I’m not sure if your valet already gave you the news that there’s a new Knight Rider movie in production, but if he hasn’t, then I suggest you take this moment to both deliver to your valet a much-deserved face-slapping and to take a moment to yourself to let the news sink in. A new Knight Rider! Of course, a knight has to ride, so that means there needs to be a new KITT as well. And that brings us to the real question: with no more Trans Ams around, what kind of car should a 2020-era KITT be?
Because this question is so important, we’ll get input from multiple people on staff who all have fiercely-held opinions on this. Letting everyone have a say is the only reasonable way we can continue with work today, as things were erupting into chaos and screaming, tearful threats as we attempted to pick a single solution.
Before I give the answers, I think it’s useful to provide a little recap of the premise of the original 1982 show, according to a Wikipedia synopsis:
“Self-made billionaire Wilton Knight rescues police Detective Lieutenant Michael Arthur Long after a near fatal shot to the face, giving him a new identity (by plastic surgery) and a new name: Michael Knight. Wilton selects Michael to be the primary field agent in the pilot program of his public justice organization, the Foundation for Law and Government (FLAG).
The other half of this pilot program is the Knight Industries Two Thousand (KITT), a heavily modified, technologically advanced Pontiac Firebird Trans Am with numerous features, including an extremely durable shell and frame, controlled by a computer with artificial intelligence. Michael and KITT are brought in during situations where “direct action might provide the only feasible solution.”
So, there’s a lot there I don’t think I ever realized about the show, like the fact that Michael Knight was almost dead and resurrected with a new face, and so he was sort of renamed and, um, now sort of the property of a billionaire? Who also took his car and re-engineered it into an autonomous kill-bot? Did Michael get any say in all this?
Did people hire FLAG to do shit, or did they just sort of, you know, act? Was any of this legal? I mean, it’s basically a billionaire with an assassin team of a 3,000 pound robot and a former corpse.
Here, you can watch the scene where Michael is first shown the Knight Industries Two Thousand (KITT):
It’s weird we didn’t hear KITT talking there.
So, okay, assuming the goals of KITT and FLAG are the same—vague but exciting crime-fighting—then what would make for a good platform for the car?
To put some parameters in place, let’s say that it needs to be a new car for sale in 2020 (since that makes sponsorship more likely) and that we can assume the Knight Industry technicians will modify it dramatically, providing absurd amounts of power and wildly advanced AI and autonomy and turbo boosts and shit like that.
So, with that in mind, let’s see what we think will work:
Jason Torchinsky’s Pick: Chrysler Pacifica
With the sort of work that is expected of the man/car team of Michael and KITT, it only makes sense to have a vehicle with a decent amount of internal volume. KITT is effectively Level Six on the autonomy scale (normally that caps at five, but KITT is capable of not just driving anywhere, but deciding on where independently) so there’s hardly a need for Michael to be in the driver’s seat when traveling, so a van-like vehicle with flexible interior room could allow for important detective-ish or whatever sort of work is needed in transit.
Plus, if the goal of FLAG is to stop these above-the-law super-criminals, wouldn’t it be useful to have a way to actually detain people in the event they actually manage to catch anyone?
A Pacifica could have enough room for a sort of holding/interrogation/bathroom cell in there for just that sort of purpose, and even when unoccupied, all that interior room would be good for Michael to sleep/live in while undertaking complex, often clandestine investigations.
I think the Pacifica’s scale and fundamental driving dynamics are still capable enough to be upgraded to full KITT specs; any taller or larger a van would likely suffer, but the Pacifica should be able to keep a low enough center of gravity to handle well and the exterior dimensions aren’t so huge that maneuverability would suffer.
KITT needs to be a combination of indestructible sports car and mobile laboratory/headquarters/hotel/detention cell. And, let’s be honest, a place for KITT’s partner to bone, occasionally, because what’s the point of being The Knight Rider if not for as much tail of your preferred variety a possible?
Only a fast minivan can pull this off, and for that I think the Pacifica is an excellent choice.
Besides, Chrysler is likely to be thrilled to get any attention to these things.
David Tracy’s Pick: Ford Mustang Mach-E
As much as I love minivans (especially Chrysler minivans), I can’t really get onboard with Jason’s pick. I’ve driven KITT (well, technically it was a replica), and I can tell you that what makes that car feel right are its handsome looks and wacky, futuristic interior.
The KITT I drove wasn’t really quick, and lord knows that old Firebirds didn’t exactly handle as well as modern sports cars, but I think it’s safe to assume that for the real KITT, FLAG heavily updated the suspension and powertrain. And of course, we know that the interior is all custom.
So really, KITT doesn’t have to start out as anything quick or technologically futuristic, it just needs to be stylish and appear cutting-edge. I get that having lots of interior space would offer more practicality, but that rugged, sleek, futuristic look is such an important part of KITT’s character that replacing that just to have more interior space of a minivan just doesn’t seem right to me.
I also think KITT should be based on a fairly high-volume, affordable vehicle, because that’s what makes the show appealing to the masses—the fact that you could own a similar car, and drive a non-sentient version of your favorite action hero.
With all that said, I’ll recommend the Ford Mustang Mach-E. Not, it’s not that stylish, but it looks much sportier than the Pacifica, and it’s modern. I think it’d be absurd to have a “futuristic” KITT based on one that featured an internal combustion engine. It’d be cool, and maybe its exhaust note would sound awesome, but this vehicle has to be the car of the future. It should be all-electric.
A black Mustang Mach-E would be perfect. It will be mass-produced, reasonably affordable, decently stylish, and thoroughly modern. Plus, with four doors and the packaging advantages of an EV, it will offer plenty of the space the “holding/interrogation/bathroom cell” that Jason mentioned.
Rory Carroll’s Pick: Tesla Model Y
The 80s was a time when a you could look around at the world and despite it’s many serious and terrifying problems, dare to imagine that things could get better. Back then, when you needed a futuristic, exciting car, you could call up whoever was in charge of product placement at pretty much any carmaker and probably end up with something reasonably cool.
In the almost 40 years since that show arrived, the notion that we have anything to look forward to has been proven to be laughably naive.
So, if they’re going to reboot Knight Rider for today, the car is going to have to be representative of 40 years of diminished expectations, it’s going to have to represent the humiliation of powerlessly watching the empire implode around us—it’s going to have to be a car for people so alienated, so diminished that the idea of owning anything with with a soul seems like an inscrutable artifact from a previous generation—it’s going to have to be fucking bleak. Gotta be a small crossover.
BUT! If it’s truly going to be a 2020 version of the show, the car should also represent the veneer of American technical superiority that some of us were clinging to as recently as a few months ago. It’s gotta be something from a company that is valued incredibly highly, even if nobody can say why. It’s gotta look like an NPC car from a video game that didn’t spend the money to license real cars. It’s gotta be a Tesla Model Y.
Andrew Collins’ Pick:
I feel like the essence of KITT is best captured by an attainable, normalish sporty car that’s been evolved to super high-tech whizbang status by the Knight Company or whatever it’s called. KITT already came back once, as a Mustang, which I think makes sense.
But it’s 2020 now and everybody’s obsessed with trucks. So why not some big-honking high-HP pickup with a bunch of ancillary lights on it? In fact, weren’t we just talking about–
Yeah, a Ram TRX would be perfect. Plenty of room for accessories, opportunities for chases to go on and off-road, and whoever replaces Hasselhof could continue the man’s tradition of flexing chest hair. Try driving a Model Y with your shirt unbuttoned, the car probably wouldn’t even let you!