2020 Porsche Taycan First Drive: Proudly And Properly Electric

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It’s probably fair to say there were many Porsche enthusiasts out there that were watching the Porsche Taycan development with a wary eye. 

I’m sure nobody questioned if it would be fast and handle well. Tesla has already proven that electric cars can be world-class performers if the manufacturer wants them to be. But would the Taycan feel like a Porsche, or would it be a soundless metal rocket without a soul? In short, could the engineers in Stuttgart build an electric sports car and make it a real Porsche?

I’ll get this over very quickly. Yes, they can, and that’s exactly what they did.

I’ve had the opportunity to drive many Porsches over the years, and I even owned a Boxster S for a number of years. I loved that car. I maintained it meticulously, added a ton of crazy upgrades and modifications, and basically thought I’d keep it forever. Therefore, I know very well what it means to “feel like a Porsche”, something Porsche owners are quick to point out. The Taycan is a Porsche through and through. 

About That Name

Porsche gave a lot of thought into choosing a name that they felt best represented what they were hoping to achieve with the Taycan: 

A name that fulfills every phonetic, legal, creative, strategic, and model-specific requirement. Composed of two terms of Turkic origin, this word can be roughly translated as “soul of a spirited young horse.” And that’s exactly what the first fully electric Porsche will be: lively, impetuous, vigorous, light-footed on long stretches without tiring, and free-spirited. The name reflects both the source and the future of the brand: the horse on the Porsche crest, the expression of its soul, on its way into a new era of the sports car.

However, that only covers the Taycan name, why did they use “Turbo”, when there’s no turbocharger? The Porsche representatives I spoke to knew they would catch some slack for this, but they said nomenclature of product lines is consistent, so their customers clearly understand where that particular model fits into the lineup.

By using Turbo and Turbo S after the Taycan name, customers know how to compare those trim levels to other Taycan trims that will be available in the future. While I understand this reasoning, I think they would have been better served if they created a new naming standard for their electric offerings.   

On The Road

Porsche Product Spokesperson Calvin Kim stressed that the Taycan is, first of all, a Porsche, and the fact that it’s electric is secondary. It needed to feel and behave as a Porsche does, and I believe they accomplished that goal. The steering is weighty and direct even when driving at high speeds on the Autobahn. We were able to get our Taycan up to 167 MPH and the car felt incredibly solid and stable.

Porsche states that both the Taycan Turbo, and Taycan Turbo S’s top speed is 161 mph, so when I asked Kim if he thought the speedometer might be off, he just smiled and said he’s pretty confident it’s calibrated correctly. That wouldn’t surprise me because Porsche has offered conservative performance figures for other models in the past. Full road tests often reveal better numbers than the official statistics that Porsche provides.

However, the top speed and handling weren’t what impressed me the most. What I was most astounded by was the crushing assault of the G forces every time you mash the accelerator to the floor. Besides a Tesla Model S P100D, there’s nothing I’ve ever driven that even feels close to how the Taycan Turbo S accelerates. 

In fact, after driving the Taycan Turbo S about 500 miles from Copenhagen, Denmark to Hamburg, Germany, my Model 3 (long-range dual-motor) now feels as if it accelerates like my dad’s Honda Accord. That’s how brutally powerful the Taycan is, and how it has totally spoiled me.  

Like many Porsches, the Taycan has launch control, which you activate by simultaneously mashing the accelerator and the brake pedal, while the car is set to Sport Plus mode. Even though the Taycan Turbo S pumps out 751 horsepower and 774 pound-feet of torque, the traction control and massive tires (the Turbo S wears 305/30/21s in back and 265/35/21s in front) do a wonderful job of keeping the vehicle under control, as is furiously launches forward.

That translates to a 0-to-60 mph time of 2.6 seconds and a quarter-mile run of 10.8 seconds, according to Porsche. Using a smartphone app that has proven generally reliable, I recorded a 0-60 time of 2.71 seconds. Even more impressive is that zero to thirty was achieved in 1 second flat. However, that was with two people in the car, plus about 100 lbs of additional luggage and camera gear. Also, we did the runs on a deteriorated country road with loose gravel, which isn’t the best surface for proper launches. I have no doubt that if we removed the extra passenger and gear, and were launching an a proper surface, we would shave off at least a tenth of a second, and match Porsche’s claimed time, if not improve upon it.  

The non-S Taycan Turbo is slightly less powerful, with 671 horsepower and 627 pound-feet of torque. That’s good for a 0-60 time of 3 seconds flat, and a quarter-mile run will take 11.1 seconds, only .3 seconds slower than the Turbo S. 

The two-speed transmission installed on the rear axle is an innovation developed by Porsche. First gear gives the Taycan even more acceleration from a standing start, while second gear with a long gear ratio ensures high efficiency and equally high power reserves. This also applies at very high speeds.

I admit, the two-speed transmission took a little getting used to. You can definitely feel the shift, which occurs between 50 and 65 mph, depending on which driving mode you’ve selected. It just doesn’t seem right to me after driving single-speed EVs for over ten years now. Porsche claims the two-speed transmission is critical in optimizing performance and efficiency. I don’t hate it, it just seems a little strange to me. I’m sure I’d get used to it if I drove a Taycan regularly. 

Driving Modes & Range

The Taycan has four different driving modes: Range, Normal, Sport, and Sport Plus. While in Range mode the emphasis is on efficiency. The shutters on the nose close to reduce drag, and the Taycan’s rear spoiler sets to a position that improves airflow over the Taycan and through the tumblehome. The standard air suspension also lowers the ride height to further improve aerodynamics. Range mode also increases efficiency by allowing the powertrain to intelligently switch between two and four-wheel drive modes, and will decouple the rear axle and use only the more efficient front motor under most conditions. However, if you need more power, the rear motor will join the party and deliver the added punch if the driver is aggressive with the accelerator. 

Porsche Taycan First Drive

As for range, the Taycan Turbo is rated at 279 miles per charge, and the Turbo S 256. However, that’s using the more optimistic WLTP testing cycle. Porsche has yet to announce the EPA range ratings. Using InsideEVs range calculator, that should translate to 249 miles for the Turbo, and 228 for the Turbo S. In both of my days with a Taycan Turbo S, I managed to average 2.4 miles per kWh, which would give the Turbo S a driving range of about 201 miles, about 10% less than what we’d expect in the EPA rating.

However, that included a good amount of very spirited driving, including some launch mode runs. Although I’m not counting the flat-out Autobahn driving on the last day where I drove for about 20 minutes at speeds consistently over 130 MPH. During that time, I used about 33% of the battery while driving only about 50 miles. Overall, based on my experience, I think the EPA figures will come in at about 220 miles for the Turbo S, and 240 miles for the Turbo. 

Battery

The Taycan battery consists of 33 modules, each containing 12 lithium-ion pouch cells supplied by LG Chem. It has a total pack size of 93.4 kWh and weighs 1,389 lbs. Porsche had been tight-lipped on the exact usable amount of energy the Taycan will offer, but during the first drive event I was able to confirm the usable amount will be 84 kWh. Like Audi did with the e-Tron, Porsche is restricting a fair amount of the Taycan’s battery from use, sacrificing range in an effort to reduce degradation, and prolong the battery’s usable life.

The Taycan is the first EV to employ an 800-volt battery system, as all other EVs on the market today use a 400-volt battery. This not only allows the Taycan to charge at a higher rate to reduce the charging time but also allowed Porsche to use thinner wires and lighter connectors throughout the high voltage battery system.

That might sound counter-intuitive since the voltage is higher. However, it’s the amperage that essentially dictates how thick the wiring needs to be. Since the voltage is double that of other EVs, the amperage can be significantly lower and still charge the vehicle faster. Thinner wires save weight, and that makes the vehicle more efficient and faster. 

Porsche Taycan Turbo S

Charging

The Taycan can charge at a rate up to 270 kW on an 800-volt DC fast charger, but is limited to only 50 kW when charging on a 400-volt unit. There will be an option offered that allows the vehicle to charge at 150 kW on 400-volt chargers. Personally, I think the 50 kW standard charging at 400-volts is a problem, but not a huge one. In the US, all of the Electrify America sites coming online have at least one 350 kW, 800-volt station.

The only problem will be if that 350 kW station is not functional, which certainly can happen. In that case, your ~20 minute pit stop can extend to well over an hour. It really all depends on how often the owner will be driving long distances. The typical Taycan owner will not be street-parking the vehicle, it will be safely tucked away in a nice (probably heated) garage, where it can be charged every night, reducing the need to use public charging infrastructure. Personally, I wouldn’t need the 150 kW 400-volt charging option if I were getting a Taycan, because I’d hardly ever need to use it, and when I do I’d roll the dice with getting a functional EA 350 kW station. 

In Europe, the Ionity network of high-speed DC fast chargers offer 800-volt charging, as do most Electrify America sites in the US. The Taycan can charge from 5% to 80% in 22 minutes. I made sure I pulled into the Ionity site that Porsche had planned in our driving route with exactly 5% state of charge to test out Porsche’s claim. 

I was able to charge from 5% to 80% in exactly 24 minutes, two minutes longer than what Porsche claims it takes. I pointed this out to Porsche’s high voltage battery system manager, Dr. Benjamin Passenberg. He said the slightly longer time was likely due to the fact that there were four Taycan examples charging at this location simultaneously, plus the battery temperature of my car was slightly lower than optimal.

I began my charging with a battery temperature of 84 degrees Fahrenheit. He said it would have probably charged slightly faster if the battery temperature was closer to the optimal temperature of 91 degrees. Still, all things considered, getting from 5% to 80% in under 25 minutes with a 93.4 kWh battery is pretty darn good. 

Porsche Taycan First Drive

What was also impressive is how well the Taycan maintains a high charging rate. The car charged at 260 kW until a little over 30% SOC, and then dropped to 150 kW and held it until it was about 75% charged. It then began tapering down but continued to charge at about 45 kW to 50 kW until it reached 95% charged. On day two, I started charging at 2% and the battery arrived at 99% in 55 minutes. Obviously, the last 15% took some time to load, but I wanted to try to get the full charging time as close as I could, from empty to full. Under normal conditions, Taycan owners would probably unplug and leave in less than 30 minutes, after achieving more than 80% SOC.

Had I programmed the navigation system to let it know I’d be charging at the stop, the vehicle would have begun preconditioning the battery as I approached the Ionity location. However, at such a low state of charge, the preconditioning would have been turned off well before I arrived, in an effort to conserve the battery.

Another unique feature of the Taycan is it has two charging ports, one on the left fender and another on the right. The port on the left fender is for level 1 & 2 charging and the one on the right side is for DC fast charging. On European cars with the type 2 connector, the left side port can also accommodate high-speed AC charging.

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Interior & User Interface

The Taycan has four (or five if you get the optional passenger screen) touchscreens, and like Tesla’s vehicles, the only physical buttons or knobs are on the steering wheel. I found the enormous 16.8-inch curved drivers’ display to be extremely satisfying. Surrounding the drivers’ display are touch-capacitive buttons that control the ride height, the headlights, stability control and the adjustable suspension. 

There are four separate preset modes that can be cycled by scrolling the tabs on the steering wheel, changing the layout to display information like speed, tire pressure, driving mode, and even a display to demonstrate whether the front or rear motor is doing most of the work at any given time. I particularly appreciated the navigation setting, which you can have restricted to the center of the screen, or have the map consume nearly the entire curved driver’s display. 

To the left of the driver’s display, there’s a 10.9″ center display which controls the regular in-car infotainment system. The radio, navigation and other apps can all be accessed here. Interestingly, Porsche took a page out of the Tesla Model 3’s book, and used air vents that are electronically controlled. That task is also done on the center screen. 

There’s also a the optional passenger touchscreen that can be set to show phone, audio, and navigation information. 

The center console sports a 8.4″ screen that has haptic feedback. This screen mainly controls the climate-control settings, and a battery state of charge display. The final touchscreen is in the rear seating area, and manages the climate controls for the rear passengers, allowing them to adjust the air flow accordingly, since the vents cannot be manually adjusted by hand.

I found the entire system pretty easy to use, and intuitive. Although I need to note that the Taycan I drove on the first day needed to be replaced, because the entire display system crashed and had to be rebooted while I was driving. These are pre-production Taycans, and it’s not unusual for there to be some glitches on cars made before the real production cars roll off the line. I spoke to other journalists at the first drive event, and none seemed to have any problems, so I think my car’s issue was just an anomaly. 

Final Thoughts 

In my opinion, Porsche really had a lot riding on the Taycan. This is an enormous step into the future for the brand, and if their first electric car was undeserving of the Porsche crest, then I think it would have seriously tarnished the brand, and possibly even hurt the perception of all electric cars. Luckily, that didn’t happen. 

I can honestly say had more fun driving the Taycan than I’ve had in any car since driving an original Tesla Roadster back in 2009. The driving experience is top notch; the suspension is stiff, but not so stiff that you feel like your bumping around while driving over uneven road surfaces. It corners like it’s on rails, and does so with amazing authority. 

The steering feel is excellent, the Taycan doesn’t feel light, but it doesn’t certainly feel like it weighs nearly as much as a Model X at 5,100 lbs. The acceleration hurts, and I don’t say that lightly. Mash the throttle at 120 mph and you still get a kick as the car accelerates all the way up to the top speed of nearly 170 mph.  

Porsche did what they needed to; they made the Taycan at least as good – actually better, than any of their conventionally-fueled offerings. If only I didn’t need to take out a second mortgage to buy one…

Specs

Taycan Turbo Taycan Turbo S
Horsepower 616 Horsepower (671 HP w/Overboost) 616 Horsepower (751 HP w/Overboost)
Torque 627 Pound-Feet 774 Pound-Feet
0-60 (w/Launch Control) 3.0 Seconds 2.6 Seconds
0-124 (w/Launch Control) 10.6 Seconds 9.8 Seconds
Top Speed 161 MPH 161 MPH
Range (WLTP) 237-280 Miles 241-256 Miles
Recharge Time (Minimum) 22.5 Minutes 22.5 Minutes
Price $153,310 $187,610

*Disclosure: Porsche paid airfare, lodging and meals expense for InsideEVs to attend the Taycan First Drive event. 

 

 



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