“Soul, electrified”. On the face of it, this two-word tagline for Porsche’s first EV may look like the sort of marketing speak that initially wows when flashed across promotional videos of the Taycan spearing along a cityscape… only to fade into short-attention-span insignificance. When you look at those words in isolation soul, electrified – they speak of both the significance of what Porsche is trying to achieve by going the EV route and the challenges it faces in doing so. Not just from a public still deeply entrenched in a culture of internal combustion motoring, but also from the dizzying benchmark set by its existing products.
Controversial as it may be, Porsche’s cars aren’t held in such high regard because they’re always radically styled or the most powerful. There are plenty of rivals that set the pulse racing and barely manage to contain the firepower under their bonnets. Yet, they simply cannot match the way in which the Stuttgarter’s wares connect with the driver. You’d be hard-pressed to pinpoint the strand upon which that connection hangs. In many respects, it could be argued it’s physical; a sort of interplay between human senses and myriad moving parts of a well-engineered machine. Now that Porsche has dared to supplant that physical bond with an electrical connection, it begs the question: can a Porsche without a mechanical heart still have the soul to maintain that connection between driver and car? We spent a short, thoroughly enlightening stint with the RWD entry point to the Taycan range to find out.
Perhaps it’s a trick of its four-door profile or those muscular haunches, but upon encountering the Taycan in the metal for the first time, you’ll be surprised by just how compact it is. Despite being underpinned by a version of the J1 Performance modular platform servicing the likes of the Panamera, Bentley Continental GT, and Audi e-Tron GT, it’s only around 40 mm longer than a 911. Maybe Porsche was aware the departure from internal combustion to EV powertrains was already a considerable leap for a clientele base that’s been traditionally sensitive to change. Its design treatment of the Taycan is both familiar from the 911-esque roofline, to some hints of Panamera about the nose and interspersed with enough individual touches such as the lightbar and illuminated logo spanning the tail to warrant more than the odd double-take.
Another aspect of this particular Taycan that will please Porsche traditionalists is its adoption of a rear-engined, RWD configuration. Unlike its more powerful AWD stablemates, the entry-level model doesn’t feature a front-mounted electric motor, instead it mounts a single AC synchronous electric motor on the rear axle. This unit can develop up to 350 kW and 357 N.m of peak torque, and if the latter figure doesn’t sound particularly impressive, you have to remember it’s producing every ounce of that motive twist from zero revs.
While most EVs utilise a single-speed transmission (partly owing to its robustness and simplicity) it limits what such powertrains can achieve as manufacturers often have to choose between higher torque or higher top speed. The Taycan’s powertrain sidesteps this issue by utilising a two-speed transmission comprising two spur-gear stages, which represent the ratio of the second gear and a shiftable planetary gearset. This setup accommodates a first gear that favours strong acceleration and a far longer second gear that allows for higher top speeds
(230 km/h in the Taycan’s case) and greater efficiency at high speeds, where EVs tend to lose out to internal combustion units.
Our test unit was fitted with the optional (R137 360) Performance Plus battery that sees the standard 79,2 kWh single-deck lithium-ion array make way for a two-deck item with a gross capacity of 93,4 kWh. As our handy “at a glance” table alongside shows, the Performance Battery Plus brings with it considerable improvements in terms of operating range, something we were to experience firsthand during a unique energy-consumption testing.
We departed slightly from our usual fuel-run regimen when we took the Taycan out for testing. Accompanied by a variety of petrol, diesel and hybrid saloons (check out the fuel run video on our YouTube channel), we set the Taycan on a revised route covering close to 130 km, encompassing an even mixture of traffic-clogged suburbs and fast, sweeping coastal roads.
No matter how often you experience it, the novelty of EV driving with its near-silent travel and instantaneous torque never wears thin and the ease with which the Taycan wafts through traffic simply bolsters that appeal.
Without much in the way of open roads to exploit, we were able to appreciate just how well Porsche has packaged its first EV. The test unit was fitted with the optional 4+1 seating arrangement and, while rear accommodations are compact, there’s still a reasonable-for-a-sportscar
635 mm of knee room back there. The boot swallowed 232 litres of our measuring blocks with the rear seats in place and 496 litres with the seatbacks folded, not to mention another 42 litres in the nose. It’s a surprisingly practical package that’s more livable than the 911 but stops just shy of stepping on the toes of the more spacious Panamera.
As with the exterior, Porsche has melded traditional elements with high-tech touches, such as the tri-gauge instrument binnacle that now occupies a curved TFT screen, yet, it has kept physical touchpoints to a minimum by transferring most ancillaries to a tiered pair of haptic touchscreens. As expected, the perceived quality is top-notch, the driving position pleasingly low and the steering wheel is both functional and perfectly sculpted.
With the congested suburbs now dwindling in the rear-view mirror and the open, sweeping roads of the southern peninsula beckoning, we were about to receive an answer: does it drive as a Porsche should? In our earlier performance testing, it adhered to the remarkable performance consistency for which Porsche is renowned. It effortlessly despatched its claimed 100 km/h sprint time of 5,44 seconds with a 5,37-second effort on its very first attempt. The acceleration is, as expected, linear and relentless but in the grander scheme of all things Porsche, this particular car is fast although not blindingly so.
But there’s more to Porsches than just ballistic straight-line pace. There’s an unmistakable feel that’s hard to define. If you’ve had the good fortune to sample several Porsches, you’ll be aware of it. A manner in which the weight and gearing of the power steering are finely tuned, how feedback from the chassis tells you exactly what the car’s attitude is at any given moment and an almost tapped-into-your-synapses way in which it responds to throttle and steering inputs. It runs like a thread through everything from the 718 Spyder to the Panamera. To our infinite relief and huge credit to Porsche’s engineers, it’s here in the Taycan.
That wealth of low-end torque allows the Taycan to shrug off any negative ballast of its 2 209 kg kerb weight while the combi-nation of 48/52% front-to-rear weight bias and the battery pack’s low centre of gravity keeps everything thoroughly planted and composed under swift directional changes.
The steering, although not quite 911-pin-sharp, is wonderfully responsive and rear-end grip is mighty. However, with all that firepower immediately available at the flex of an ankle, there’s still just the tiniest hint of RWD playfulness to keep things characterful. Granted, all of that poise and power does want for a soul-stirring mechanical soundtrack, but the optional electric Sport Sound a bizarre, addictive addition that layers distant mechanical sound with a starship-like whoosh has an appeal all of its own.
Our route covered both congestion-choked crawl and some foot-flat fun and the Taycan returned 19,3 kWh/100 km against Porsche’s 21,5 kWh claimed figure.
After our time with the Taycan, some of the CAR team took a more profound look at what Porsche has achieved by going electric. There will be detractors who bemoan the loss of character associated with the internal combustion engine let’s not dismiss such a stance, Porsche makes some of the most sublime petrol engines out there and the challenge of ring-fencing the freedom of driving within the limited infrastructure and timing constraints of electrical charging. In the Taycan, Porsche achieved something more than merely successfully executing its first EV as an exercise in eco-friendly motoring, it has done so without sacrificing that connection and sense of occasion for which its ICE cars are famed; it has indeed added some soul to electrified motoring.
Price: R2 262 000
0-100 km/h: 5,37 seconds
Top speed: 230 km/h
Power: 350 kW
Torque: 357 N.m
Energy consumption: 21,5 kWh/100 km
CO2: 0 g/km