NEW YORK, Sept 16 — The folks at Moke America were very nervous to let me drive their car.More nervous than the fellas who lent me their US$3 million (RM12.6 million) Bugatti Chiron or a priceless Mercedes C111s (one of only 10 in existence). “It doesn’t drive like any car you’ve ever driven,” promised founder Todd Rome. He initially said I could drive it, then said I couldn’t, then said he preferred to drive it “away from the highway” before I got behind the wheel. (We were in the middle of Manhattan.) After that, he kept telling me to slow down—even though top speed on this sucker is 25 mph.
Hey, I get it. This was the only example of its new electric baby that Moke had in the states at the time. (They’re on sale now in the US in NYC at Manhattan Motors and in Southampton at Aventura Motors, or online, with 500 total expected for production this year and 1,000 next year.) And the street outside the Bowery Hotel can feel busy to those who don’t live in the neighbourhood.
But the US$16,000 electric four-seater—called the eMoke—performed fine. It uses front-wheel-drive and runs on a 12kwh lithium battery that gets the car to 60 mph in … well, like I said, never. But if it could, it might take 20 seconds or so. It gets to 25 mph in, say, 12 seconds? It takes eight hours to get a full charge on a 110-volt outlet, and it can go 40 miles on each charge.
Rome, the company founder, was right—it doesn’t drive like any car I’ve ever driven. It drives like a golf cart. And that’s OK.
Major star power
You may remember the mini Moke jeep-like rigs from famous old photos of Brigitte Bardot and Hunter Thompson as they tooled casually around St Barts. Or from the news last May about the gasoline-fuelled versions from Moke USA (a separate company) hitting US shores. Those are IS$24,950 versions with a 4-cylinder, 50-horsepower engine, open tops with roll bars, and four plastic seats perfect for hosing down after a day at the beach.
The cars were initially commissioned by the British Army in the 1950s but failed to pass muster and were recommissioned to civilian life by a company called BMC in 1964. BMC sold fewer than 1,500 of them, and production ended in 1968. Fast-forward 45 years, and Rome, who founded Blue Star Jets, and his buddies—many of whom own property in St Barts and the surrounding isles—bought the naming rights to revamp the brand.
This offering isn’t much different than the one that was introduced at the start of the summer, except that it runs off electricity rather than gasoline.
You might be tempted to compare it against a US$23,800 Smart Pure Coupe or a US$32,995 Fiat 500e. But both of those are proper cars, with top speeds exceeding 80 mph, double the horsepower of this Moke, and driving ranges of 58 and 84 miles, respectively. They also have nice things such as doors, upholstered seating, and air bags. The Smart car in particular feels much more cramped inside than the Moke, but with its computerised instrument cluster, finished upholstery, and Bluetooth connectivity, even that is more versatile in the city and for daily driving.
Beach buggy specs
The eMoke doesn’t have regenerative braking, unlike most major electric offerings. As far as the driving experience, this is a good thing—it means the brakes don’t constantly jar you with their abruptness. On the flip side, it means you’ve got to consider stopping about halfway down the block before you actually need to stop.
The steering on the eMoke is likewise vague. You kind of twist the wheel wherever you want, and the car eventually gets there. I liked driving the car (I use that term loosely) in the East Village, but its natural home is on a beach or a ranch or a back road coming back from the Barefoot Contessa in East Hampton. Lots of straightaways and room for people to pass you and admire your beach-tousled hair.
Here are the benefits of owning such a rig: The four plastic seats are easy to clean after a spin in the sand; the doorless sides allow for immediate ingress and egress; and there is a top cover if you want it. You can reference the Beatles or The Prisoner if you want to impress your friends with pop culture references from way back when. You can choose from eight paint colours and trim lines to make it feel personalised to your own style. It’s a cult car, for sure. Just with a very, very small congregation. — Bloomberg