Porsche Taycan: now in SA, pushing us into a new world of electric vehicles

By Miles Downard

I’ve had a few weeks to reflect on my experience with the Porsche Taycan. This reflection period is something I’ve imposed intentionally rather than rush home after a morning blast around Gauteng to put pen to paper. The reason being that the Taycan’s performance dwarfs anything I’ve driven before and more than a moment to collect ones thoughts is necessary. Add to that the fact that it’s bleeding edge technology, being an electric vehicle of the highest order, so the immediate sensation was euphoric.

A cooling off period has therefore allowed some sensibility to cut through that euphoric cloud but first, some facts.

The Porsche Taycan is the company’s first electric vehicle, boasting three derivatives, namely a 4S, Turbo and Turbo S. Perhaps a confusing naming convention considering there is no turbocharger present, of course, however is consistent with Porsche’s overall nomenclature. 

Each derivative has an electric motor attached to both the front and rear axle, powered by an 800 volt battery pack that’s integrated into the Taycan’s underbody. A two speed transmission transmits power at the rear axle. The overall packaging, specifically the battery cells, is such that the Taycan has the lowest centre of gravity of any Porsche with only a marginally higher seating position than the ever popular Porsche 911 sports car.

Read also: BMW i3: Is running an electric vehicle all that simple here in SA?

The Taycan’s performance figures are stratospheric and account for a lot of the euphoria I was feeling on the day I was allowed behind the wheel of South Africa’s most advanced electric vehicle. In the Taycan Turbo S, 0-100km/h takes a mere 2.8 seconds thanks to 1050 torques that are trying to peel the tarmac off the earth’s surface using small rubber contact patches. The first 40 metres are covered at a longitudinal acceleration of over 1g which essentially means you’re weightless. It’s the most intense sensation I’ve ever experienced in a car and even more impressive when you consider the vehicle tips the scales at 2.4 tons. Perhaps even more impressive is the Taycan’s ability to repeat maximum performance runs over and over without causing damage to the battery pack, unlike it’s rivals.

That performance isn’t limited to blasts between traffic lights either. The Taycan has that sort of punch when you’re at highway speeds too, giving it an overtaking ability that’s near unrivalled. Out on the open road we were able to show the Taycan a corner or two, which is where things get interesting bearing in mind it’s weight. Because they’ve packaged the weight so low down and added sophisticated ride leveling suspension it’s able to corner impressively to say the least, followed by an ability to really haul itself out the other end of a corner. It’s quite a thing.

So that’s all the good stuff. The kind of stuff that wows you on a morning where you just know you’re experiencing something properly cutting edge. The more pertinent question is what’s the Taycan actually like in a real world scenario, like a commute in traffic, or a longer distance cruise. My reflection time has allowed me to crystallise my views on the Taycan as follows.

Commuting in a Taycan is not unlike doing so in a Panamera, or any other luxury saloon car for that matter, other than perhaps being less noisy than a combustion engine powered vehicle. But when you’re playing in this uber luxury segment the cars are all so well insulated you often forget there’s an engine making explosions anyways. A key difference from a driving point of view is the absolutely instant torque delivery from the electric motors. Prod the throttle pedal and you’re off like a scalded cat. Another difference is the regenerative effect of coasting and braking. This means that when you coast along, rolling up to a traffic light or headed downhill the car can recharge its battery and the noticeable impact is that you can actively feel the car slowing down without you touching the brake pedal. 

On a more gentle highway cruise the Taycan once again feels much like other luxury Porsches. Quiet, comfortable and well appointed. It boasts all the toys one would expect from a modern Porsche, along with a few goodies specific to the Taycan being an electric vehicle. So in place of your normal fuel consumption you’re showing kilowatt hours per hundred kilometres for example. 

The big talking point of most electric vehicles, outside of performance, tends to centre around range. The Taycan, with it’s cutting edge battery technology, can manage around 350km on a single charge on your average weekly usage cycle incorporating mainly city roads. That’ll stretch to over 400km in ideal conditions which is impressive. Charging the Taycan is perhaps less impressive. You see it’s designed for particularly high output fast chargers, some 270kWh to be exact which in five minutes would add 100km of range. Another 22 minutes would see you up to 80%. . 

The problem for us is that South Africa does not support that kind of charging network, not by a long shot. Our highest output charger is nearer 80kWh at fast charge points dotted around major routes and cities. However, should you wish to charge at home on a good old wall socket in a single phase household you’d be near 30 hours charging time, which drops to 10 hours if you’ve got 3 phase power.

I’m left feeling that the Taycan is something on a conundrum here in SA, given our present circumstances. It’s clearly beyond our available infrastructure so should you acquire one you’d need to go in understanding that you’re going to be waiting for the country to play catch up on that front. At the same time you’re getting what is arguably the most sophisticated electric vehicle in the world right now while it’s main rival, the Tesla, isn’t available here and doesn’t seem like it will be any time soon.

At an asking price starting at R2,5 million, ranging to R4,0 million for the Turbo S, it’s hard to make any direct comparisons, obviously. We’re in new territory here but there’s one thing for sure, this Taycan is very impressive territory.

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