by Patrick Rall
Recently, I “test drove” the 2035 SRT Tomahawk Vision Gran Turismo — virtually, via the Gran Turismo 6 game for Play Station 3. The Gran Turismo series is touted as one of the premium racing simulators on the market today — and has been for six generations. The game creators at Polyphony Digital invited automakers to create futuristic high-performance cars to use in the game; the SRT Tomahawk is the latest Vision Gran Turismo car and based on my experiences, it is the best.
When the SRT design and engineering team set out to create their virtual 2035 Vision Gran Turismo car, a goal was to make the SRT Tomahawk better than any of the other futuristic cars in this series. The result was a car that weighs 1,658 pounds and packs 2,590 horsepower, with all-wheel drive and pneumatic body panels helping it to cut through the wind like no other car ever entered into a Gran Turismo race. The Tomahawk is easily the best performing car on Gran Turismo 6, but after creating this car and playing it in the game, the designers from SRT and Sony were concerned that it was just too extreme for people to enjoy it. They were worried that the performance parameters were so outrageous, with G force levels requiring a special suit while driving, that gamers would try to drive it, struggle, and immediately change cars.
To avoid this problem, the SRT team went back to the drawing board, designing a milder “street” version of the SRT Tomahawk with “only” 1,007 horsepower, and a GTS-R version with 1,450 horsepower. The original 2,590 horsepower version was labeled the X version, and has gobs more power, with the intricate aerodynamics package that uses air-driven, computer controlled panels all around the vehicle to aid in every aspect of performance. It has a low drag, high speed mode, a braking mode, and the normal driving experience, during which the panels move to help the Tomahawk cut through the air more efficiently. The moving body panels of the SRT Tomahawk X actually help the wheels turn the car by altering how the air is moving around the body.
It all sounds crazy – I know – but what should be stressed here is that the SRT Tomahawk in Street, GTS-R and X form were all totally designed and engineered virtually by the SRT team. They even considered building one, but the costs would be far too high for a simple concept car that, in the game, is labeled as a 2035 model year vehicle.
In the game, you have you work your way up from the Street version to the X. This way, you get a feel for the basic handling, acceleration and braking capacities gradually in preparation for the 2,590 hp Tomahawk X.
To see how these three different versions of the SRT Tomahawk handled in Gran Turismo 6, members of the Chrysler and Sony teams set up stations where we could drive the futuristic hypercars in the simulated world of GT6. We had the consoles shown above with a GT steering wheel, a racing seat, and pedals with a screen mounted in front of us for a first-person feel of the new Tomahawk on the track. To add to the experience, the SRT team had a challenge for the journalists to see who could turn the fastest lap in the SRT Tomahawk X.
I am a moderately avid gamer, and while I’ve not played Gran Turismo 6 in a while, I’ve owned and played every version of the Gran Turismo series. However, I have never played in a console with a wheel and pedals before, so there was some learning curve. The wheel provides feedback similar to a real car which, when coupled with the dynamics of Gran Turismo 6, gives you a real workout while throwing the car around the track. I could have turned faster laps with a normal controller, but the simulator console offered a better feel for the car.
The venue for this virtual test drive of the Chrysler Group’s most incredible hypercar of all time was Laguna Seca raceway. I started off by driving the SRT Tomahawk Street and, not surprisingly, it wasn’t all that difficult to pilot around the intricate road course. It accelerates like the Bugatti Veyron, but unlike the big, heavy Bugatti, the Tomahawk can handle a turn. Even in street trim, the Tomahawk slips through the turns with ease while reaching big speeds on the short straights so as hypercars on a video game go, the SRT Tomahawk Street is a beast.
However, the Tomahawk Street is just another virtual lightweight supercar with a thousand horsepower, so I was eager to get into the GTS-R version to feel the difference. The GTS-R is mechanically similar to the Street version, except that the GTS-R is much lighter and yields superior braking, cornering, and even greater speeds on the short straights of Laguna Seca. With the all-wheel drive system, the fact that the Tomahawk GTS-R has a 1 to 1 power to weight ratio doesn’t even come up, as this beast sends the power to the ground in fine fashion, allowing you to carelessly mash the pedal when you come out of a turn without any real concern of wheel spin.
Mashing the gas of a 1,450hp car that can actually use all of that power equates to very quick exits from the turn and as a result, I was able to turn significantly better lap times with the Tomahawk GTS-R compared to the Street version – although even in GTS-R trim, the new SRT concept was “just your average ultra-high performance hypercar.” When I moved over to the SRT Tomahawk X, that all changed, as the X package takes this hybrid-V10 and air-powered hypercar to the next level.
The SRT Tomahawk X employs active body panels all around the car that are unlike anything that we have ever seen on a car – even in video games. There are active body panels above the front tires, above the rear tires, along the lower rear sides and, of course, the massive wing that makes up most of the rear area of the car. Several other cars on today’s market have rear spoilers that rise to aid braking and all of those panels swing out to support braking, but the SRT team took that approach a step further, allowing these active panels to constantly shift while driving in order to adjust how the air slips around the body. Much like the way parts of an airplane move to turn the plane by adjusting how the air moves around the body, the Tomahawk’s panels channel air in a certain direction to help the body cut through the air more efficiently.
Basically, the SRT Tomahawk X has the aerodynamic advantages of a fighter jet while having the basic mechanical goodies of a modern supercar. Oh, and with a curb weight of just 1,658lbs, the 2,590 horsepower affords this car acceleration like nothing I’ve ever experienced when the panels are tucked flat in high speed mode. Really, this power to weight ratio does allow the Tomahawk X to spin the tires a bit on a hard launch or a hard exit, but it is minimal and when the tires to grip – this car blasts to speeds like I’ve never seen in a racing simulator.
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High speeds aside, those high tech body panels might sound like an odd concept, but they make a huge difference as you make your way around the track. First, braking points are extended way into every turn, allowing you to basically stab the brake pedal for an instant in order to get it through a turn cleanly. Also, as your guide the Tomahawk X through the corners, the car turns much more sharply than either of the other packages that do not have the active body panels and in some cases, you only need to lift off of the gas going into a tight, high speed turn.
When going through sweeping, higher speed turns, these active panels provide monster downforce which leads to improved high speed stability, so even when you cruise through a long turn at 250 miles per hour, the Tomahawk clings to the road like it is on rails. In fact, the active panels allow the Tomahawk X to turn so sharply at high speeds, that a quick swerve of the steering wheel will quickly guide you into the grass or the wall, so this car has more learning curve than any car I’ve used in the Gran Turismo series.
At first, the car seems nearly impossible to drive and I found myself braking way too early and then turning into the barriers at higher speeds, but once I got a hang of the way this car brakes and corners – it is easily the best car I’ve driven in a video game.
As a result, I was able to make it around Laguna Seca in just 45.489 seconds with the SRT Tomahawk X (which was by far the quickest in the group). This is on a track where the official record was set by an F1 car that made it around the famous circuit in just 1 minute and 5 seconds – making my lap some 20 seconds quicker than the fastest real lap ever turned on the California course.
This is all based on an imaginary car, but in speaking with the SRT team, many aspects of the Tomahawk are possible – just not now, without making this a $10 million car. However, this car shows what the SRT crew is capable of, and as time goes on, we could see bits of this technology applied to actual real world vehicles. In the meantime, the SRT Tomahawk X is, without a doubt, the best car on Gran Turismo 6.
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