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First Drive: 2024 Wiesmann Project Thunderball Prototype. Image by Wiesmann.

First Drive: 2024 Wiesmann Project Thunderball Prototype
Tiny German car maker Wiesmann has swapped traditional V8 power for electric motors, but can it be as effective as the old-school petrol versions?

   



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2024 Wiesmann Project Thunderball

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Wiesmann is little-known outside of Germany, but the sports car maker is about to go truly global with its all-electric Project Thunderball. Can a Wiesmann still thrill without a BMW V8 petrol engine? And can it really take on the likes of Porsche and Maserati?

Test Car Specifications

Model: 2024 Wiesmann Project Thunderball Prototype
Price: Circa £250,000
Engine: 500kW twin-motor electric drive with 83kWh (net) battery
Transmission: single-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Power: 680hp (see text)
Torque: 1,100Nm (see text)
Emissions: 0g/km
Range: 300-miles (approx)
0-62mph: 2.9 seconds
Top speed: not yet quoted
Boot space: 180-litres

Styling

The Project Thunderball looks very much like its Wiesmann predecessors. The German firm has been successfully building its own sports cars since 1989, and they all follow retro template with sixties-style lines that blend influences from classic Jaguars, Austin-Healeys, AC Cobras and more. The Project Thunderball takes all of that, and adds a hefty dollop of sophistication. Wider than older Wiesmann designs, its styling seems sharper and better resolved, although still entertainingly retro. The grille is made from a single billet of aluminium, while the rest of the bodywork is all carbon-fibre (older Wiesmann models used glass-fibre bodies). Underneath lies a cutting-edge bonded-and-riveted aluminium chassis, incidentally. The styling starts out very clean at the front, with the whole car swooping back from the front wheels, accentuated by vents neatly cut into the arches. At the rear, it gets a little more complex, and the final production version will get neater tail-lights and an electrically deployed spoiler instead of the prototype's fixed 'ducktail' rear end. Sum-up? It's gorgeous.

Interior

The Project Thunderball’s cabin is a mixture – arguably a very good balance – of the old and new. It uses the same basic layout of classic Wiesmann models, with lots of small analogue instruments in the centre of the dash, angled towards the driver. These instruments, though, are now laser-etched and look fantastic, not to mention that it’s really cool to have your electric car’s battery charge level recorded by a classic-looking clock. Those dials are augmented by a large touchscreen in the centre of the dash, and a smaller and very complex instrument display behind the three-spoke steering wheel (the wheel itself is a temporary item as Wiesmann is working on its own unique design). The dashboard is one big carbon-fibre moulding and looks terrific, especially set off by the tan leather seats and trim. In the centre of the console, behind the push-button gear selectors, there’s a little recess, which magnetically holds the chunky oblong key in place. Space is good — much better than classic models thanks to the wider cabin — and even this prototype feels comfy enough to drive all day, thanks in part to seats supplied by Recaro (Wiesmann used to make its own seats as its cabins were too narrow for bought-in items). Quality levels are excellent — there’s not a rattle nor squeak, despite the car’s prototype status.

Practicality

The one thing the Wiesmann won't be is practical. In roadster form, it has a small 180-litre storage area under that long bonnet and that's it. A putative coupe model should have a useful boot, but this one doesn't have any rear storage.

Performance

The Thunderball’s performance should live up to its James Bond riff title, with 680hp and 1,100Nm of torque providing arguably way more power than you’ll ever need. A 0-62mph time of 2.9 seconds should bear that out. We say ‘should’ as this prototype isn’t running at full power just yet. The battery’s cooling system is not yet quite up to speed, and Wiesmann (and the battery’s suppliers, Munich-based Roding Mobility) took the decision to turn down the wick in the interests of safety and making the prototype easier to work on.

Even so, we’re getting a healthy 437hp or thereabouts, and in a car weighing 1,775kg that’s not bad. The Thunderball accelerates smoothly and keenly, actually feeling far more in tune with the progressive power delivery of its V8 ancestors, rather than the sudden thump of most high-powered EVs. It may not yet be at full potency, but on a twisty back road near the Wiesmann factory (in the town of Dülmen, just outside Essen) we had no trouble at all keeping up with a V8-engined Wiesmann that was leading our convoy. There are actually two electric motors at the rear, feeding the back wheels through a Hewland-designed gearbox and hopefully Wiesmann will be able to preserve this prototype’s progressive power delivery for production.

With that big battery, aero-friendly body, and light (relatively) weight, range should be excellent — reckon on around 300-miles on a full charge. Wiesmann claims that the car will charge quickly too, at up to 300kW from a DC public charging point.

Ride & Handling

Considering this car is a prototype, it drives exceptionally well. There is a very occasional unwanted shimmy from the suspension, which speaks to a need for some final tweaks but otherwise the Thunderball is exceptionally confidence-inspiring. Driving a precious one-off prototype is always a nerve-shredding business, but the Thunderball's precise and talkative steering and its inherently good chassis balance means that you soon end up chucking it around as if you've been driving it for years. It's seriously impressive, and Wisemann's tradition of making cars that are designed to be useable on-road, rather than track-day specials, means that it's comfortable too. The suspension is firm, of course, but deftly damped and never uncomfortable (at least on the mostly smooth German roads of our test drive). How it will feel with full rated power and torque remains to be seen, of course, but this is exceptionally encouraging stuff.

Value

Wiesmann’s CEO, British-born Roheen Berry, has promised that the Thunderball will sell for roughly the same price as its petrol-engined stablemates, which suggests a sticker of around £250,000. That’s certainly not cheap, but so far EV sports cars have been confined to super-expensive stuff like the Rimac Nevera and Pininfarina Battista. This is much more affordable than those, and the Thunderball should steal a lead on the likes of Porsche’s upcoming electric Boxster and the electric version of Maserati’s MC20 supercar if Wiesmann can get the first cars to customers by late 2024, as promised. It will also be rather more exclusive than those cars as Wiesmann only builds a few hundred cars each year. You’d better get your order in quick, though — the first year’s production is already almost sold-out. Right-hand drive production is a possibility, too.

Verdict

It's a big ask for a small, independent car maker to take on the giants of the motor industry, but the shift to electric power opens up a gap of opportunity for companies such as Wiesmann. Project Thunderball shows that it's grabbing that opportunity with both hands, and while it's still a prototype and not yet operating at full power, this Wiesmann shows huge promise. It's already fun and quick in its detuned form. Imagine what it might be like at full chat...



Neil Briscoe - 18 Nov 2022



  www.wiesmann.com    - Wiesmann road tests
- Wiesmann news
- Project Thunderball images

2022 Wiesmann Project Thunderball prototype. Image by Wiesmann.2022 Wiesmann Project Thunderball prototype. Image by Wiesmann.2022 Wiesmann Project Thunderball prototype. Image by Wiesmann.2022 Wiesmann Project Thunderball prototype. Image by Wiesmann.2022 Wiesmann Project Thunderball prototype. Image by Wiesmann.

2022 Wiesmann Project Thunderball prototype. Image by Wiesmann.2022 Wiesmann Project Thunderball prototype. Image by Wiesmann.2022 Wiesmann Project Thunderball prototype. Image by Wiesmann.2022 Wiesmann Project Thunderball prototype. Image by Wiesmann.2022 Wiesmann Project Thunderball prototype. Image by Wiesmann.








 

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