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A night at Sepang proves that as Porsche pursues an increasingly electrified future, it is always performance that leads the way.

23 Oct 2018

In Philip K Dick's seminal novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, one of the key questions posited is a seemingly simple but important one - do robots have emotions? In the story, a Voigt-Kampff test is used to tell an android from a real human, and it involves the ability to feel empathy. Indeed, the overarching assumption here is that the ability to feel emotions is core to what it means to be human.

The full stable of Porsche's hybrid offerings were available at the E-Performance Night
What does any of this have anything to do with cars? Yes, cars aren't androids trying to pose as humans, but with the increasing digitisation of cars and the pursuit of future technologies, cars are becoming more and more intelligent.

When it comes to cars, there is perhaps one overriding concern when it comes to electrification - that as brands pursue electric vehicles, autonomous driving and future technologies, the emotionality of driving will be left by the wayside.

This is a concern that Porsche is keenly aware of. And as the brand moves ahead into the future and the increasing electrification of its range, it wants to flip the question on its head. How can electrification drive emotion instead? We headed up to Sepang International Circuit to partake in Porsche's E-Performance Night and see what answers we can glean.

The intesity of the 918 Spyder's vicious performance is hard to match even today
Peak performance

It's very easy to be cynical about hybrid cars. When the first Toyota Prius was launched more than a decade ago, it was seen as a niche vehicle for the tree-hugging hipsters of the world.

As the goal of reducing carbon emissions becomes an increasingly pressing concern, more and more manufacturers are (rightfully) moving towards hybrid technologies.

Porsche looks at things slightly differently. Instead of just worrying about how to eke out extra range from a car and improving a car's fuel economy figure, Porsche has a different sort of focus - performance.

This is clear from the brand's race cars. The 919 Hybrid racecar, wildly successful with three back to back Le Mans victories, is a clear example of how hybrid technology can drive performance. Then, there is the 918 Spyder, a car launched five years ago, one member of the 'Holy Trinity' of hypercars.

We got a chance to ride shotgun on a hot lap around the circuit, and the car's vicious performance is literally breathtaking. The way the car teleports out of a slow corners, effortlessly on to 270km/h on the main straight, literally knocks the breath out of your lungs. 874bhp and upside of 1,000Nm of torque has the ability to pin you back in your seat in a way very few other cars can manage.

It's hard to believe that this car is already five years old - it's performance and dynamic ability is still one of the very best even today. 

Hybrid technologies developed for cars like the 919 Hybrid and 918 Spyder eventually get transferred to the rest of Porsche's range
Powering the Future

What do these cars prove? That Porsche does everything with performance in mind, and that electrification can be used to further augment driving performance.

As Thomas Neumann, Manager Electrical/Electronic Engineering E-Mobility, tells us, "The key is to transfer technologies from cars like the 918 and 919 onto road-going models like the Panamera." For example, there is the boost technology, using electrical power to offer instant torque and endless acceleration.

Where the racing expertise comes into play is to make this repeatable at will. It's no surprise then that the flagship, fastest and most powerful model in the Panamera lineup is the Turbo S E-Hybrid. Journeying from KLCC to Sepang International Circuit in an absolutely torrid downpour, the Panamera perfectly cocoons you from the mayhem of peak hour traffic.

On the track, it is surprisingly nimble for a car its size. And of course, you have the absolute mallet of a powertrain (671bhp and 850Nm of torque) to gather alarming speed in a straight line.

In the Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid, the powertrain serves up a monstrous 671bhp and 850Nm of torque
We also had a brief go in the new Cayenne E-Hybrid. The powertrain is based on the base mode'sl 3.0-litre engine, but with the electric motor it delivers more power and significantly more torque. As proof of how electrification can drive performance, the E-Hybrid model shaves 1.2 seconds off the base model's 0-100km/h, clocking in at a preposterous five seconds.

Moving forward, expect electrification to heavily feature in Porsche's model lineup.

Of course, the most exciting upcoming development is the new Taycan, which will sit between the 911 and the Panamera within the Porsche lineup. The Taycan is an all-electric sedan that promises 500km of range to go along with the expected Porsche handling and dynamic capabilities. And Porsche also intends to make the model accessible.

Price-wise, it is expected to be somewhere between the Cayenne and the Panamera.

The latest addition to Porsche's hybrid lineup is the Cayenne E-Hyrbid
And while there's no official word so far, the next generation 911 model has been developed with the capacity to accommodate a hybrid powertrain, so a hybrid 911 isn't out of the question (nor should it be).

Electric dreaming

Without a doubt, cars of the future are going to look quite different from the cars of the past. As cars become increasingly electrified, autonomous and intelligent, there is an undeniable anxiety that it will lose the emotionality that we always associate with the act of driving.

However, it is clear that at Porsche, there is no Voigt-Kampff test needed. Even as electrification seeps into the rest of the model range, Porsche is steadfast in its dedication to performance as its key guiding principle. You can expect the design, engineering and execution of all of its future models to be performance-led.

Soon, Porsche will launch its very first all-electric car, the Taycan
So, one thing is for sure - the emotional experience of driving, the heart-pumping exhilaration of performance, and fundamental pursuit of driving excellence, these are qualities sure to be present in every Porsche.

Do androids dream of electric sheep? No one really knows, but we can certainly dream of an electric Porsche capable of delivering the same quintessential visceral experience.

In fact, if this E-Performance Night is any kind of indication, we might not have to dream very hard at all...
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