CAPE TOWN, Western Cape – I’m sat at the side of a quiet road, attempting to place my scattered thoughts in some semblance of order. The reason for my cerebral scramble? I’ve just sampled the launch-control function in the new Porsche Taycan Turbo S, liberating the full 560 kW/1 050 N.m and rocketing from standstill to 100 km/h surely even quicker than the company’s claim of 2,8 seconds. I swear I felt my brain slam into the back of my skull.
The neck-stressing experience follows a particularly restless night; one where fleeting patches of sleep were stitched together with thoughts of my first new-vehicle launch since the world was turned upside down (yes, I’m alone in the car, which has been thoroughly sanitised) and undiluted anticipation for driving something entirely different to the performance-car norm.
While I appreciate the howling combustion engine as much as the next guy (the last time I snaked along these familiar Western Cape roads was behind the wheel of Lamborghini’s V10-powered Huracán Evo, right before lockdown), the Taycan is unlike anything else currently on the local market. And not just because it’s electric.
Positioned at the very summit of the four-door Taycan range, the Turbo S employs a permanently excited synchronous electric motor on each axle, drawing urge from a low-sited 93,4 kWh lithium-ion battery pack weighing 650 kg. As the aforementioned 0-100 km/h time suggests (in Porsche’s current range, only the 992-generation 911 Turbo S is quicker to three figures, and by only a tenth), this is the most extreme example in the Zuffenhausen-based firm’s three-strong Taycan line-up.
Interestingly, Porsche’s first stab at a fully electric production vehicle features a two-speed transmission on the rear axle (and a single-speed item at the front), with the first ratio optimising acceleration from a standing start and the second, longer gear improving high-speed efficiency as the car nears its 260 km/h threshold. I’ll avoid a technical deep-drive here and instead point you in the direction of Nicol Louw’s in-depth Taycan feature. You’re welcome.
Wondering exactly how far the Taycan Turbo S will go on a single charge? Well, like any other vehicle, that depends to a large degree on how you drive it. The German firm claims a range of 412 km, with a corresponding consumption of 26,9 kWh/100 km. But after my circa-200 km trip – which featured a healthy mix of full-throttle sprints and more judicious stretches of driving – I noted an indicated figure of 30,3 kWh/100 km. For reference, I’m currently averaging 12,3 kWh/100 km in CAR magazine’s long-term Volkswagen e-Golf, though that’s taken plenty of effort.
Spent today getting acquainted with the electric Porsche Taycan Turbo S. Launch control left me stunned (I swear I felt my brain slam into the back of my skull), liberating the full 560 kW/1 050 N.m from the 93,4 kWh battery pack. This flagship starts at a touch over R4-million. pic.twitter.com/7CjjNQjFch
— Ryan Bubear (@Ryan_Bubear) July 29, 2020
Having spent almost six months with the aforementioned electric Golf, I’ve become relatively well versed in the art of extracting maximum range from a battery. Thing is, in the VW there’s seldom a temptation to mash the accelerator to the carpet at every given opportunity. With the Taycan, the inverse applies, thanks to the astonishing overtaking acceleration on offer. It’s a real point-and-shoot affair, although in this case the weapon’s less of a handgun and more a full-blown missile launcher. A largely silent one at that.
I say “largely” since the Taycan Turbo S ships standard with a system designed to “enhance the vehicle’s own sound”, delivering an artificially amplified chorus of electric-motor whines and whirs to ears both within and outside the cabin. A petrol-engine soundtrack it most certainly isn’t; thankfully, this setting can be deactivated via the infotainment system.
I found myself flitting between driving modes more than I would in a conventionally powered performance vehicle, making the most of that brutal, linear acceleration in “sport plus”, dialling things back for highway cruising in “normal” and employing the battery-conserving “range” mode at town speeds (“sport” and “individual” are on the menu, too). All with a keen eye on the indicated range, of course.
Porsche has handily positioned a regenerative-braking toggle on the steering wheel, giving the driver the option of feeding power back into the battery when conditions allow (without this engaged, the vehicle effectively coasts when the driver backs off the throttle). The recuperative braking effect is not nearly as strong as that displayed by, say, a BMW i3 or Jaguar I-Pace, which makes pure one-pedal driving practically impossible.
That decision likely had much to do with the firm’s aim to endow the Taycan with the driving qualities of more traditional Porsches. And the firm has been fundamentally successful in this pursuit, with the 2,3-tonne saloon skipping skilfully along the fine line between comfort and dynamics. The ride quality is excellent thanks to standard three-chamber air suspension (and in spite of the low-profile rubber wrapped round the 21-inch alloys), the body stays resolutely flat through corners due to the rock-bottom centre of gravity and grip levels are frankly eye widening. Sure, it’s a portly car but it manages its weight admirably.
As we’ve come to expect from Porsche, perceived build quality in the cabin is top notch. A highly configurable, curved instrument cluster measuring a whopping 16,8 inches is sited above the steering column, while a 10,9-inch touchscreen is centrally mounted, with the 8,4-inch item (with haptic feedback) below that taking care of climate functions.
While the driving position is pleasingly low, headroom in the rear is a little tight for six-footers (foot space, though, is fine thanks to the adoption of clever recesses in the battery pack below the footwell area). The front luggage compartment is a comparatively pokey 81 litres but the rear version will take a useful 366 litres, says Porsche.
What about charging? Well, track down a high-power, direct-current charging station and Porsche says you’ll be on your way with an extra 100 km of range in “just over five minutes”; hitting 80 percent from almost empty will take around 23 minutes. Of course, most buyers will simply charge overnight at home using a Porsche-installed system, which the German company says will yield a full battery in around 4,5 hours.
Right, to the big question: how much does it cost? Well, while the base 4S starts at a little over R2,5-million and the mid-spec Turbo comes in at nearly R3,5-million, this flagship Turbo S kicks off at a smidgen more than R4,0-million, rendering it the most expensive model in Porsche SA’s current line-up. Were it not for South Africa’s punitive import duties for electric vehicles, it may well have snuck in for less than the 911 Turbo S.
So, now that my brain has settled back into its correct position (and yours has been jarred by that starting price), how would I sum up Porsche’s first all-electric vehicle? Well, the Taycan is nothing short of an astonishing feat of engineering, serving up an entirely fresh flavour of performance to well-heeled South African buyers. I can’t quite decide what describes it best: brutally efficient or efficiently brutal.
Is the broader local market ready for a large-scale, Europe-style switch to EVs? The obvious answer is no, chiefly thanks to infrastructure (including power grid) issues and cost concerns. But that’s of little concern to the Taycan. And, should you have the means, that certainly shouldn’t stop you from enjoying what is a frankly fantastic piece of kit. Just be prepared to have your grey matter scrambled.
FAST FACTSModel: Porsche Taycan Turbo S
Price: R4 052 980
Engine: permanent-magnet, synchronous, one per axle
Power: 460 kW (560 kW on overboost) combined
Torque: 1 050 N.m
0-100 km/h: 2,8 seconds
Top Speed: 260 km/h
Energy Consumption: 26,9 kWh/100 km
CO2: 0 g/km
Transmission: 2-speed auto on rear axle; 1-speed on front axle
Maintenance Plan: Three-year/100 000 km
See Full Porsche Taycan price and specs here