Performance, precision engineering, and passion are all core tenets at Porsche. South Africans already understood this seven decades ago, with our love for this brand only growing stronger as it evolved over the years.

The chances are that your mind immediately conjures up an image of your favourite 911 when you hear the name “Porsche”. That’s only logical, because the Porsche 911 defined this company’s image for a very long time.

But, with a model range which now covers everything from mid-engined sports cars to thundering SUVs, with four-door luxomobiles and blistering EVs also in the mix, the 911 has been overtaken as Porsche’s mainstay model even if its spirit still infuses every new arrival.

Related: Watch our video about Porsche and its long history in South Africa here.

Innovation driven by motorsport excellence

Motorsport has always been a key priority for the Stuttgart-based company, both as test bed for new technology and due to the immense marketing value of racing success. So, while Porsche’s first production model was based on a decidedly unsporting people’s car, motorsport developments soon elevated the 356’s image to that of a track-proven thoroughbred.

One such development eventually spread to the mass market and to other manufacturers, in the form of Porsche’s patented baulk-ring gear synchronisers. Prior to this, manual gearboxes were unsynchronised, making for difficult gearchanges. The company’s 1951 patent changed all that, and was adopted across the industry over the following years. Transmission innovation ended up becoming a hallmark of Porsche technology in the future, as we’ll soon discover.

Barely three years after the first 356 was built, a race-prepped version won its class at the 1951 Le Mans 24-Hour race. This started a worldwide endurance racing program which continues to this day - in fact, a Porsche 911 already won the first round in the 2024 South African Endurance Racing championship.

Related: Get your heart racing with one of these approved new or pre-owned Porsche 911s on CHANGECARS!

A long legacy of racing domination

Purpose-built racing cars soon joined the Porsche catalogue, with too many successful contenders to mention in only one article. Some standouts include the granddaddy of them all, the 550 (built from 1953-1956), and arguably the greatest racing car of all time - the immortal 962, which chalked up no fewer than 19 constructor’s championship titles for Porsche in various racing formulas over its decade-long career.

The 962 also marked the first successful application of the dual-clutch automatic gearbox, setting the scene for other manufacturers to emulate Porsche’s track-bred transmission technology yet again. Porsche’s motorsport involvement continues to shape the company’s products, and currently runs from touring car championships through endurance racing to Formula E.

Related: Should you fear the dual-clutch transmission? Click here to get our advice!

An electrified past and future

It’s easy to think that the Porsche Taycan EV marks a direction change for the brand, but in reality Porsche has been dabbling in electric propulsion almost as long as the automobile has existed. The company’s founder, Ferdinand Porsche, worked at a company called Lohner at the end of the 19th century, where he designed the first series-production electric car as well as the first petrol-electric hybrid.

Of course, Ferdinand Porsche went racing with these EVs, and won several races and set some speed records as well. Fast forward about 110 years to the 2013 Frankfurt auto show, where the 918 Spyder made its official debut. This hypercar was not only one of the quickest-accelerating cars of its time, but it was also capable of around 20 km in pure-electric mode. It was one of the first performance hybrids, and started a trend which once again became an industry standard.

Part of the magic in Porsche’s EV powertrains lie in the fact that they employ a two-speed transmission for their rear axles, allowing for both vigorous pullaways and enhanced high-speed stamina. Few EV manufacturers go to such lengths to reconcile these contradictory requirements, but if we’ve learned anything from Porsche’s history, it’s that future trends originate in Stuttgart before becoming mainstream.

Related: Find out more about the Porsche Taycan on the company’s local website.

Upcoming models already break records

Against this backdrop comes the Taycan and second-generation Macan, two rule-breaking all-electric models. The former is already available in South Africa, and the latter is expected to arrive in 2025. And, as is tradition with Porsche, various innovations allow these cars to perform far above the standards of their respective classes.

Details about the Macan EV are still somewhat hazy, but we know that its output could reach 470 kW and that it will offer up to 613 km of driving range. The Taycan is a better-known quantity, however, and has been revised for 2024 to provide a 0 - 100 km/h sprint in as little as 2.4 seconds in the 700 kW Sport Chrono package-equipped Taycan Turbo S.

And just to prove that the Taycan isn’t just good in a straight line, Porsche also unleashed the Taycan Turbo GT, and equipped one with the Weissach package before sending it to the Nurburgring to see what it could do. It devoured the Nordschleife in only 7 minutes and 7.55 seconds, making it the fastest four-door of any powertrain type to go around this iconic track.

Related: Read more about the record-breaking Porsche Taycan Turbo GT in Porsche’s own press release.

South African ties

Apart from its loyal and expanding following among local enthusiasts and racers, Porsche’s South African operation also played a crucial role in securing the future of our most iconic racetrack. In 2014, Kyalami came up for auction due to years of under-utilisation and lack of upgrades, and there was a real risk of this historic site being turned into a business park and residential estate if it were to fall into property developers’ hands.

Enter the owner of Porsche South Africa, a gentleman named Toby Venter, who had other ideas. During the auction, Toby bought the entire Kyalami location in less than two minutes on behalf of Porsche SA, for the princely sum of R 205-million. The motivation? To secure the future of this priceless piece of local motoring history. Subsequent investment of R 100-million upgraded the track and facilities to FIA Grade 2 status, and it now hosts rounds of various racing formulas and exhibitions such as the Festival of Motoring.

Porsche SA doesn’t confine itself to Kyalami, however, and its products have become fixtures at the annual Simola Hillclimb. Porsche driver Jean-Pierre van der Walt is looking to defend his triple champion status in the Road & Supercar division of this competition in the upcoming 2024 event, again behind the wheel of a 992-Series 911 Turbo S. The 911 may not be the mainstay Porsche anymore, but its position as one of the most-accomplished sports machines is cemented in history nonetheless, and its legacy simply grows larger with time.

Martin Pretorius


Shop for a new or pre-owned, OEM-approved Porsche from one of the four local Porsche Centres in this exclusive selection on CHANGECARS.