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Porsche gives its epoch-making electric GT some major mechanical improvements in its mid-life

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Was it WC Fields or George Best who memorably claimed “to have spent half of my money on gambling, alcohol and wild women, but squandered the rest”? Right now, I can’t remember - but something that happened on the press launch of facelifted Porsche Taycan reminded me of it.

It’s not often that a car maker reveals exactly how the budget for any given model facelift has been spent when introducing it to gathered hacks. In the revised Taycan’s case, however, we were indeed told. Exactly a quarter went on extending the car’s electric range, it transpires, and a little over a quarter on extending its performance. Everything else, it seems - from exterior styling, to interior equipment, to snazzy new decals and natty alloy wheels - got quite a lot less cash investment.

It may be that all-new model derivatives like the one Porsche has just added right at the top of the Taycan range - the Turbo GT - come with their own development budget, of course. Even so, it’s amusing to think that, in substitution of the aforementioned notable expenses of that famous libertarian line, we might well count the carbonfibre wings, carbon-ceramic brakes and ultra-sticky Pirelli Trofeo RS tyres of this all-new super-Taycan among things unlikely to boost the range or efficiency of a revised electric car. If you’ve seen photos of the Turbo GT already, though, you’ll no doubt agree that somehow they're very clearly worth having in any case.

Aside from that new, near-1100-horsepower, ultra-high-performance derivative, however, the Porsche Taycan has certainly received some key mechanical and technical improvements, which we’ll go on to explore here. The 2019 version having been codenamed J1 by Porsche, this revised version is referred to as J2 - and it can be expected to extend the lifecycle of the car way out towards the end of this decade.

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DESIGN & STYLING

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Of chief significance among the technical content of the Porsche Taycan’s facelift are a pair of new nickel-manganese-cobalt drive battery packs, now either 82kWh or 97kWh of usable capacity, depending on which derivative you buy (and whether you option Porsche’s Performance Battery Plus). The packs have new cell chemistry and can discharge and recharge more quickly (the 97kWh one at up to 320kW at a DC rapid charger of sufficient power). 

Allied to this is a new, higher-power and more efficient power inverter, and a new primary electric drive motor for the rear axle, with differently arranged permanent magnets and more effectively wound stator wiring than what it replaces, which can output up to 107bhp more. Single-motor cars are driven by this motor alone, and via a two-speed automatic transmission. Twin-motor cars add a second one on the front axle, driving through a single-speed transmission.

Both the batteries and new rear motor are lighter than their predecessors. So, thanks to a lot of wider design detail improvements besides, the electric range of the longest-striding Taycan model (the entry-level Taycan, with optional Performance Battery Plus) rises from 277 miles to 422 miles on the WLTP combined lab test. A pretty darned impressive result for a mid-life facelift, that.

Elsewhere in the model line-up, electric range takes comparable hikes - as does peak power output (which, in the Taycan’s case, is available for short periods of time only, during launch control starts and driver-selected moments of push-to-pass-style motor and battery overboost). The Taycan 4S can now develop as much as 590bhp, the Turbo 872bhp and the Turbo S a whacking 939bhp.

The Taycan model range is mostly structured as it was. So there’s a single-motor base model at the foot of the line-up and, above that, incrementally more powerful, twin-motor 4S, Turbo and Turbo S models, leading up to the new range-topping Turbo GT. For bodystyles, you can still choose between regular four-door saloon, five-door Sport Turismo wagon and five-door, high-rise, all-surface Cross Turismo wagon versions (though there’s no single-motor Cross Turismo, but instead a Taycan 4 model in its place). Thanks to the aforementioned upgrades, the 0-62mph sprint for the single-motor Taycan is cut from 5.4sec to 4.8sec, while for the Turbo S, it’s trimmed from 2.8sec to 2.4sec.

I’m a little surprised that a company such as Porsche has managed to pare only 15kg out of the kerb weight of this car, model for model - but then again, when it comes to cruising efficiency, aerodynamic and powertrain refinements actually count for more. And even 15kg is a quietly impressive saving when you consider how much equipment the Taycan has gained. All versions of the car, right down to the entry-level rear-wheel-drive model, are now air suspended and all get more comfort and convenience features (a reversing camera, heated front seats, a heat pump for the powertrain, and a wireless smartphone charger) as standard.

INTERIOR

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Access to the Taycan remains a little tight for a luxury GT, through fairly snug apertures for both front and rear passenger doors. Once you’re in, though, there’s room for taller adults up front and slightly smaller ones in the back row.

Some fine-detail tweaks of the car’s secondary controls and infotainment system have been made, including a deeper integration of Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring that gives more direct access to vehicle functions, so you don’t have to flip between it and the ‘native’ infotainment system as often.

A new digital instrument for the Taycan combines information about remaining range with current battery temperature and associated peak potential rapid-charging speed. Once you’re plugged in, it also indicates actual charging power draw (from the particular charger) versus maximum potential (for the vehicle) at current battery condition and temperature. It is all sufficiently useful intel that you wonder why other cars don't offer similar.

The driving position is low, but visibility forwards over the low bonnet is good. Secondary controls are mostly carried on touchscreens, with permanent capacitive ‘buttons’ for damper adjustment and stability control positioned around the periphery of the instrument binnacle, for example, and climate controls carried by a lower, secondary touchscreen display with haptic feedback (so it requires a slightly firmer push of the finger than we'd like in order to register an input).

Boot space in the four-door model is sufficient for a few medium-sized cases but is larger and more flexible in Sport Turismo and Cross Turismo models - although in all three cases, Porsche’s cable storage holdall is large and bulky.

ENGINES & PERFORMANCE

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All but the single-motor versions of the Taycan were on offer to test at the car’s press launch in Seville and drives in 4S, Turbo and Turbo S derivatives proved that none wants for plentiful, accessible power.

Even the 4S, tested with Porsche’s Performance Battery Plus fitted, has a pervasive sense of instant thrust about it. Buy a quicker model if you want - but there’s no question that anyone would need to.

In the case of the Taycan Turbo and Turbo S, the car’s appetite for speed can begin to feel quite savage when fully tapped - but linear and perfectly responsive accelerator pedal calibration means that, even here, you never put on more speed than you intend. 

Use Normal driving mode and there’s no noise to speak of from the Taycan’s powertrain. Dial up Sport or Sport Plus instead and there’s a synthesised electric powertrain noise to add some performance flavour - but you can turn it off individually if you so choose, and it’s certainly not the most irksome ‘fake engine noise’ made by a performance EV. The way it helps to telegraph throttle load, as well as the point at which the rear motor changes from first to second gear, is actually quite useful.

Drivability is kept simple. There are no physical energy regeneration controls, and so the level of battery regeneration the car provides on a trailing throttle depends mostly on the selected driving mode (though there’s never enough for one-pedal operation). 

Porsche has added a push-to-pass button on the car’s steering-wheel-mounted drive mode selector knob, which dials up a 10sec hit of additional motor power on cars equipped just so (Sport Chrono package, optional bigger battery) - but with so much power under your toe to begin with, it’s something you seldom find a need for on the road.

The blended brake pedal, meanwhile, remains quite lightly weighted by Porsche standards – progressive enough, and easy to module in outright terms, though lacking the feedback, bite and assured weightiness of a typical Porsche brake pedal.

RIDE & HANDLING

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It’s the Taycan’s handling - its deeply impressive blend of immaculate close body control and ride sophistication, allied to beautifully weighted steering, and effortlessly level, perfectly poised cornering manners - that continues to distinguish the car even more clearly than its performance. Other comparable EVs just don’t get down the road so supremely well, marshalling their weight so cleverly, and juggling settled ride comfort with compelling handling smarts so brilliantly.

The interesting addition here is the Taycan’s new Porsche Active Ride system: an interlinked active damping system that uses electrically pressurised hydraulic reservoirs to manipulate each wheel in order to smooth out the ride, and likewise even actively influence and change the car’s body posture within just fractions of a second.

It’s an option on most Taycans, adding 30kg itself to the car’s mass. Porsche has tuned it as a comfort-boosting system – and you might have read about its ability to incline the car into corners a little like a motorbike, or to pitch the body forwards under acceleration and backwards under braking more like a helicopter in flight, in our recent review of the Porsche Panamera (in which it also features).

It certainly sounded gimmicky, to me at least, but its effect is quite subtle in the Taycan so that the car’s handling still feels wonderfully natural. The tilting and pitching functions are most pronounced in Normal driving mode, less pronounced in Sport and disabled entirely in Sport Plus, but even at their strongest, I barely noticed them. 

What you can’t fail to notice, however, is a car with superb body control, lovely uncorrupted steering and only a modicum of road noise to mar its otherwise excellent touring manners.

MPG & RUNNING COSTS

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Porsche has hiked Taycan prices by around 8% compared with the pre-facelifted car – a not unreasonable decision based on the performance, range and equipment that’s been added to the car.

Residual values on the car are a far cry from what they once were, though, having taken some serious blows over the past couple of years with so many second-hand examples flooding onto the market and depressing prices. 

That’s likely to make personal finance deals pricier than some will be expecting. For those buying with cash, CAP now expects an entry-level, 89kWh Taycan saloon to retain 45% of its original showroom price after three years and 18,000 miles of use, and a Turbo S to retain 43%.

Real-world electric range need concern owners less, however. Our testing on European roads suggested that the more powerful Turbo and Turbo S models should consistently cover 300 miles on a full charge in mixed use and that a 4S might do more like 320 miles when fitted with Porsche's optional Performance Plus battery. (No standard batteries were available to test.)

Porsche’s battery chemistry changes, meanwhile, are claimed to allow the car to maintain higher DC rapid-charging rates for longer periods than the pre-facelifted Taycan could, and at lower temperatures. In practice, Porsche claims, that almost halves the time a 10%-80% charge might take in a 15deg C ambient temperature - assuming you’re at a sufficiently fast charger.

VERDICT

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Back in 2020, when we finally got to road test it, the Porsche Taycan earned a five-star recommendation from us, and rightful recognition as the outstanding electric driver’s car of the moment. In 2024, this facelifted version has notable competition for that status so the reprise of that five-star award must wait until we can test one in the UK, verify its range and charging credentials, and compare it with key rivals.

But Porsche has certainly made this car better in important respects, while it remains as strong as ever in others. Although the context in which it competes has changed a lot, what makes the Taycan truly special hasn’t changed much at all. It is outstanding to drive, alluring to behold, sophisticated-feeling to travel in and decently usable with it - now especially so thanks to Porsche's range and charging improvements.

All that remains is to establish whether ‘special’ and ‘exceptional’ are quite as interchangeable as they used to be.

Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.