HAMBURG, Germany—When a new car is as anticipated as the Porsche Taycan, it’s easy for assumptions to grow in advance of anyone actually getting to drive the thing. Car makers are generally reticent about sharing too many details before a model is officially launched, so it’s only natural that speculation fills the gaps.
And since this is the first battery-electric vehicle from the storied German car maker, pre-launch chatter went from 0-60mph
With few facts to go on, the bench-racing over the Porsche Taycan was rampant: It’s a “Tesla Model S killer” we were told by people with as little info to go on as the rest of us. Others claimed it was no more than a Panamera sedan minus the internal combustion engine. But forget all of that; after driving the new Porsche battery electric vehicle for a couple of days across Northern Europe, those comparisons are misplaced. Porsche says it set out to make a four-door electric sports car, and it did. What’s more, the Taycan is every bit as good as you’d expect of a Porsche that will cost you at least $150,000, which is to say it’s very good indeed. It’s just that this car uses electricity to get you where you’re going, too.
To show off its latest creation, Porsche’s press office decided a big road trip was in order. Some people are scared to consider BEVs because of range anxiety, so how better to show that long distances are no problem than by driving a circuitous route that started in Oslo, Norway, and ended in Stuttgart 18 days and 4,001 miles (6440km) later? Our briefing was simple: join up with the convoy in Denmark and drive Taycans from Copenhagen to Hamburg over the course of two days and several hundred miles. We got to experience the Taycan Turbo ($150,900 before tax credits and the infamous Porsche options list) and the even faster, even more expensive Taycan Turbo S (which starts at $185,000) on all manner of roads, from narrow country lanes and low-speed urban streets to stretches of straight, smooth, derestricted autobahn. Plus, such a road trip meant a chance to check out the Taycan’s fast-charging ability when connected to an 800V DC charger.
What it isn’t
If you were coming here with hopes of reading how the Taycan out-Teslas Tesla or how the Model S spanks the Porsche into next week, you may as well check out some of our other fine content. Or, just go straight to the comments now to call me an idiot.
To be fair, the impulse to compare the Taycan and the Model S is understandable. After all, they’re similar sizes, similar shapes, both are BEVs, and either will transport you and some friends well past the legal speed limit in most parts of the world in under seven seconds. Similarly, one would be forgiven for thinking that a Taycan is little more than a Panamera minus its engine. Again, both cars have four doors, four seats, a Porsche badge, plenty of performance, and even some parts in common. The prices are also similar, if you’re comparing the top-spec Turbo S models at least. But this line of thinking highlights the perils of bench-racing, because a car is much more than its dimensions or a 0-60mph time.
What it is
I’ve already written almost 3,000 words about the technology underneath the Taycan’s skin. If that’s not enough to satiate you, I can also recommend an even longer deep-dive at Jalopnik or this Wired article on the car’s clever two-speed transmission. But to summarize briefly, the Taycan Turbo and Taycan Turbo S are both twin-motor, all-wheel drive designs, packing a nominal 460kW (616hp) powered by a 93.4kWh lithium-ion battery pack and an 800V electrical architecture. The 800V bit is important—it helps the Taycan powertrain cope with the kind of repeated and unsympathetic abuse that any Porsche should be able to handle, as well as enabling some very fast charging when connected to the right supply.
During our pre-launch Taycan tech briefing, Porsche’s engineers definitely played up the connection to the iconic 911 sports car. We were told that the Taycan had a 911-like driving position and how the original 911 inspired the shape of the Taycan’s eye-catching main instrument panel. The claims that the new electric Porsche was a sports car first and foremost sounded good, and it doesn’t hurt that much of the car’s development team came from the Cayman and Boxster beforehand. While I understand why Porsche is playing up the 911 angle, I think there’s actually a better comparison, illustrated by an anecdote that I guarantee happened, even if it sounds too good to be true.
It was the second day of our drive, and we were making our way into Hamburg in rather dense traffic. In the lane alongside our car was a metallic blue Porsche 928, well-kept if not immaculate and smelling like a rich exhaust. As we pulled up alongside each other, it was obvious we were checking out each other’s car. At which point, the 928 driver pointed at our car and simply said “the future.” (Actually, he said “die zukunft” first, at which point I did the “sorry, I don’t speak German, but that’s a cool car you’re driving” thing.)
Now, if you’re not a Porschephile, some context might be helpful—the 928 first appeared in 1977 and was meant to replace the elderly, air-cooled, rear-engined 911 with something more fitting for the end of the 20th century. Since you can still buy a 911 more than 20 years after 928 production ceased, I’ll let you guess how well that turned out. These days the 911 might be water-cooled, but it’s still rear-engined and in no danger of being replaced. But the interaction made me realize that 928 may as well be the Taycan’s spiritual predecessor. Like that car, the Taycan manages to straddle the line between out-and-out sports car and continent-crushing GT, but it offers more practicality because the rear doors (and some clever battery layout) make it a proper four-seater.
What’s it like to drive?
As you slip down into the bucket seat, you definitely feel like you’re in something low-slung and sporty. The view out the front is excellent, framed mainly by the bodywork that wraps over the front wheels and then disappears from sight in the name of aerodynamic efficiency. The driving position is definitely 911-like, and the steering wheel feels much better in-hand than the one found in a Panamera (which has an odd profile to its rim). That massive 16.8-inch main instrument display is eye-catching, although much of the ancillary information on either side can be hidden by the steering wheel unless you peer around it.
To start the car, there’s a big “on” button to the left of the wheel, and a chunky machined aluminum toggle to the right allows you to switch between forward, neutral, and reverse. Push the button, toggle the switch, and off you go. By default the car starts up in Normal mode, but a rotary controller on the steering wheel (at 4 o’clock) allows you to switch to Range, Sport, Sport Plus, or Individual modes as well.
Range, as you might expect, optimizes for efficiency, and the car defaults to just front-wheel drive whenever appropriate. The car lowers itself a little, and, depending on the battery’s state of charge (SoC), you might be limited in top speed (to as little as 56mph/90km/h if you’re really running on empty). Sport stiffens the air suspension, and the powertrain is remapped for more aggressive power delivery instead of efficiency. Sport Plus turns that all up to 11, with an even more performance-focused setup for the chassis, a thermal strategy that is concerned primarily with repeated power delivery, and the lowest possible ride-height.
After just the first few miles, it was clear the Taycan doesn’t really drive like most other BEVs we’ve tested. Although you can toggle the car so it regen(erates) some electricity when you lift the accelerator pedal, it’s only a very slight effect. Forget about one-pedal driving like you would in a BMW i3, a second-generation Nissan Leaf, or any current Tesla, all of which can be set to regen aggressively when you lift your foot off the accelerator. Nope. For slowing a Taycan, you’ll want to use the brake pedal, which will regen at up to 265kW and 0.39G—beyond that threshold (or if the battery is full and unable to accept more charge) it will be a blend of regenerative braking and friction braking. The pedal-feel under braking is excellent, and I wasn’t ever conscious of the car juggling the two systems. That’s mainly thanks to Porsche’s experience with the 919 Hybrid race car—those drivers needed confidence in the brake pedal more than anything else, and they worked hard with the engineers to develop the system.
On the move, the Taycan succeeds in feeling much lighter than its actual curb weight, which will be at least 5,132lbs (2,328kg) for the Taycan Turbo or 5,121lbs (2,323kg) for the Turbo S. The difference is night and day compared to the Panamera Turbos S E-Hybrid, which tips the scales by a similar amount. It’s most noticeable in initial turn-in—the Taycan responds to steering inputs with much less inertia than the Panamera, which always feels a bit tank-like. Throughout all the drive modes, the steering remains communicative, and it keeps you informed of how much grip the (low rolling resistance) front tires are providing.