It was over a year ago that I first suggested to the editor the idea behind this test. It was to pitch the most analogue version of Porsche’s most traditional offering against its most modern.
This was more than just petrol versus electric, it was analogue versus digital, a rear-drive car with an internal combustion engine and a manual gearbox lobbed at an all-electric four-wheel-drive technology showcase without so much as a flappy paddle to cover its modesty.
But then various things happened, a global pandemic among them. Porsche also found itself flat out just satisfying demand for two-pedal 911s and then, when the manual did come on stream, they all went to the US, which is by far the biggest market for such cars. And finally, when three-pedal 992s made their way over here, Porsche thought it best to get its cars to its most loyal and patient customers first and onto its press fleet second. Which is probably fair enough.
You may also look at their relative specifications and wonder why we bothered. After all, one has four doors and the other just two. The Taycan is getting on for half a metre longer (almost all in the wheelbase), more than 10cm wider, nearly 8cm higher and, get this, 740kg heavier. There are entire cars that weigh less than that. Should we not be putting it up against something else instead, like a Panamera?
Well, maybe, and perhaps one day we will. But today this isn’t so much a comparison of cars as concepts. It is, I think, now broadly accepted that, rightly or wrongly and for good or ill, electric cars like the Taycan will replace pure ICE cars like the 911 and, in the context of the history of the automobile, not long from now. So how much further does the finest of the new breed still have to be before it’s just a better option for most people most of the time than the best that the traditional approach has been able to yield? In short, can revolution eclipse evolution?
There’s another reason they’re here: road testers tend to think in quite binary ways before putting one car up against another; customers don’t. I recently had a conversation with someone who couldn’t decide whether to get a new Range Rover or a second-hand McLaren. And I’d bet plenty that there are long-term 911 lovers out there who, for reasons of tax efficiency, a growing family or concern for the environment or their personal image, are right now wondering whether now is not the right time to trade in their rear-engine flat-six coupé for something a bit more spacious, refined, environmentally aware, cool and, well, electric. Bear in mind how close they are in price and performance – especially once you’ve added the essential Performance Battery Plus to the cost of the Taycan 4S – and suddenly what we’re doing here may not seem so strange after all.
I drove the 911 first because I wanted that grounding, an absolute datum point on where the world’s greatest sports car is in 2021 before tackling the Taycan. And it’s in a very good place. Now that it can be had with manual gears, pretty much the only diversion from the purist’s perfect car wishlist are the two turbochargers attached to its 444bhp, 3.0-litre engine. But so little is the lag, so smooth the power progression, so sharp the throttle response and so great the sound that I’d challenge anyone to tell me those two puffers don’t actually add to the driving experience.