Ian Lamming finds the latest crop of battery powered vehicles to be electrifying
EMPORER’S New Clothes, remember those? Well here’s the automotive equivalent.
Noise is a good thing, says the emperor of sports cars. Multiple cylinders, big bore exhausts, lots of thrash metal. Thing is, is thrash metal good on the ear, is it a symphony of sound or just a tinnitus-inducing din.
Well the blokes who stand around the big V8s, V12s and flat sixes, scratching their beards and oohing and aahing in appreciation of the sports car cacophony have never had to drive them far.
So it’s time to burst this bubble, just like at the end of the famous fable. In truth, sound is the scourge of driving well-being. It’s a war of attrition, tiring, fatiguing and distracting. Why do you think automotive engineers have worked so tirelessly over the decades to eradicate NVH – that’s noise, vibration and harshness.
But it’s ok to have all those elements in a sports car because it gives it character, the myth claims. Yeah, right.
I have a theory that this untruth is perpetuated by law enforcement and health and safety agencies as a means of keeping people’s speed down. Noise makes you feel like you are going fast even when you aren’t.
Detractors would say that an electrically powered Porsche would be sacrilege, soulless, silly. Well they haven’t driven a Taycan then have they.
Noise-free motoring has been heading Porsche’s way for a while. The last Macan I drove made no more noise than a Golf despite having four huge pipes sticking out the back. Guess what? The lack of rortyness made absolutely no difference to the driving experience which was still fast and furious.
Taycan simply takes this to the nth degree. One look at the BEV (that’s Battery-powered Electric Vehicle in case you aren’t familiar with the acronym yet) and it’s more Panamera than 911, it’s a fair old size.
Inside, the dash is virtual, a curved computer screen on which to display a plethora of information. There’s a sense of stripped back minimalism, a dearth of knobs, switches and controls. Instead, functions are performed by a variety of touchscreens. It really is uber hi-tech.
Press the ‘on’ button and forward, neutral and reverse are on a lever. Then just depress the accelerator to go. There’s the quietest of whines from the electric motor then a seamless surge of endless power – whoosh.
“Oh my,” I tell the nice man from Porsche as I return the 4S, “that’s rapid.” He replies: “that’s just the ordinary model, you should try the really quick one.”
The 4S is more than enough for me and this is why. Look at the stats. Almost 500hp of power, 571hp on the overboost if you use launch control, and 650Nm of torque – that’s a lot.
On the road this makes Taycan super quick off the mark and blistering in the mid-range for safe overtakes. It also carries its weight low so the handling is superb and grip utterly magnificent. There’s loads of feel from chassis and steering pushing driving dynamics – and the fun – off the scale. Do I miss any noise? Not on your Nelly. It’s a wonderful experience without it.
This is the hallmark of the day, a test event organised by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. Hybrids and EVs dominate the grid and the supreme smoothness and quietness of the sumptuous Lexus UX Hybrid is only bettered by the full electric version in which I actually feel I have gone deaf.
The Japanese manufacturer is also showing off its latest baby from Toyota, the Yaris Cross, a three 1.5 cylinder hybrid which impresses with its ride, performance, Tardis-like interior and general lovability.
If you do want noise, nice noise, then it comes in the form of the BMW M440 cabriolet, which sings rather than shouts its way rapidly around the test route.
But the smiles return when EV is again under the right foot in the brand new Fiat 500e. It just makes me chuckle. Roof peeled back on the convertible, this little EV flies and in real road conditions manages to stay with the Taycan. Of course, the Porsche pulls away initially but not out of sight and the Fiat comes into the driver’s rear view mirror once again, to the shake of his head, when traffic blocks the Taycan’s path.
So electrics of all sizes and price tags are here to stay and with fuel prices hovering around the £7/gallon mark, surely, that has to be a good thing. It’s certainly music to my ears.
Porsche Taycan 4S
Power: 490hp (571hp with overboost)
0-62mph: 3.8 secs
Top speed: 155mph
Range: 283 combined, 317 city
CO2 g/km: 0