FIRST DRIVE | The Porsche Taycan is a spellbinding feat of electric mobility
The Porsche Taycan is one of the most significant new models to be launched in the country this year.
And not just because its arrival collided with an apocalyptic pandemic — though it is noteworthy that the local custodians of the brand managed to work around Covid-19 constraints to bring it to market.
You would be forgiven for asking: in these austere times, why have we accorded such relevance to a product that is obviously expensive and niche-focused?
Well, the money aspect is relative.
Last week, for example, we national members of the media, including the Instagram fraternity, blew up our respective platforms with superlatives about the fresh-off-the-boat BMW X5M and X6M duo, requiring outlay north of R2m.
Around the same pricing region of the Porsche, but the Taycan is a specimen that warrants deeper reflection, versus a pair of burly sport-utility vehicles that can hardly be described as innovative.
For starters, it denotes a highlight on the timeline of the electric mobility evolution story in SA. It is yet another indication that the floodgates of battery power are continuing to widen, even on our tip of the continent. Very soon, the technology is going to be available in the most attainable, entry-level market segments. Wait and see.
If the Nissan Leaf, BMW i3 and Jaguar I-Pace pioneered the electric car genre locally, then the newest arrival from Porsche advances the category in a way that echoes the statement made by the (alleged) first man on the moon. This is one giant leap for electrified propulsion.
But enough dramatics. Let us get down to business.
At Porsche Centre Johannesburg this week, we received initial exposure to the vaunted Taycan, which, as you know, is the first all-electric production vehicle from the brand.
And certainly, the first authentic high-performance electric vehicle to be sold in our market.
Stylistically, the time-honoured hallmarks associated with hits from the Stuttgart manufacturer are evident. The overall shape faithfully apes the squatting cut-out of the 911, albeit infused with aromas of Panamera, while its hips put one in mind of a 718 Cayman.
And while the interior also mimics the ambience of the 992 launched last year, it is unlike any other Porsche before, thanks to its extreme commitment to digitisation. Seriously, even adjustments to the airflow direction from the ventilation slots are done via the central infotainment screen. Conventional, click-click, button-based switchgear is minimal.
After a short familiarisation period, we thumbed the fascia-based shifter-stalk into “D” and silently nosed out of the dealership, for our 250km test drive. The line-up comprises three versions: regular 4S, middle-grade Turbo and full-heat Turbo S. Yes, we know, the inclusion of the hallowed Turbo moniker (which even Elon Musk made fun of) is a tad nonsensical.
Be assured though, such trivialities will be pushed into an obscure corner of mind after experiencing the acceleration capabilities of the Turbo S model especially. More on that later.
Meandering down the N1 freeway, the Taycan feels no more intimidating to pilot than a Macan with a four-cylinder engine. It is docile and expectedly quiet with “Range” mode engaged, which caps the speed at 110km/h to prolong battery reserves. An “Electric Sport Sound” synthesiser adds an endearing, but not intrusive, acoustic presence to the mix. “Normal” mode is the next step up on the ladder, followed by “Sport” and the obligatory “Sport Plus”, while “individual” affords a degree of pick-and-mix.
The manufacturer claims a total range of 412km for the Turbo S when completely charged. When we left our starting point the range display promised a distance just under 400km. Like a car powered by internal combustion, driving style is going to play a part in the matter of frugality.
With electric motors positioned at either axle, the Taycan is four-wheel drive, wielding a maximum power output figure of 560kW with its overboost function. Combined system torque is a whopping 1,050Nm.
It is also the first of its ilk to feature a two-speed transmission, with the first speed optimising acceleration on take-off and the second aiding efficiency in cruising conditions.
The acceleration of the Taycan Turbo S is stupefying and was quite frankly brutal to my unprepared anatomy. After hooking onto the well-known “satellite road” that slices through the North West, I booted the right pedal down and my head was thrown back with inertia that had not been expected — followed by teary-eyed laughter and genuine amazement.
If the clinical, on-paper sprint time of 2.8 seconds fails to stir, then the physical thrust of the real-life demonstration ought to put things into perspective.
This car is frighteningly quick — nearly quicker than the synapses that execute thought into action. Overtaking is dispatched with ruthless, unfettered swiftness. Keep your foot planted and the Taycan Turbo S will run out of ideas at around 260km/h — but luckily our 120km/h national limit is far more manageable than the demands of a German autobahn.
At higher velocities we can attest to the grafted-down stability of the automobile. The 800-volt battery system is sandwiched in the floor beneath you, ensuring that all-essential low centre of gravity. It is also the most aerodynamic Porsche on sale today, with an atmosphere-slicing drag coefficient of 0.22.
Four-wheel steering (coupled with four-wheel drive, aforementioned) means that you would have to do a great deal to get the Taycan to the point where it demonstrates even an inkling of waywardness. Grip levels proved unshakeable. And surprisingly, so too did its composure on poorer road surfaces. That can be attributed to adaptive air suspension.
What about the practicalities of ensuring that battery system is kept fed with volts? Porsche will give you what it calls a Home Energy Manager (HEM), which can be installed into your domestic grid, facilitating a 22kW charging capacity, enabling full charge in around four-and-a-half hours.
Fast-charging facilities are to be rolled out at all Porsche Centre outlets. These will be able to yield as much as 80% of battery power in as little as 22.5 minutes.
Just as models like the original Boxster and Cayenne were lauded as game-changers from a commercial perspective — expanding beyond the 911 pigeonhole — so too will the Taycan serve effectively in setting the agenda for the future of Porsche.
2020 Porsche Taycan Pricing:
- 4S: R2,586,000
- Turbo: R3,426,000
- Turbo S: R4,027,000