Well, here’s a first for PistonHeads: a feature without a piston, a crankshaft or a valve in sight. Two electric cars, arguably the two electric cars of the moment, in fact, occupying the same space on both page and road. Things are quite clearly moving at lightning speed (sorry) in the EV world, and the world will do well to keep up. Imagine this scenario five years ago: Porsche having created a four-door EV that questions the need for a Panamera (along with a lot of super saloons) and Honda’s most desirable car in years being a bespoke electric city car. There are no Type R badges here. So often in the automotive sector, progress is really best measured with a calendar – and next year’s one – yet the electric world is turning that on its head in more ways than one. The Taycan now has options like Power Steering Plus available over the air and even more efficient charging not long after launch, and it’s hard to believe the e family will stay as one for long. It took the best part of a decade to get a Panamera estate; the only delay for the Taycan equivalent is that too many standard cars are being built to spare the capacity.
This isn’t a conventional twin test, obviously, the cars separated by a chasm on any chosen parameter: price, size, performance, range, charging capacity - everything. Instead, we’ll use Honda e and Porsche Taycan Turbo as a celebration of where the EV has come in such a short space of time; the Nissan Leaf is only just a decade old, don’t forget. Here are two cars, perhaps more than any other electric vehicles, that you could buy not simply because of the powertrain technology (and the benefits inherent in that) but despite their EV status. They’re cool, classy, stylish, desirable cars that just so happen to be powered by electricity rather than combustion engines. The e is the smartest thing Honda has made beneath the NSX since probably the CRX, 30 years ago, the Taycan resembling how we all probably pictured a Panamera looking mid-way through this century. Yet here they are, available to order and buy and use as you wish. Providing they can be charged, of course; let’s come back to that.
There’s a joy that comes from driving electric vehicles on bespoke, dedicated platforms that can’t be replicated by those with combustion engines, or those for which their architecture has been adapted to accept electrification. Not only is there that instantaneous response, there are the evident space and dynamic benefits that come with designing around a battery pack and motors. Look at the way the e sits: wheel right out at each corner meaning space inside, a freakishly good turning circle because there aren’t driveshafts in the way, a design clean and uncluttered because it doesn’t have to be festooned with grilles. Not so long ago there was perhaps a fear that electric cars would lack a personality because so much character was derived from a car’s engine; in creating something so fresh and original, Honda has ensured a distinct personality for the e before moving an inch.
Given we’ve already discussed the e’s array of talents in an urban environment, it would be daft to repeat them here. Instead it’s pleasing to report that, despite there maybe being expectations to the contrary, it can handle bigger roads (and bigger challenges) with aplomb. Which sounds like damning it with faint praise; the fact that the e is only slightly less entertaining out of town is instead meant entirely to its credit.
Building the car from scratch as an EV can then really be felt to pay dividends. The e isn’t a light car and never feels it, but keeping the bulk of that weight stuffed low means that it always feels contained, not likely to catch the car, or you, out. You can see in the pictures that the e is reasonably soft and will roll; again, however, it feels managed and not messy, the less aggressive focus permitting a more accommodating ride as recompense. It’s cheery and game, the Pilot Sport 4s and wheel-at-each-corner stance meaning good grip and stability, even if this isn’t a new benchmark for hot hatches at the limit. The e is too safe overall for that. But frankly, who cares?
Further encouragement comes from the performance; there can’t be many cars on the road now that can’t crack 100mph, but don’t be fooled: the e is more than adequately brisk. Beyond scooting away from lights and breezing through roundabouts, it can saunter up slip roads and dispatch overtakes as well, all the benefits of electric performance distilled in a smaller package. On the open road with corners to account for it’s fun to work with the one-pedal mode, adjusting the amount of regen on the paddles and learning to gauge how much speed will be lost with different inputs and how much can be carried through the bend. Whichever way you cut it, however, the e is not traditional B-road entertainment in the way that some cars at this money might also be. There just isn’t enough going on for the driver to derive genuine satisfaction from. By the same token, an Elise doesn’t feel at home on the motorway and an S-Class isn’t at its best on circuit; all three can do almost all the driving required of them, but they have areas of expertise. That isn’t going with the advent of electric technology.
Or rather, it seems that way until you climb aboard the Porsche Taycan Turbo. Such is the feeling of unerring omnipotence, crushing ability and preternatural competence in Porsche’s EV that it feels like it could also lend a hand ploughing the fields, or towing a caravan, or as something for the track. It’s so good at everything that driving it around just as a car, on your own, at normal speed, feels like a criminal waste of its talents.
This is, of course, a slight exaggeration. Though there’s arguably no greater display at the moment of what the electric vehicle can do - at a price, admittedly - than the Porsche Taycan. It corners like a 2.2-tonne serpent, belly apparently millimetres from the surface and obliging your every directional request without delay or complaint. ‘Accelerate’ seems too meek a word for the way it gains speed, the Porsche apparently just absorbing all the landscape ahead and teleporting you to the next location. Yet all the driver interacts with, from haptic feedback controls to the brake pedal to the door handles, is unmistakeably Porsche in its tactility and feel. If the e was an unexpected bit of originality, style and substance from Honda and its EV programme - the later Insights and Civic Hybrids are most certainly in recent memory - then the Taycan is the Porsche template to a tee, just with an alternative fuel: ruthlessly well engineered, frighteningly capable and blessed with the feel of consummate cohesion in every control that isn’t found elsewhere. Sometimes that makes the combustion engined cars feel a touch bland, because it seems there’s more to unlock and discover that you’re being denied; in the Taycan that efficient and methodical approach to getting around makes a lot of sense. It will never offer driver appeal in the conventional sense, so there’s less to begrudge about clinical, almighty adeptness - it’s just immense. And to think there’s a Taycan faster than this, too…
Where both Honda and Porsche claim some conventional, want-one credibility is in offering such lovely cabins, interiors that benefit again from dedicated electric underpinnings. The Porsche places you lower than any other saloon and better than many sports cars, the driver ensconced in their surroundings and their displays a model of clarity and crispness. Everything moves with the precision and predictability you’d expect, only in an environment that’s noticeably more lavish than is typically expected of quite stoic Porsche. The Honda, too, is brimming with charm and intrigue, albeit from an entirely different perspective. The powertrain frees sufficient space up front so the ‘lounge’ concept doesn’t feel an entirely daft idea, and the ideological freedom that’s come from being a bespoke model (which isn’t there in the Mini Electric, for example), means imaginations have been allowed to run wild inside. The rear-view cameras are clever and near enough faultless, the infotainment is slick, the controls logical and the vibe so un-Honda that you look at the big H staring back from the wheel just to be sure. Once more, they both convey a very different type of experience and appeal without needing an engine to do it.
However, an engine sounds mighty appealing, sadly, at a number of points during our day of EV testing. The Taycan had it easy; it was fully juiced at Reading, pottered a few miles down the road for the shoot and was then returned to the mothership for charging. It’s worth noting, moreover, that the Taycan can accept 270kW of charge (a current rapid charger is 50kW), the Porsche dealer network is being equipped with chargers and Ionity’s 350kW CCS chargers are being rolled out pretty quickly. It should be easy to public charge one, if not now, then very soon.
As for the Honda, it’s hard to blame the car when chargers don’t work (a quick Google of Ecotricity reveals we’re hardly the first to be scuppered by it) but, by a similar token, the e is not any cheaper or lighter than cars that go further on a charge. Cars like the Peugeot e-208, in fact, one of which is parked across two chargers at Chieveley when we arrive. Handy. While the 50kw rapid charger worked for him (a Peugeot salesman, no less), it wouldn’t talk to the e, so the journey continued to Membury; there the rapid charger worked after several attempts, even though the app didn’t believe it was, and wouldn’t stop charging until the battery was 100 per cent done. It physically couldn’t be removed, despite trying all manner of app, car and charger methods.
As it turns out, a full charge was good, because I was in the wrong place by this point, and 20 miles had to be added to the journey. Or 20 per cent of a tank, in other words. Put like that, it’s quite a lot, especially with the prospect of so much time spent to replenish the energy. Away from the security of chargers that you know work, a car with a range like the Honda’s is a new lesson in angst and fraught with concern; charger anxiety looks set to replace range anxiety with electric cars, because it’s just not clear whether electricity will be provided somewhere that should dispense it. And that’s kind of crucial. It shows how many Superchargers are out there when you’re tracking down a conventional charge station, too.
It’s a sour note to end the story on, because otherwise, pitching Honda e alongside Porsche Taycan had been a fascinating exercise. They both prove, in case some doubt still existed, that intriguing, covetable, enjoyable cars will exist as the world moves - somewhat inevitably, it seems - towards electric propulsion. At the moment they complement ICE cars nicely, offering a different automotive experience to the already rich variety out there. Like diesel against petrol, arguably, they hold tangible advantages in certain areas and are less competitive in others. But, as we’ve seen, the technology is moving so fast that even those weaknesses will surely be ironed out sooner rather than later. A year with a Taycan and an e, one for urban journeys and one for those further afield, would surely make a compelling case for the electric vehicle. Both are enormously impressive in their own right; just as importantly, they are cars to actively desire rather than merely accept for the perceived benefits. A day with them only served to reaffirm that impression, even if the nagging doubt about just how heavy two cars can be never entirely disappears.
Therefore it remains a real shame that public charging, at least on this limited experience, isn’t what it should be. It quite drastically and desperately needs the investment that’s been seen elsewhere in Europe. Because both Porsche and Honda emphatically prove that there are fewer reasons than ever not to go EV, even if an enthusiast would undoubtedly like a raspy little petrol engine to sit alongside it in the garage for high days and holidays. There’s no escaping the reality, however: having public access to reliable electricity is quite a key part of that transition, and it doesn't exist currently. Here’s hoping the tech advances as fast as the cars have, if not faster.
SPECIFICATION | HONDA E ADVANCE
Engine: 35.5 kWh lithium ion battery, electric motor
Transmission: Automatic single speed Fixed Reduction Gear
Power (hp): 154
Torque (lb ft): 232
0-62mph: 8.3 seconds
Top speed: 93mph
MPG: 125 miles range
CO2: 0g/km driving
SPECIFICATION | PORSCHE TAYCAN TURBO
Engine: 93.4 kWh battery, one electric motor per axle
Transmission: Single-speed (front) twin-speed (rear), all-wheel drive
Power (hp): 625 (680 on overboost)
Torque (lb ft): 627 (maximum on overboost)
0-62mph: 3.2 seconds
Top speed: 161mph
Weight: 2,305kg (DIN)
MPG: 253 miles range
CO2: 0g/km driving
Price: £115,858 (price as standard; price as tested £139,252 comprised of - deep breath - Electric folding exterior mirrors for £210, Porsche Electric Sport Sound for £354, Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control Sport for £2,315, Rear Axle Steering including Power Steering Plus for £1,650, Porsche Ceramic Composite Brake for £4,217, Sport Chron Package for £788, 21-inch Mission E Design wheels for £2,282, Wheels painted in black for £842, Thermally and noise insulated glass including privacy glass for £1,301, ParkAssist including Surround View for £1,002, Night Vission Assist for £1,566, Lane Change Assist for £548, Ambient lighting for £299, Side airbags in rear compartment for £291, Heated steering wheel for £189, Advanced climate control for £581, Burmester 3D High-End Surround Sound System for £3,245, Powered charging port cover for £443, 150kW DV on-board booster for £294, Mobile Charger Connect for £767 and Public charging cable (Type 2) for £210)
Image credit | Harry Rudd
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