It’s the noise that grabs your attention first. Perhaps because any noise is so unexpected, your subconscious having told you that any journey in a Porsche Taycan will be one of cocooned silence. But an electric car produces a wall of white noise, a low-frequency soundtrack that, while never distracting nor spine-tingling or hair-raising, is always there to remind you that cylinders have been replaced with cells. From the moment you push the Taycan’s starter button to when you walk away and listen to every one of its many systems power down, the Porsche’s soundtrack is never out of earshot.
The Taycan is the result of a €6billion (circa $10 billion) investment the company is putting into electrified vehicles by 2022. This has not only paid for this car’s unique platform and powertrain (although variations of both will underpin and power Audi’s forthcoming E-tron GT too), but has also funded a new factory in the heart of Zuffenhausen that allows the Taycan to be constructed in the same postcode as the 911.
Fitting into Porsche’s product portfolio beneath the Panamera and alongside the likes of the new Cayenne Coupe, the Taycan is of BMW 3-series proportions but with 911 GT2 RS performance, despite weighing almost 2300kg.
This is Porsche’s most technologically advanced road car in its 71-year history. It’s also a car that wanted for nothing during its development. According to those involved in the project, it was seen as a once-in-a-career opportunity, with a large number of the personnel behind it having worked on Porsche’s sports cars previous to starting on the Taycan. There will be more electric Porsches, but the Taycan is the first and provides the template for future models built on its J-platform architecture. The Taycan Cross Turismo will become reality next year, after the next Macan has gone full electric at the end of 2019. And the first electric sports car? That will be beyond the current 718 Boxster/Cayman, which will see out their existence with new flat-six engines before Porsche makes a call on what will power their replacements. A mixture of internal combustion and EV powertrains is a safe bet.
For now, it’s all about the Taycan. In a design studio, an unfinished factory, a solar energy farm, under the bright lights of a motor show stand and now in a hotel car park in Gothenburg. Of the handful of venues where we’ve seen the Taycan so far, it’s in the most recent of them where Michael Mauer’s design works best, out in the open surrounded by the reality of the real world. It’s not a beautiful piece of design, but it is striking. Low and sleek, a small canopy positioned on wide, broad shoulders. Where a Tesla Model S looks flabby and nondescript, the Taycan is distinctive and honed to the last millimetre. The detailing is limited, the jewellery very subtle, and from some angles, in some lights, the rear-quarter treatment will give Peugeot 508 drivers something to compare it to. It transcends that line of being unmistakably a Porsche and is clearly a car that’s like no other from the company that also makes a rear-engined, 500-plus kilowatt, rear-wheel-drive supercar that has the ability to make Le Mans winners tread carefully.
It’s inside the Taycan that old Porsche begins to fade and the new world wraps itself around you. Just as its battery pack allows the Taycan to have the lowest centre of gravity of any Porsche, it also means that the driver can position them self what feels like only an inch or two above the catseyes. Add in the 918 Spyder-inspired three-spoke steering wheel that can be pulled tight into your chest and you feel Porsche has worked a little extra at nailing the low-slung sports car driving position.
And where other electric cars go to extreme lengths to show how much space a traditional powertrain occupies inside a car by installing minimalist interiors, Porsche has taken the opportunity to design an interior with no compromises, maximising space and utilising the layout, and it’s all the better for it.
A more traditional electric car design staple is the proliferation of screens. And, including the floating instrument display, there are four in total in the Taycan. The new digital instruments replace the traditional cluster but retain Porsche’s traditional five-dial layout. The centre dial isn’t a rev counter, for obvious reasons, rather it displays how much energy you are using or recuperating, and, in the middle, your speed. Flanking the centre dial are two configurable displays that can show you everything from energy flow to the satnav map.
Positioned around the outer edges of the display are switches for the lights, traction control, damper settings and ride height, while the driving modes are selected via the steering wheel dial. As you sit snugly between a door card that wouldn’t look out of place in a 911 and a transmission tunnel that’s both lower and wider than the Panamera’s, the Taycan’s cockpit looks possibly the most driver-focused of any sports sedan for a generation.
Two further screens complete the span across the cockpit: the nearest to the driver is the latest PCM (Porsche Communication Management) module, while the unit in front of the passenger provides edited highlights of what appears on the screen alongside it. Air con controls, the boot release and battery charging data can be found on the final screen, which rises up to meet the dash. It’s all incredibly slick and a haptic control fan’s delight, although it won’t please those who don’t like fingerprints on every surface inside a car.
There’s a key for the Taycan but you don’t need to do anything with it. Approach the door and the handles present themselves. When you settle in the screens awake. Press the starter button to the left of the steering column and the whirring begins in earnest. The gearlever, taken from the 992, is positioned to the right of the column. Pull down for drive, hear a few more motors engage, and as your left foot comes off the brake pedal you’re transported to the set of Tron. The motors hum and those first metres of driving an electric Porsche demonstrate just how much noise generated by a car moving over a surface is masked by an internal combustion engine. Tyre noise especially.
The Taycan Turbo S (the Turbo nomenclature has been retained to provide an identity in terms of trim, performance and price) is powered by two electric motors – one for each axle. There’s a two-speed transmission on the rear axle, its first gear for pure acceleration, the second providing the longer-ratio for the 260km/h maximum, while the front motor has its own single-speed gearing. Between the two axles is a 93.4kWh-capacity battery that feeds both motors. In old money this equates to 460kW (both Turbo and Turbo S produce the same ‘basic’ output), with the Turbo S able to call on an additional 100kW when launch control is engaged (40kW for the Turbo). At 1050Nm you won’t find a Porsche road car that has produced more torque.
These aren’t figures to take lightly. Four driving modes are available – Range, Normal, Sport and Sport Plus (plus an Individual mode that allows you to configure it all yourself) – and even in Range, where efficiency is the name of the game, top speed is limited to 140km/h and for the majority of situations only the front motor is engaged, the Taycan has a turn of speed that will shock an M3 driver. Combined with the seamless delivery of an EV’s power and that instant access to that mountain of torque, the sensation of acceleration is greater still. The linear nature and unconventional soundtrack (for how long this will remain unconventional, who knows) only adds to the experience, the sensation alien to all who have been brought up on the violent, deafening approach to performance an internal combustion engine delivers when you give it its head.
With no rising revs, gears hitting home or torque and power peaks to reach, the Taycan’s pace is switch-like. One moment you’re travelling at 60km/h, and in what feels like less than a blink of an eye you’re at double that. But it feels more of a number than a demonstration of performance. Engage Sport Plus, plant your left foot on the brake and your right hard down on the throttle, and in a moment launch control is engaged. Release your left foot and 560kW hurls you down the road with cheek-wobbling accelerative force that, after repeated runs – Porsche claims 10 full-bore launches in a row are possible before the battery needs to cool down – can make you a little nauseous. Impressive? Without a doubt. Thrilling? For a few runs. Engaging? No.
Unimaginable acceleration for those of us who missed out on being called up to fighter jet school is the electric car’s USP, hyperdrive acceleration allowing this four-door, four-seat family car to reach 100km/h in 2.8sec, a single second slower than a Formula 1 car that weighs over 1500kg less and is fitted with a set of slicks. Meanwhile 200km/h arrives 9.8sec after take-off, the quarter-mile in 10.8sec. These are figures from a car that weighs 2295kg.
Porsche is acutely aware just how important these numbers are to the EV world, which is why the Taycan requires no lengthy preconditioning of its batteries before performing such launches, although they do need to be up to normal operating temperature (around 50deg C). But it’s a rather soulless experience. Once your left foot is clear of the brake pedal those 21-inch tyres paw at the surface for grip. The steering wheel moves slightly between your fingers as you feel the energy being distributed through the car, across each axle and back to those poor rubber shoes that are gripping, releasing and gripping again as they battle the onslaught of instant torque. But they never break traction, even with the traction control off. It hooks up, it goes. When you want it to stop is down to you and how much your stomach can take.
But the best performance cars offer more than just straight-line acceleration. They involve you, excite you and drag you into their world. Which the Taycan does to a point. Underpinning its considerable mass is a three-chamber air suspension set-up, with Porsche Active Suspension Management providing the damper settings. The double wishbones at the front and multi-link rear suspension components sound archaic for a car packing so much new world tech, but the ride is exemplary and the body control cast iron. With the additional support of four-wheel steering, the Taycan builds a consistent flow between apices, over undulations and across poorly surfaced roads. A Panamera wouldn’t be as resolved despite packing all but identical suspension hardware.
A Panamera has nicer steering, though. Whether it’s because the engineers wanted to avoid the over-light set-ups associated with EVs or it’s a genuine consequence of the Taycan’s chassis, its steering feels unnatural and overly heavy. No matter what the speed the steering’s weight is an ever-present, and it takes a concerted effort to manage every input and push beyond the resistance. When you do there’s grip aplenty, and while there’s no detail coming back to your fingers there’s a level of predictability to work with. For context, it’s better than the first electric racks fitted to the 991-generation 911 in 2012.
Porsche’s carbon-ceramic brakes (there are 420mm discs at the front, 410mm ones at the rear) with 10-piston calipers for the front are standard on the Taycan Turbo S. Pedal feel is consistent with that of other Porsches fitted with the same brakes, with retardation second to none. But Porsche also claims the Taycan’s regenerative set-up means that, in Range mode, when you lift off the throttle you shouldn’t need to touch the brakes at all, the regen being strong enough to slow the car.
And here’s a new area of a car’s performance to consider for evo: range. According to WLTP figures, a Taycan Turbo S should have a range of 385km. After using an Ionity fast charger (a European network of chargers funded by car manufacturers to accelerate the charging network) to charge the Taycan’s battery from 10 to 90 per cent in 25 minutes, our car claimed a range of between 300 and 350km. With four occupants and 55kg of luggage we managed 290km between charges, but only when driving in a very un-Porsche-like manner. Obviously weight has an effect on any car’s fuel consumption, but at the modest pace at which we found ourselves driving when we weren’t 20 minutes from a charger, we wouldn’t have expected the Turbo S to experience such a drop-off in range.
There is no question regarding the quality of the engineering that has gone into creating the Taycan. It is the most resolved car of its type that we have driven, with every function oozing a level of quality not experienced in other electric cars, including those from within the VW Group. The one criticism (aside from a charging infrastructure that is growing at a glacial rate) is that the focus on outright performance has come at the cost of driver involvement. The Taycan doesn’t need to be a 560kW supersedan – it would be a more rounded performance car, a better Porsche, if it had a sub-2000kg kerb weight, 375kW and a real-world range much closer to 500km.
The Porsche Taycan is a fantastic achievement, a stupendously fast car and one that moves the electric car sector to a whole new level – factors that cannot go unrecognised. If you have the funds, a Taycan would solve many motoring needs, but readers of this magazine will still want a traditional sports car at their disposal to deliver the thrills we crave every time we get behind the wheel.
By Stuart Gallagher
Photography by Matt Howell