Blog

Short blog posts, journal entries, and random thoughts. Topics include a mix of personal and the world at large. 

Thoughts on the Porsche Taycan

Photo credit: Porsche

There was a bit of a stir in the automotive world yesterday. Car twitter was rightly abuzz regarding the world premier of the Porsche Taycan, the German manufacturer’s first ever purely electric car. The final synthesis of the Mission E concept from 2015, the unveiled Taycan looks appropriately futuristic, but immediately Porsche. In abstract it looks like a more taught, sleeker Panamera, which is no bad thing at all. Though I am still not a fan of the rear “light-bar” design language that have permeated the entire Porsche range, principally because I don’t think it belongs on the 992 911. Here on the Taycan, the rear-end styling is quite alright.

The buzz on twitter was largely of salivation at the impending head-to-head battle between the Taycan and the Tesla Model S. Finally, they’re saying, there’s a worthy competitor to Tesla’s electric vehicle (EV) dominance. Tesla has done well to cultivate an Apple-like frenzy and devotion to its products, but Porsche is coming in with 70 years of history and legend. Arguably the most recognizable and storied sports car brand on the planet, Porsche is leveraging its tradition and pristine reputation to entice EV buyers.

Even without poaching potential Tesla customers, I bet there’s a sizable legion of ‘Porschephiles’ ready to pluck down the admittedly considerable cash for a Taycan (~$150,900 base price for the Taycan Turbo.)

Electric vehicles are still, relatively speaking, a rich person’s game, especially in the class of six-figure cars like the Model S and this Taycan. Therefore, purchasing decisions are highly emotional, rather than logical; I think the people online comparing mechanical specs and numbers between the Porsche and the Tesla are completely missing the point. Both the Model S and the Taycan is or will be faster than 99.9% of cars on the road; and buyers aren’t going to care about dimensional short-comings of the interior, if any. What do the brand and car symbolize, and how it makes the driver feel, will be the differentiating factor.

Porsche’s got both in spades. The Taycan won’t be the hyperbolic “Tesla-killer”, but it’s definitely going to steal some sales away from the EV manufacturer in Fremont.

What I’m more pondering about, seeing as electric vehicles is the new beginning and future of Porsche vehicles, is will Andreas Preuninger and the boys and girls at Flacht get a crack at the Taycan? A track-focused electric sports car in the ethos of a 911 GT3: surely that particular Taycan will be rear-wheel drive, and with as much light-weighting technology as possible (the Taycan comes in at a hefty 5,100 pounds.) So instead of heavy batteries, perhaps a switch to super capacitors? Maybe Williams’ flywheel technology?

And what exactly would you call the ‘GT3’ version of the Taycan? Taycan GTE?

I’d really like to know the answers.

Not a fan of giant screens in cars

Warning: ‘old man yells at cloud’ rant coming up.

It seems I’m the only person who is not wild about the latest trend of ginormous LCD screens permeating into modern automotive interiors. I’m not referring to the regular display for navigation and the sound system, but rather the giant screens automakers are utilizing to do absolutely everything, looking like an iPad glued to the dashboard.

I reckon the genesis of it started in the Tesla Model S, with a 17-inch center screen serving as proxy to perform even the most basic of functions, such as adjusting the fan speed. Admittedly it was quite the party piece for Tesla, especially when contrasted to the traditional buttons and knobs of its contemporaries. Unfortunately, novelty have begotten standardization, and as the Tesla brand proliferated and gotten more popular, other automakers are seeing fit to copy the big screen implementation. Because customers want ‘cool’.

And the trend have thoroughly trickled down to the masses: the new Subaru Legacy can be optioned with a nearly 12-inch infotainment screen, absolutely dominating the entire center dash like a Tesla car. In a way it makes sense: smartphones are giants touchscreens, so presumably the transition to having them in cars to control functions is a natural extension of something we use every single day.

However, it gets worse. LCD screen in cars have encroached into the instrument binnacle as well, with manufacturers seemingly in a competition to replace as many items of the interior with touchscreens as possible. The latest Audi and Land Rover products are already there - Audi wants to replace the wing mirrors with screens, too - and Mercedes will soon join them if spy shots of the next generation S-Class are good indication.

An interior that is entirely screens: that is a future I don’t particularly want. I shall cling to the mechanical dials and physical buttons of my GT3 as long as I can.

Why are automakers so massively embracing these screens? For sure part of it is to emulate the same wow-factor of a Tesla Model S , but I surmise the base reason, as with any capitalistic endeavor, is to save on costs. In a world full of laptops and smartphones, LCD screen technology comes relatively cheap; all automakers have to do then is develop the software. Modern cars are full of computers anyways so integration is likely not difficult. I’m sure it’s far less complicated and expensive than engineering individual physical buttons and dials, with relays and switches for each single item.

If car manufacturers save on cost, does the customer as well? I’m going to guess no. A broken interior button is a cheap fix, but an entire screen module? That sounds painfully expensive. In using our computers and phones daily, we know all too well that screens aren’t the most durable of things. And there’s another problem: those devices also have tendency to periodically freeze up, necessitating a hard reset. I can’t wait for automaker’s customer support to have to ask this question: “Have you tried turning off and turning the car back on?”.

I have serious reservations about the longevity of these all-screen car interiors, but who am I kidding: you’re all leasing, right?

Stacks on stacks on stacks.

Stacks on stacks on stacks.

The combustion engine is here to stay

The internal combustion engine is forever… at least until the electric motor proliferates fully and take over the automotive landscape. For now, like fervent NRA gun owners, you will take the gasoline engine from my cold and dead body.

An enormous factor to driving enjoyment is the sweet sounds emanating from the engine bay (preferably from a natural-aspirated motor), and as we all know, the electric motor merely hums; it’s so quiet that the government have to implement in sound regulations just so blind persons on a sidewalk are able to detect an oncoming vehicle.

The lack of noise is not a knock against electric cars: having ridden in a Tesla I think they are fantastic, and crucially far kinder to the fragile environment. For a car enthusiasts however, electric is a bit of a one trick pony: its accelerative properties are face-tearing and world-beating indeed, but in terms of driving fun, that’s really about it. Until they’ve engineered more energy density into the batteries, these two-ton electric cars can’t possible dream of handling like a traditional sports car.

Not that that matters to the general public. It’s been reported that in the last quarter, Tesla outsold the venerable Mercedes-Benz in America, so there’s proper appetite for these lumbering electric barges. Mercedes-Benz have taken notice, and will soon produce the EQC, the company’s first ever completely electric car. Audi will be entering the market as well with the e-tron SUV. BMW isn’t likely to delay much longer in delivering an electric SUV in its “i” family of vehicles.

Jaguar is wondering why isn’t anybody noticing their all-electric I-PACE that’s on sale now.

No surprise the big three German luxury automakers have elected the SUV as platform of choice for their respective EVs. It’s a smart move: sports-utilities of all shapes and sizes are flying off dealer lots, leaving the traditional sedans in the rear-view. Also important is that Tesla currently hasn’t got an SUV in its lineup (the Model X is a glorified minivan), so that’s a market opportunity to capitalize on.

With mainstream auto manufacturers joining the Tesla market, does this signal the beginning of the mass proliferation of electric-vehicles? Will the combustion engine soon be relegated to the halls of automotive museums? I reckon it is indeed the beginning of the shift, but the trajectory will be immensely long. The technology and infrastructure is not yet competitive against the typical gas station. Until a car can be fully charged from empty in less than 10 minutes, and one doesn’t need to strategically plan just to find a station, the electric car will remain a very nice novelty.

Because there’s also the matter of entry cost: the current crop of electric cars capable of going beyond 200 miles on a single “tank” (sorry, Nissan Leaf) are beyond the reach of the typical customer. Over 17 million cars are sold in America each year; it’ll take quite some time and effort before electric-vehicles will show up on the pie-chart.

My beloved internal combustion engine will be here to stay for a long time.

Weekend recreation.

Weekend recreation.