We’ve been saying for some time that the electric vehicle segment would really take off when mainstream manufacturers started entering the space, and the 2020 Porsche Taycan is the start of the high-end avalanche we’ve all been waiting for.
It’s been a while coming, too. We first saw the Mission E concept all the way back in 2015. Yes, Nissan has the Leaf, BMW has the i3, Hyundai is in the market now, and Tesla is, obviously, well, Tesla.
The thing is, Porsche brings its own badge cachet to the electric vehicle segment – and in a big way, too. A Porsche has always been a status vehicle, desirable to young and old alike, and now you can buy one that happens to be electric.
Tesla had first crack at the performance segment, and in many ways Tesla redefined what we thought was capable and what we’ve come to expect from an electric vehicle.
However, Porsche has quietly – and with gargantuan engineering input – gone about electric vehicle development with the expectation being that it would rewrite the rechargeable rulebook.
You can read all the in-depth tech details by clicking on the links at the bottom of this review, to Paul Maric’s excellent and extensive investigations from the launch event.
Now, though, we get to drive it. And drive it we will, on the open road, on the highway, through towns, in traffic, and as close to reality as we possibly can. That’s the way we’d approach the international launch first drive of any conventional car, after all.
What I will state here is that despite the gargantuan engineering effort, the Taycan is still an electric vehicle. Therefore, it is still a victim to some of the issues you face with any electric vehicle.
Its range is limited, with 450km the best-case scenario on the Turbo, charging time, especially here in Australia where an extensive network of 270kW-capable chargers is some time away, and it’s heavy. It tips the scales at 2300kg, so it’s no lightweight.
Plenty of positives outweigh those negatives, though, and the Taycan will get more affordable, battery tech will evolve quickly in the next five years, and electric vehicles will get lighter. The future, though, is now.
Yes, we asked about the silly Turbo and Turbo S badging, but the fact of the matter is Porsche believes stridently that those names relate to specification and performance grades now, rather than engine accoutrements.
Any Porsche called a Turbo is right at the outer edge of the performance stratosphere, and these two are certainly that. And that’s the way it’s going to be going forward, too, like it or not.
Read the stories above for more in-depth explanation, but in short, the Taycan has a 93.4kWh lithium-ion battery pack within the new J1 platform and a motor at each axle.
It’s got four-wheel steering, suspension design and geometry that is similar to the Panamera, and the rear gearbox is two-speed, which delivers ridiculous acceleration off the mark, but more efficient power delivery once you are moving.
We didn’t see the power level drop below 22 per cent on test, and we accessed 350kW Ionity chargers that could therefore charge the Porsche theoretically up to its maximum 270kW under ideal conditions.
More than once, we saw the Taycan boosted back up to 80–85 per cent in less than 30 minutes. Just enough time for a coffee and toilet break, then. I’m the first to point out that 30 minutes isn’t the five minutes it takes to fuel up a conventional vehicle, but charge times will – slowly but surely – get faster.
The exterior styling is interesting. I’ve never been a Porsche acolyte blindly professing all things Porsche to be perfect. I don’t like the look of the Panamera, and I never have. I do think there are elements of Porsche design that can fairly be targeted. However, I reckon the Taycan looks sensational.
It’s sharper, more visceral, edgier, more aggressive, and more tech-driven in terms of styling than the Panamera would have any right to be, and it looks even better on the move out among the traffic.
You could argue that the headlights look strange, but even they grew on me the more I looked at it, and I love the low-slung, ground-hugging stance.
I might even be one of the very few people around who actually likes all the different wheel designs. From certain angles, you can see a hell of a lot of 911 in it, which is no bad thing if you do love Porsche design, either.
What’s most interesting to me when you drop into the cabin, is how low it really is. As in, it’s 911 low. Which might be a problem for some people, but it adds to the sense of theatre the way I measure it. You feel like you’re in something fast the second you drop into the sculpted seat.
The floating centre console is elegant, but the storage shelf beneath it is silly and not easy to access. The door pockets, bottle holders and general storage, though, are all well laid out and useful.
The screens are brilliant – digital gauges for the driver that are customisable, a central 10.9-inch touchscreen, and an optional one in front of the passenger to allow them to work the infotainment, satellite navigation or whatever else takes their fancy.
No, you don’t need the optional one, but it’s pretty cool.
The control centre is beautiful in its simplicity. Buttons have been removed, switchgear minimised, the layout thoughtful, and you quickly get familiar with everything.
The air vents are electronically controlled, which seems a bit silly for the sake of it, and you need to access a submenu on the screen to work them. It’s not easy to work out and access on the move, either. Conventional vents please Porsche.
Much of the important stuff is familiar, though – like the driving modes, where a dial on the steering wheel toggles between Range, Normal, Sport and Sport+. Anyone who has even spent five minutes inside a Porsche cabin will be able to work most of it all out very quickly.
The front boot – or frunk as it is now known – houses 81L of gear, the boot offers up 366L, and there is room in the second row – just – for a six-foot-tall adult.
The clever design of the battery pack means you get a proper footwell in the second row, and while I’d rather not have the panoramic glass roof in Oz, it does liberate more head room when you do have it.
Paul’s tech stories dissect all the numbers, but as a reminder, both Turbo and Turbo S are fast – 3.2 and 2.8 seconds respectively to the 100km/h mark.
Attempt launch control on a wet road, as I did, and you get the hilarity of Porsche’s lightning fast electronics trying their best to harness 1050Nm. Even those electronics, as quick as they are, stand no chance. The power on tap from nothing is gargantuan.
On a dry road, the Turbo S is ‘lose your stomach fast’ when it bites viciously into the hotmix and explodes off the mark. Silently, of course… Don’t launch the Taycan without warning your passenger. I did, and we almost had a case of whiplash to deal with. It’s savagery at its finest when you do fire it hard off the mark.
While there’s a case to be made for stumping up the extra and just having the Turbo S – as most Aussie buyers probably will, given we almost always opt for the performance variant in big numbers – the Turbo is perfectly adequate around town and for 95 per cent of the driving you’ll do.
There’s a quiet hum when the Taycan first comes to life and a light whoosh that’s impossible to replicate with words. You can turn on a fake exhaust note – which activates automatically in Sport+ mode – but why bother? You’re buying this Porsche because it’s a silent assassin. If you want noise, buy something else in the extensive Stuttgart catalogue.
The Taycan is lovely to drive around town. Quiet, yes, insulated, of course, and luxurious in the way it wafts from traffic light to traffic light. The ride is firm, but it’s impressive, and it truly does feel smaller the more wheel time you get.
I loved the docile way the throttle responded in Normal mode, and it’s as easy to drive as any other Porsche I’ve ever tested. It’s as quick as any, too, or certainly feels it.
A Porsche strong point – steering – remains well executed here, too. It’s not supercar sharp, but it’s nicely weighted and direct, even on twisty roads. The savagery of the power delivery masks much of the weight, but it is hefty if you get really enthusiastic on a twisty road.
Open the taps on the Autobahn, we nudged 250km/h, and the acceleration is relentless, with no dip in progress. None. Just continued punch all the way to the speed limiter if you are so inclined.
The brakes are something it takes a while to get your head around. Most of the time, you're not actually feeling pad biting into rotor – the feel is synthetic. The pads don’t come into effect until you execute a hard stop.
The regeneration system is able to push 265kW back into the battery, and mechanical retardation is only used when you go beyond that realm. Porsche engineers say that more than 80 per cent of the time, braking will be taken care of by regen’, meaning you’ll have no clue you’re not really using brakes the way you always have. I certainly didn’t notice anything strange.
The brakes are therefore coated to stop them rusting, and Porsche replaces them in a service schedule every seven years from memory, simply so they don’t degrade. But they are effectively life-of-car objects if they had to be.
What you will notice is the way those electronics – somewhat overwhelmed by the massive torque on a wet road – manage to police unbelievable balance and grip on corner exit. No matter how stupid you try to be with the accelerator pedal, the Taycan rockets out of corners with surety.
The impression I’m left with after our all-too-brief launch drive is that the Taycan is indeed a proper Porsche. It’s ridiculously fast, it’s composed, enjoyable to drive, and it’s premium.
Even the Turbo we drove with the ‘lesser’ interior felt premium. There’s nothing about the drive experience that doesn’t match the Porsche expectation, in other words.
Porsche engineers wanted to deliver an electric vehicle that drives as much like a 911 as possible, and they’ve done that. Whether it’s perfect or not isn’t the point – no car is. Is it the best electric car I’ve tested? Yep. Clearly.
The Tesla fan boys and girls will be wound up tighter than a coil spring, but the Taycan is exceptional.
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