And So We Drive

Porsche Taycan "Electric Sport Sound"

I started and never finished a post last week about the new “Porsche Electric Sport Sound” sound package for the Porsche Taycan. For $580, you can add the option for your Taycan to make noise. So far, a little strange, but I couldn’t decide what I thought of it. On the one hand, it seemed a superfluous upcharge, for something with $0 of marginal cost. On the other hand, when has that stopped manufacturers before?

Then yesterday Motor Authority clarified that “the noise resonates somewhere between a throaty 6-cylinder warble, or high-strung V-8. It’s not especially pleasant, and after about 30 minutes it becomes a nuisance.”

Porsche isn’t selling just any noise; it is selling the sound of a fake, naturally aspirated engine. And that’s a problem, not because it’s a $580 option on a Porsche, but because it reinforces that manufacturers don’t yet know how to give electric cars character. They know how to make electric vehicles quick, but character is more than that. Porsche is insecure that the Taycan, for all its performance and handling accolades, will be fun and stirring without some made-up engine noise.¹

Credit to Tesla; for all the company’s faults, it has owned, from the beginning, that electric cars have their own character. I’m disappointed to see Porsche offer this option because it shows that Porsche doesn’t believe that an electric vehicle can be as exciting as a car with an internal combustion engine.² If electric is the future, as every major automaker seems to think it is, then we better hope Porsche is wrong, and that an option like “Electric Sport Sound” is unnecessary.

In the last month, Porsche has basically confirmed both that soon will be electric, and that it does not believe electric cars can be that exciting. Where does that leave us?

Notes

  1. I know some would argue that piped-in engine noises on ICE cars suffer from the same problem, but I disagree -- at least there it's a real noise, albeit artificially enhanced or transmitted. In this case it's the noise of a completely different vehicle.
  2. As Bugatti itself seems to concede in its press release, in saying that this is the last speed record it will chase.
Nav
Follow
by Tyler Carbone