"When I say go, I want you to floor it and turn in hard." That's not normally the kind of driving advice I would follow when entering a decreasing radius corner, especially with a rock wall on one side and a steep cliff on the other. But I'm not in a normal car: I'm sitting behind the wheel of the Rimac Nevera, an electric hypercar from Croatia that's completely rewriting the performance rulebook. When my passenger, chief development driver Miro Zrnčević, tells me to floor it halfway through the corner I do, and the Nevera accelerates out of the bend in a way I've never experienced before.
The Nevera doesn't have traditional stability or traction control systems because it doesn't need them. Instead, its four electric motors -- one for each wheel -- have the most impressive torque-vectoring system on the market. It's infinitely variable and can make more than 100 calculations per second, constantly adjusting output to each wheel to maximize performance. It makes turn-in sharper, improves mid-corner stability and aids with powering out on exit.
Plus, a quick steering rack with progressive weighting means I don't feel disconnected from the experience. Zrnčević says the Nevera will never understeer or oversteer, at least unless I put it in rear-drive Drift mode and actively try to get it sideways. The Nevera's cornering limits are far beyond what my brain thinks is achievable, and it behaves in a way that no other car really can.
This is Rimac's first serialized production model, following the Concept One and Concept S that were sold in single-digit numbers. Everything was designed, engineered and built in-house by Rimac, from the carbon-fiber monocoque structure and 120-kilowatt-hour battery pack to the electric motors and the software that controls everything. Rimac also provided the motors and battery pack to Pininfarina for its Battista hypercar, but the two models feel entirely different.
Total output from the Nevera's motors is 1,914 horsepower and 1,740 pound-feet of torque, a substantial 336 hp and 560 lb-ft more than a Bugatti Chiron Super Sport, not to mention 37 hp and 14 lb-ft more than the Battista. Pressing the accelerator to the floor results in world-record acceleration: 60 mph is reached from a stop in 1.9 seconds, but somehow that's the Nevera's least crazy performance figure. It hits 100 mph in 4.3 seconds, which is about how long it takes a Mercedes-Benz EQS580 to reach 60 mph. Keep it pinned and the Nevera runs through the quarter-mile in 8.6 seconds at 167 mph, making it the quickest production car ever, and 186 mph arrives just half a second later. Its top speed is 258 mph, besting the original Bugatti Veyron.
It's hard to describe how the Nevera's acceleration feels. Way more intense than the gut punch typical of high-performance EVs, the Nevera instantly sucks all the breath out of my body and reduces what's left to a puddle of Jell-o. My chest tightens, my heartbeat quickens and my palms sweat.
But despite the absolutely absurd performance, launching off the line or accelerating when already at speed is easy. There's no fighting with the steering to maintain control and no slip from the tires, as the torque vectoring works to make launches as effortless and quick as possible. And I don't need to engage any sort of launch control, I just switch the car into Track mode and floor it. Once I learn to look farther down the horizon than normal and get used to the car's capabilities, quickly chaining together tight sections of mountain road starts to feel natural. Getting back into a Mercedes-AMG SL63 to drive home after experiencing the Nevera feels like jumping into an original
The Nevera stops as intensely as it accelerates. It has the strongest regenerative braking system of any EV, with 300 kilowatts of stopping power allowing the Nevera to decelerate at 0.4 g. When the regen isn't enough, the Nevera also has 15.3-inch carbon-ceramic brake discs and six-piston calipers from Brembo. An electro-hydraulic brake booster distributes needed force between the friction brakes and electric motors. If the battery is too hot the car will use more of the physical brakes, and if the brakes are too hot it will use more regen. Simulated pedal feel makes sure these transitions are unnoticeable to the driver, and it is some of the smoothest and most satisfying braking I've experienced in an EV.
Rimac says the Nevera weighs 4,740 pounds, but it doesn't feel nearly that heavy. The structural battery pack, roof and rear subframe all form the largest single piece of carbon fiber in the industry, which weighs less than 440 pounds. The battery pack's T shape helps give the Nevera a weight balance of 48/52 front/rear, much like a traditional mid-engined supercar, and it has a super low center of gravity. The battery pack doubles as an integrated component and adds 37% structural stiffness to the monocoque tub. Rimac says the Nevera is the stiffest production car ever -- plus it has fully completed all necessary US crash tests.
Maybe the least outrageous part about the Nevera is its design. Don't get me wrong, it's a great looking hypercar, but it keeps extravagance to a minimum. The overall design language is largely the same as what we saw from the Concept One in 2013, but with sharper lines, more intakes and refined surfaces. The coolest elements are the side vents, which are shaped like a traditional cravat necktie worn by the Croatian military. The hood flap, underbody, rear diffuser and rear wing are all active, and constantly being adjusted independently for optimal aerodynamics. A high-downforce mode increases downforce by 326%, while the low-drag mode reduces drag by 17.5% and results in a pretty slippery drag coefficient of 0.3.
Accessed through butterfly doors, the Nevera's cabin is easier to get into than many other hypercars, partially thanks to the thin carbon-fiber sills. As a driver I'm greeted by a thin-rimmed steering wheel in front of a TFT digital gauge cluster and a larger touchscreen canted towards me, while the front passenger has a long horizontal screen displaying speed, power and other info. Three rotary knobs with screens on them control things like drive modes, gear selection and torque distribution. The overall design is simple, but there are cool details like a row of analog toggle switches, rectangular air vents and plenty of carbon-fiber, leather and billet aluminum accents.
One feature I don't get to sample is the AI Driving Coach, which utilizes 13 cameras, 12 ultrasonic sensors and six radar modules all powered by Nvidia's Pegasus operating system. The car can drive itself around a race track, showing you the optimal driving line and braking zones. You can also activate it while driving yourself, with the AI coach giving you verbal instructions on how to improve your lap times.
The Rimac Nevera is a showcase of what's possible from electric car performance. The 150 lucky customers who are dropping in excess of $2 million on a Nevera are getting the quickest car on the planet, one that defies physics in the way it drives while also being able to comfortably, silently glide through a city center free from dirty emissions. If there's one problem with the Nevera, it's the lack of drama. While it feels far from disconnected to drive, despite all the techno-wizardry, it could do with being more exciting -- the Nevera is all about extracting the absolute maximum amount of performance from a driver, with less of a focus on actual driver enjoyment. But that's a small nitpick for what is a massively impressive, engaging car.
It's also a glimpse into the future of one of the biggest players in the hypercar market: Bugatti. The legendary French marque is now part of the Bugatti-Rimac joint venture run by 34-year-old CEO Mate Rimac, with a new headquarters under construction in Croatia to augment Bugatti's existing facilities in Molsheim, France. Rimac promises that both companies will stay distinct, with the major benefits being Bugatti utilizing Rimac's advanced technology while Rimac takes advantage of Bugatti's existing manufacturing and dealer network. If this is what Rimac is able to achieve with its first real production effort, I can't wait to drive what comes next.