Currently reading: New Porsche Taycan first drive: real-world range test
We test overhauled EV's wide-reaching upgrades with a drive across California

Kevin Giek is a remarkably chipper chap, considering that he has one of the toughest jobs in the automotive industry.

In his 23 years at Weissach, he has worked pretty much everywhere except the canteen, had a hand in the development of some of Porsche’s most influential cars and, most recently, headed a brutal development programme for the new Taycan in which millions of miles have been covered, in all corners of the world and in the most extreme conditions.

This latest exploit could be the most important yet – and not just for him, as director of the Taycan model line, but also for his employer. Arriving four years after the launch of the original Taycan and mere weeks after the unveiling of its SUV sibling, the Macan EV, this is a crucial piece in Porsche’s electrification puzzle as it eyes 80% of its sales being electric by 2030.

When it was launched, the original Taycan – compellingly specified and relatively peerless as it was – had something of an easy ride. The new version won’t.

After all, this is a saloon/estate that in just 48 months has sold more than 150,000 examples worldwide, is now Porsche’s best-seller in the UK (incidentally the biggest market globally for the Taycan last year) and, perhaps most importantly, ranks consistently as one of the best-handling and most engaging electric cars on the market.

Even at the point in a car’s life when a traditional facelift would usually be called on to sustain its appeal, the Taycan doesn’t feel especially in need of revitalisation.

But new rivals seem to appear on a daily basis. There are the obvious contenders like the top-link BMW i4 and Mercedes-Benz EQE, but even some flavours of electric Hyundai and Kia now come pretty close in raw performance and utility terms, while would-be buyers overseas are no doubt having their heads turned by the likes of the Lucid Air and Nio ET7. Not to mention intimidating newbies like the Lotus Emeya and Polestar 5

The Taycan’s raw statistics still stand it in good stead, but the emergence of new technologies, new learnings and new feedback all create opportunities for enhancement that might not be desperately needed – but will surely be welcomed by customers.

Giek references the six-decade (and counting) evolution of Porsche’s longest-running model as a benchmark for how tangible and useful improvement can be achieved on this basis: “After 60 years, we always find improvements for our icon, the 911. Every day we find another improvement, and like this we’re developing all our cars.

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“Technology moves forward, you get new materials… Development is so fast that even one year after introducing a car, you could have a new idea and say: ‘We should have done this as well.’”

Giek is speaking to me from the passenger seat of a near-production-ready prototype, less than a week before Porsche peels back the smattering of remaining camouflage and announces the extent of the technical upheaval that the Taycan has undergone.

We are heading south on the I-5 out of Los Angeles towards San Diego, beginning a 300-mile return journey across California that will lay bare, we’re told, the real-world implications of the revisions to this seminal electric car’s battery, motors, chassis, dashboard and design.

It might not look it, admits Porsche, but the suggestion is made very clearly that this is effectively an all-new car. It’s evident that we won’t be spending the next six hours talking about its lightly tweaked headlight clusters.

You have seen the headlines now: a 422-mile maximum range, up to 939bhp and Disney+ on the front passenger’s own touchscreen.

The Taycan has never been short on clickbait-friendly attributes, but the scope of this latest round of updates is so broad as to make it once again among the strongest cards in the Top Trumps deck, after been caught up in various respects by rivals and even some much cheaper metal.

Giek actually welcomes competition on the basis that rivalry breeds improvement, but he says that in the case of the Taycan, keeping up with (or rather rapidly overtaking) other manufacturers was far less important than simply catering to the requirements of customers new and old.

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Happily, with nearly 150,000 Taycans now on public roads and amazingly some with around 185,000 miles on the clock, Porsche has a “massive pool of experience” into which it can dive in pursuit of constructive criticism.

That’s why the headlines of this ‘facelift’ (in which everything has been lifted but the face) centre on enormous improvements in the Taycan’s endurance credentials and charging capacity.

The rear motor has been swapped out for one that is at once more powerful, more efficient and lighter; the bigger battery uses a more power-dense chemistry; the regenerative brakes can now push out up to 400kW under deceleration; the maximum charging rate has been raised from 270kW to 320kW; and the thermal management system has been overhauled to make the power unit less susceptible to weather conditions.

This all comes largely in response to lingering qualms not so much about the Taycan itself but rather the ownership proposition of EVs generally.

“I think at the beginning the most critical was the range and the charging experience,” says Giek about his key takeaways from owner feedback. “Our customers were very concerned: ‘How safe is my trip?’ ‘Will I have a breakdown because the energy’s run out?’ ‘How will the system navigate me to a charging station if I need it?’

Fortuitously, Giek has a handy sideline as Porsche’s man responsible for all issues concerning charging and infrastructure (the Taycan being, until recently, the firm’s only model to which such issues pertained), and so had an especially keen eye for potential improvements in this sphere.

Naturally, he is excited to show me how it all works first hand – and after five hours of cruising at highway speeds (and the remaining miles readout trickling towards single figures), I’m quite excited to top it up, too.

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“Look at that!” beams Giek, pointing excitedly at the charger screen just a few moments after we plug in. And justifiably so, because the Taycan is guzzling electricity like a toddler does a Fruit Shoot: within 30 seconds, it’s already chugging along at well past the 270kW of the previous car, and it’s not long before we start seeing some seriously impressive numbers.

“306kW… 311kW… 316kW…” we count aloud in unison as the battery warms and the transfer of power accelerates, peaking at a blistering 332kW and, just as significantly, holding steady above 300kW for around five minutes.

We arrived with just 6% of our battery charge remaining and unplug 14 minutes later with 80%. I haven’t even had time to pop over the road for a coffee.

Impressive – and no doubt a transformative prospect for high-milers, particularly those owners (admittedly still very much in the minority) who regularly come within reach of a charger that can supply such astronomical speeds.

Giek is quick to point out that these gains don’t come in pursuit of mere bragging rights but rather serve to further enhance the Taycan ownership proposition.

“Fast driving, fast travelling, fast charging: that’s the combination that we think makes a car more usable and more convenient for our customer,” he outlines. “And there’s always the comparison between how long it takes us to fill a combustion car with fuel.”

This upgrade doesn’t quite get the Taycan into the realm of the splash and dash, but it now comes closer than any other EV on the market and will go some way to allaying any concerns from time-poor prospective customers that this lightning-fast EV could, ironically, get them from A to B slower than anything with an engine.

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Not only can the Taycan now travel further and spend less time immobile on the way, but Porsche has also significantly upgraded its charger-mapping service, too.

Users can now see how many devices are in operation at a given charger location, view photos of the site so they know what to look for on arrival and automatically pre-warm the battery so that it can accept high-speed charging straight away. Once they have picked a plug, they can even read reviews of restaurants in the immediate vicinity. No more disappointing £11 frappamochaccinos while you wait.

Has all this been conceived with a view to making this EV as easy to live with as one from a certain American car brand with a well-established proprietary charging network, I ask Giek?

“Yes, but it’s not because of Tesla,” he replies. “It’s because one item of feedback is that users don’t know where they need to charge or where they can go to charge, and our purpose is to make it as easy as possible for customers.”

However, while the new Taycan has to be an excellent EV, it must first and foremost be an excellent Porsche – which means that it must live up to its billing as a sports car that is as engaging to drive on a daily basis as it is viable.

The top-rung Turbo S now pumps out a scarcely believable 939bhp in full-on Overboost mode for a Rimac-worrying 2.4sec 0-62mph time. And it’s not even the most powerful version: the Nürburgring-conquering ‘Turbo GT’ will follow close behind, and all signs point to it producing a good deal more than 1000bhp.

It’s not all about filling YouTube with videos of people being stunned into silence/screaming/vomiting due to its rampant straight-line pace, either.

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All Taycans now get air suspension as standard for improved ride quality, and there’s an optional Active Ride system that is promised to all but eliminate roll, dive and squat under the obscene loads that will be put on each axle and corner.

Our economy-focused test route didn’t let us ascertain whether the new Taycan makes good on its promises of superior dynamic verve and stability, but given that the previous iteration still holds strong as Autocar’s best-handling EV today, it is highly unlikely to disappoint.

The sticking point, though, is that any dynamic gains have been made in the context of the Taycan’s inherent and inevitable heft, which Giek says highlights a paradox of EV development.

“Everybody puts in big batteries, and they’re going to weigh more and more and more,” he says. “And I think especially for Porsche, that’s not the way it should be. We like to have agile cars, sports cars, so it’s very important to have a critical view of the weight of a car.”

The latest Taycan – around 2300kg at the kerb in chunky Cross Turismo form – weighs 15kg less than before, despite offering more range, power and equipment. This is testament to a stringent focus on lightweighting throughout the development process that will carry forward into all future Porsches – because, says Giek, you “have to fight for every gram” when designing an EV.

“We have competitor cars on the market with 120kWh, 125kWh, 130kWh and up to 150kWh batteries,” he adds. “You can do this, for sure, but in the end that means you’re driving around with weight – and if you have a higher weight, you need stronger brakes, which weigh more, plus more crash structure… It’s a vicious cycle.”

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All of which, says Giek, is why we can’t expect a sub-2000kg Taycan in the near future: “Not with current tech. You have to use carbonfibre, but then it’s not a Taycan any more, then it’s a special car. And then we have to talk about quality…”

A totally stripped-out Taycan is unlikely to make good on the sporting luxury credentials that have cemented the model line’s global popularity over the past four years, particularly in the crucial Chinese market.

But we’re digressing – naturally, after six hours on the road together. Any future variants of the Taycan, lightweight or otherwise, would need to be of demonstrable commercial value, rather than a mere showcase of tech prowess.

“In the end, you could do everything, but not everything you could do would make sense,” says Giek. “You need to carefully look: is there only a market today, or will there be a market for a few years?”

In updating the Taycan so extensively, then, Porsche is cashing in on the prediction it made back in 2019 – remarkably accurately, given the then nascence of the EV saloon market – that there would indeed still be a market for it.

And Giek strongly hints it will be a while before he is happy to call the job done: “We have a high interest to keep it as a long-lasting car line, like the 911, like we do with all our car lines. When we decide to have a new model, we don’t think about only having it for three or four years.”

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When we get to properly drive the finished car in a few weeks’ time, we will be able to determine once and for all just how dramatically the Taycan has been upgraded – and if it is enough to sustain its appeal in an increasingly crowded field.

But that can wait: we have one more top-up scheduled before we get back to our hotel, and it appears that there’s a Denny’s diner with a 4.2-star rating next door to the chargers. 

Felix Page

Felix Page
Title: News and features editor

Felix is Autocar's news editor, responsible for leading the brand's agenda-shaping coverage across all facets of the global automotive industry - both in print and online.

He has interviewed the most powerful and widely respected people in motoring, covered the reveals and launches of today's most important cars, and broken some of the biggest automotive stories of the last few years. 

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Comments
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Marc 12 February 2024
Putting aside the headline figures of the range topping models, it looks like the base/lower models are going to take some beating. Stunning job by Porsche, you wouldn't want to be one of their rivals.
Anton motorhead 12 February 2024
So what was the "real world" range, how many mls/kW and at what speeds was the car driven?
Cobnapint 13 February 2024
Exactly. Half a review.
Ruaraidh 12 February 2024

Great review.  Is there a one pedal driving mode yet? Or do we still have to move our right feet from one electronic sensor to another electronic sensor *because Porsche reasons*??