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PORSCHE TAYCAN 4S CROSS TURISMO

CHANGING HEARTS AND MINDS |

As the global push towards electrification gains, erm, steam, South African early adopters have increasingly more choice in the premium all-electric vehicle market. One manufacturer, in particular, is leading the charge locally.

According to the Diffusion of Innovation theorem, I would be classified among the “early majority” group of people when adopting new ideas. Ahead of me, the “early adopters”, and, at the sharp edge of the sword, the “innovators”, have a leg-up to me. In some instances, I would rise to be an “early adopter” with new mobile technology, yet in one case, I seem to drop down the scale somewhat and find myself in the “late adopter” category.

I am, of course, referring to my delay in embracing the concept of electromobility. Strange that, considering that I am a great admirer of Ferdinand Porsche and his all-electric Egger-Lohner C.2 Phaeton from 1898. A car that could have fundamentally changed the future of mobility.

Soon after, he developed the electric wheel hub motor, and in 1900, the first Lohner-Porsche Electromobile with this innovation was presented at the Expo in Paris. With 2 x 2.5 PS, it reached a top speed of 37 km/h. Ironically, Lohner’s reason for developing a car with an electric motor sounds as topical today as it did then, especially concerning the era of mass motorisation: the air was “ruthlessly spoiled by the large number of petrol engines in use”.

The reason for the Lohner-Porsche’s failure (until recently also the failure of electromobility in general) is a well-documented story by now. Despite its modest power output, the car weighed almost two tonnes. The lack of infrastructure and its short-range put an end to electromobility for a long time.

THE TAYCAN CAN

I was present at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2015 for the unveiling of Porsche’s all-electric concept Mission E – that ultimately spawned the all-electric Taycan. While I fawned over the idea of an electric Porsche, it wasn’t until this year, after sampling the entry-level Taycan (and most recently its GT sibling) the Taycan 4S Cross Turismo, that the idea of premium electromobility has me earnestly reconsidering my place on the Diffusion of Innovation scale. 

Over the years, many electric and petrol-electric hybrid vehicles have passed through my hands; the BMW i8 and i3, several Toyota Prius’, and a Nissan Leaf. There have been plug-in hybrids aplenty as well – the Volvo XC90 T8, the Range Rover Velar P400 Hybrid, and BMW’s hybrid X5, to name a few – but no electric or semi-electric experience could have prepared me for driving the Taycan. Both of them.

At first, the Taycan Cross Turismo’s shooting brake design is a revelation. It resembles the Taycan sedan variant close enough to be instantly recognisable as a Porsche, although a slightly longer and flatter roofline is evident. The twist is that this Porsche is not only an electromobility tour de force from a driving point of view, but it also heralds a new era of crossover design for the Stuttgart automaker. It is at once both a sporty tourer as well as a cross country adventure machine, thanks to its 20 mm higher ride height over the Taycan sedan. The standard air suspension allows you to further raise the ride for greater clearance, while the Off-Road Design Package adds additional body cladding and increases the ride height by another 10 mm.

IS IT AN OFF-ROADER?

Is the Taycan Cross Turismo a lifestyle-enhancing crossover? Absolutely. Is it a rock-climbing electric off-roader that will take you on your next hunting trip to the bushveld? Not so much. With that in mind, all Taycan Cross Turismo variants feature a Gravel mode that simultaneously increases the ride height by an additional 10 mm, sets the suspension firmness, traction and stability control, and the torque management system to maximise grip over loose surfaces. Combined with additional body cladding to minimise chip damage to the body, the Cross Turismo won’t shy away from rough surfaces.

I spent three days with the Taycan 4S Cross Turismo, and in that time, drove it as I would any other Porsche, averaging an approximate 30 kWh/100 km, which would return over 400 km from a full charge. Had I been a little more cautious, I would likely have emptied the battery after 430 or more kilometres. The point being that the Taycan is a Porsche in every respect.  

On more sure-footed roads, our Taycan 4S Cross Turismo test unit would accelerate from standstill to 100 km/h in an estimated 4.1 seconds. Other variants (bar one) are even quicker. The Taycan 4 Cross Turismo will do the same run in 5.1 seconds, while the Turbo will blast from nought to 100 km/h in a measly 3.3 seconds. 

On the road, the Taycan tours like any Porsche should: beautifully. It is comfortable, powerful, and notably, extremely quiet. Regardless of damping, there is always some engine noise intrusion into the cabin of an ICE vehicle. This can disturb the quiet of the inner sanctum but, in turn, helps to mask wind and road noise problems that can be equally vexing. The challenge to conceal or avoid noise intrusion is made more difficult in an electric car. Yet, the Taycan manages these disturbances with aplomb, as virtually none of the aforementioned are present. The quiet is surreal, almost unnerving, yet genuinely fascinating. Where I would previously turn down the volume on the sound system to enjoy the engine sound, I found myself doing the same to appreciate the silence.

As in any other Porsche, the Cross Turismo cabin experience is contemporary and luxurious, ergonomically well-considered, and beautifully simple. Considering that the Taycan interior is created using many recycled and recyclable materials, the level of refinement of materials is remarkable. I had one let-down in the cabin, and that is the operation of the centre console armrest lid that doesn’t open far enough or stay open, making it near impossible to operate with one hand. Apart from that, ease of ingress and egress is a cinch thanks to the elevated ground clearance, and there is more than 90 mm more headroom than in the Taycan sedan. Thanks to the sizeable auto-opening tailgate, loading up to 445 litres with the rear seats up is easy. Drop the rear seats, and the Taycan Cross Turismo will accept 1,212 litres of luggage. Porsche will also gladly supply a made-to-fit roof rack or mountain bike rack that attaches to the car’s rear.

TAKING CHARGE

The Taycan 4S Cross Turismo eats up the miles, yet charging infrastructure in Gauteng (and other urban areas) has become prolific enough never to have to worry about range, even when you’re far from home. 

Using the PlugShare app, you can view available charging infrastructure near you, see if a charging station is occupied, its output capacity and more. As it is likely that Porsche Taycan owners will have at least one ICE vehicle as well, the chances are that you will not need public infrastructure for 99% of the time. Every Taycan purchase includes the installation of a powerful home charger where your Taycan can be recharged overnight. Should you need to use a public charger, there are now well over 200 points available nationally.

LAST WORD

The Taycan represents a fundamental paradigm shift for me. Yes, it is a premium product, and no, it isn’t the fastest electric car in the world. But, if this is the measure of electromobility’s future, that future is bright indeed. This electric car is lovely to live with, and with the South African government seriously considering lowering the tax barrier for electric vehicles, vehicles like the Cross Turismo might become cheaper in the long run too. If you, like me, have been hesitant to think of electric as a fitting replacement for displacement, take the Taycan for a test. It will change your world.

Report by BERNIE HELLBERG JR | Images © PORSCHE SOUTH AFRICA

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