Electric revolution: Porsche Macan GTS proves that progress is not a conspiracy

Electric revolution: Porsche Macan GTS proves that progress is not a conspiracy
The Porsche Macan. (Photo:

What Minister Gwede Mantashe can learn from the Porsche Macan. And, yes, I’m talking about the electric revolution.

Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe’s railing against the threat posed by foreign-funded liberals under his bed is illustrative. In the light of Shell’s recent ouster from the gas fields off the Eastern Cape by a high court, it might work for the minister to consider another answer to the cause of the headwinds he faces.

The minister talks about an anti-development agenda. This is in line with the Soviet thinking of some of the old ANC guard, with its attendant language of cadres, comrades, Kapital and counter-revolutionaries.

Mantashe and comrades’ misunderstanding of Kapital is total. Capital seeks opportunity and growth and has an appetite for risk, the precise opposite to the “antidevelopment agenda” of the “liberal white media” and philanthropically funded think-tanks and academia he describes.

“Their theme is that they will kill investment through the courts and they are funded heavily by foreign entities,” he told an investment conference last month.

As countries, banks, global finance institutions and investment funds wash their hands of coal, oil and other 20th-century technologies because of the risk of being associated with them, it’s no surprise that academics and investors in this country are also finding similarly. Investment cannot be killed. It does not die. It just goes elsewhere.

Sometimes, it’s not a conspiracy. Sometimes technological and ethical standards improve. Cheap, healthy solutions to South Africa’s energy crisis exist, and the country has the potential to be a global leader in a new economy that requires green hydrogen for shipping, power generation and haulage, and to be a country that provides dirt-cheap electricity that lubricates the natural entrepreneurship of South Africans.

We have proved, at the cost of half a trillion rand, that we can’t build big coal-fired power stations in South Africa (even with pro-development IMF finance, in that case). That myth exploded with Medupi’s Unit 4, built with what was left after the Zuma administration’s looting.

And yet, in the face of this yawning hole in the country’s finances and the ongoing putrefaction of our economy caused by the energy crisis, we still have a minister who continues to dream of coal-fired power stations staffed by comrades and cadres overseen by a command council.

It’s not neoliberal or antidevelopment to point it out, any more than proposing the use of WhatsApp instead of carrier pigeon.

I sometimes feel this was about mobility. A reporter at a business newspaper recently wrote about how hard it will be to make the switch to electric cars because, he reckons, it will be costly to build the factories that will make the cars. I don’t know where to start with this, but I guess I’ll point out that all motor factories are expensive to build and yet, miraculously, there they are, churning out cars at healthy margins. There’s that capital again, taking a risk and making its money back. Clever old capital.

Among the car companies most committed to electrifying its future is the Volkswagen Group, which includes Porsche. Aligning a sports car brand with electric power is a huge ask, but it is the luxury brands that lead the electric revolution and, as readers of this column will recall, the result has been spectacular – the Taycan and the Cross Turismo both being excellent cars that happen to be electric.

Given VW AG’s support of the European Union’s move to phase out new internal combustion sales by 2030, it is inevitable that this technology will spread throughout the range of Porsche cars.

To many, this seems a pity, and I have some sympathy with that. Leaving aside the ethical questions about emissions and the pollution of air, a modern Porsche engine is a thing of some beauty.

Any piece of engineering that has, over decades, been honed, whittled, worried, fettled, experimented on, fiddled with and fussed over is something to love, because it shows the power of ingenuity.

We exist in a brief moment in automotive time that will last two or three decades at most, like the days when there were both horses and cars on the roads.

The Porsche Macan interior. (Photo:

Blasting a 324kW Porsche Macan GTS through the winelands towards the end of last year, even I – a committed electrophile – took a moment to salute the ingenuity of the engineers who made that car. The Macan is many things: principally, of course, a compact SUV for families but, most importantly for Porsche, it is also the entry point into the brand for 80% of Macan buyers.

That itself is worth looking at. Why is this the case? The answer, simply, is that even in four-cylinder base spec (195kW), the Macan is a swift, comfortable car that’s genuinely lovely to drive and sit in, and exceptional value at R1.05-million, outgunning and outdriving equivalent BMWs (X3) and Mercedes-Benzes (GLC) for less cash.

In the “S” spec, you get a V6 car capable of hitting 100km/h in 4.6 seconds and, in the GTS spec, it’ll start to flirt with the category of “very fast cars indeed” at 4.3 seconds.

In what is, ultimately, a car based on a VW Group platform released with the Audi Q5 in 2014, the Macan with any badge on the back remains a marvel to drive with no real competitors. It is sharper to drive, quieter on the cruise and the quality of build is tangible in everything you touch.

And it’s not like you lose on comfort either. The interior is classic Porsche, with a high transmission tunnel and a cosseting, driver-focusing interior with a de rigeur touchscreen and Porsche’s unmatched seven-speed PDK double-clutch gearbox. I can see why they sell so many.

Many commentators better qualified than me have sensibly recommended the “S” as the model to go for. They’re probably right, and its certainly unfashionable for motor writers to recommend the range-topper as the sensible pick of the bunch, but in this case I’m going to do it.

If you’ve got the R1.5-million, the GTS is really a beast of a car. It’s a fast and planted sports car, full stop. A proper cross-country rocketship and a real driver’s car, no matter its family/school-run application.

It’s better than its competition by some considerable margin and comparatively offers exceptional value for money and, of course, Porsche’s excellent servicing and residuals, all worth considering.

And, finally, a thought for Mr Mantashe. Next year, an electric Macan will come to South Africa to be sold alongside the petrol-powered cars for a few years, before they vanish altogether. DM168

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available for R25 at Pick n Pay, Exclusive Books and airport bookstores. For your nearest stockist, please click here.


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