’t pretty and it’s gonna be shockingly expensive (approaching seven figures for a full house one with quad electric motors and the jet engine range extender). If you want the full lowdown on my first exposure to it, click these words. This is more of a deep dive into the car itself and a poke around it. It’ll cover some of the same ground, and some new, too.
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It’s not a big car, and it doesn’t have conventional supercar proportions. At 4.3 metres It’s about the length of a Golf, but considerably wider – 1970mm is full supercar scale. But it doesn’t look wide, especially from behind, because of that tall, domed rear deck. At 1354mm, it’s around 200mm taller than a Lotus Evija or Ferrari 296 GTB. They both have what we’d call conventional proportions: cab forward, glass tilted back, visual weight on the rear. This doesn’t. You could almost think it’s front-engined. Quite like the McMurtry Spierling in that regard – or the Ginetta Akula (remember that? first unveiled in 2019, and still apparently in progress).
The way it looks, especially at the rear, is mainly dictated by the technical package. The electric motors sit inboard, with their individual power inverters and cooling systems packaged in and around them. The jet engine (more on that later) sits higher up, pulling air through the roof vent and exhausting it out the back deck.
Here’s the front deck. Not any easier to get your head around in this picture is it? Ariel wanted the Hipercar to carry forward the same lightweight and open philosophy as the Atom and Nomad, despite being a closed cockpit car with doors. Tricky. But also clever. You see the vertical front wings? They’re designed to break up the airflow before it hits the side mirror, so serve to reduce overall drag. The bonnet, by the way, is mostly open space. Nail the throttle and tyre smoke comes puffing up through the gaps.Advertisement - Page continues below
3. Rear fin
Here’s the rear fin, which helps to recombine the airflow after the mirror as well as enhance for straight-line stability. No need for a giant rear wing for downforce. Have you seen the size of the rear diffuser? P40 was the car’s original codename when it was first announced back in 2017. Hipercar is not it’s final name either, just a contraction of High Performance Carbon Reduction.
More lettering, and it’s all a bit of fun. Good font choice, it’s all very Top Gun. But then it is powered by a jet…
5. Jet engine
Here it is. Now, if you’re thinking what I’m thinking, you’re wondering just how hot exhaust gas is when it comes out the back, and what that might do to anyone nearby. Obviously, that’s been thought of. The sleeve around the outside is designed to draw a jacket of cool around the exhaust, and the hot gases themselves will have already been cooled from full combustion temperature. Apparently, this meets current legislation. Not that the DVSA can have come across that many cars with jets attached…
Anyway, it’s not that powerful – just 34bhp, but all it’s doing is charging up the 56kwh battery pack that feeds the electric motors. Same principle as Audi’s e-tron Dakar machine.
6. Fans and more
It’s not just the jet engine causing issues for small children at the back – look at all the cooling fans. Ariel believe they’ll be able to keep them on display in final production, although possibly with some sort of protection against small, jabbing fingers. What a view, though, eh?Advertisement - Page continues below
In case you weren’t sure it was a prototype. Wires everywhere, blank panels, industrial switches and no shrouds. Nothing is finalised in here yet, but it’s worth pointing out a couple of things. The steering wheel is adjustable for reach and rake, you sit higher than you expect (the battery pack sits under the floor rather than behind you as in the Lotus Evija) and there won’t be a touchscreen. Ariel tried them and found them too tricky to operate on the move. Tell us something we don’t know. In fact, could you tell the rest of the world’s car firms while you’re at it?
8. Roof panel
Yet another fighter jet feature – although actually that’s rubbish isn’t it? Fighter jets tend to have full clear canopies. It’s Boeings that have roof panels. Anyway, the Ariel has one and it has many functions, from starter and gear select to mirror controls and door release. You’re thinking these are a long way from your driving eyeline and therefore just as awkward as a VW Group touchscreen menu? The idea is these are controls you shouldn’t need to use on the move. Ones you do will be easier to find.Advertisement - Page continues below
9. Steering wheel
Like the steering wheel. Obviously it’s not finalised yet, but it’s got neat rotary controls for the lights and wipers, levers for horn and main beam and buttons for your driving modes. The little paddles you can just see the tips of behind? Those are your turn signals. I lost count of the number of times I went for a downshift and indicated left. If there’s a paddle there, I’m going to pull it.
Something else that isn’t production ready yet. The finished car will have carbon wheels to go with its carbon body panels. At the moment those are 3D printed and help explain why the Hipercar currently weighs 1759kg. Still, with 1180bhp (each wheel has essentially the same power as a whole Atom 4), the Hipercar is already a long way from slow.