Three months after the Mission E Cross Turismo starred at the Geneva Motor Show, Porsche rolled out the concept car for MOTOR to test on real roads, in real traffic.
However, we’re under strict instructions to go easy on this hand-built, multi-million dollar one-off. So, no sub-5.0sec 0-100km/h runs, no full-throttle hooliganism, and easy-does-it cornering in deference to the soft-compound 275/40 R20 off-road rubber.
The E Cross Turismo will be badged Taycan – which translates as a “lively young horse” – when it goes on sale in mid-2019 and over 100 prototypes are currently racking up test kays on all five continents. The chassis we’ll drive is close to final spec, explains Stefan Weckbach, head of Porsche’s global electrification program.
“One motor up front, one motor in the back, all-wheel drive, under-floor battery pack,” he smiles. Missing are air suspension, rear-wheel steering, and the sound generator that will mimic a switchable exhaust. “At this early stage in the development process we are, of course, not yet running on maximum power and torque,” Weckbach adds.
So, to protect pre-production components, first gear is bypassed and we’ll be in second at all times, and instead of the promised 440kW there is only around 330kW to play with.
You can search the E Cross in vain for a starter button, but given this is a cutting edge car there is a small on-off touch pad to the left of the steering column, which sets things in motion – or is that e-motion? And the transmission lever, labelled PRND, has now been moved to the two o’clock position behind the wheel.
That sounds pretty banal, but the driving menu can be spiced up by selecting one of five modes: Normal, Range, Sport, Sport Plus and Individual. Not yet confirmed are Eco, Wet and Off-Road settings.
Normal is all about lift-off coasting, Sport and Sport Plus are self-explanatory. Range (reportedly to be around 500km) does its best to quash get-home anxiety, while Individual lets you tweak suspension, steering, stability control, drivetrain and soundtrack to your preference.
On the winding backroads in the hills above Malibu the electrically-assisted steering sets new standards in terms of weight, damping, precision, speed and turning circle. With a low centre of gravity – better than any 911 – and near-perfect weight distribution, the car feels firmly planted, as if on a magnetic field.
Torque vectoring is by all-wheel drive, brake actuation, and an optional electronically controlled rear side-to-side diff lock. Stopping is controlled by a complex deceleration apparatus that combines conventional (or optional carbon ceramic) brakes with a single-speed energy recuperation device, but don’t expect a fancy three-step, one-pedal system.
“One pedal is not our philosophy,” stresses Weckbach. “This is a proper sports car; its mission is untamed acceleration and instant torque, not lift-off braking.”
Speaking of untamed acceleration, flooring the throttle flattens every climb; it’s physical, immediate, and awe-inspiring and Porsche is claiming a 0-100km/h time of under 3.5sec. But the driving public is still a long way from fully adjusting to E-cars and novice E-drivers will, no doubt, flinch when close to 1000Nm of torque gives them an almighty shove in the back.
Rushing from corner to corner, you can still hear the wind, the squealing tyres, the bee-bop of the Panamera-derived suspension and occasionally grating brakes, but the batteries, transmissions and motors are all but noiseless. It’s a new driving world, but Weckbach reassures me that the future of Porsche will be familiar.
“A plug-in Porsche must drive and perform like a Porsche fitted with a combustion engine,” he stresses. “It must sustain long, flat-out autobahn stints without overheating. Repeatability is key when it comes to full-throttle acceleration. The main dynamic parameters have to remain through the entire battery charge span. Only when the warning light comes on, under certain conditions, performance may be compromised for range.”
That’s reassuring, and for one precious moment on a sunny California day, high-end BEVs like the Porsche E Cross Turismo, er Taycan, seem to have only virtues and no downsides.
2018 PORSCHE MISSION E CROSS TURISMO CONCEPT SPECS:
Engine: Twin synchronous electric motors
Power: 440kW (approx)
Torque: 850Nm (approx)
0-100km/h: 3.5sec (claimed)
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Like: Blistering, immediate acceleration; huge torque; reasonable 500km range
Dislike: Cramped interior; compromised headroom; complex dash ergonomics
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