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Is this 751bhp all-electric Taycan Turbo S a proper Porsche sports car, as its maker claims?

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There’s a lot to take in about our test subject this week, the £140,000, 751bhp, all-electric Porsche Taycan Turbo S – a car whose very existence as a Porsche, for many diehard enthusiasts of the firm and for a great many petrolheads besides, might not be easy to accept.

But perhaps the most important of all is the fact that the people of Porscheplatz 1, Zuffenhausen, Stuttgart, consider it to be, above all else, a sports car.

Taycan’s exterior look – bold and simple as it is – certainly makes a statement. It’s also quite clearly a Porsche. This C-pillar profile could be from a 911.

Not a fast saloon or svelte luxury GT, even though it has four doors and a very usable cabin. Not some bit-part novelty car or vanity project, either, or a four-wheeled strategic missile intended simply to derail the attempts of so many EV start-ups. The Porsche Taycan, they insist, is a proper sports car – albeit one of a different, more daring kind than any we’ve seen before.

The company has been careful in its build-up to this product launch, reassuring traditional buyers that it isn’t suddenly going to stop making combustion-engined Porsche 911s or Porsche 718s, or to force anyone into buying electric options they haven’t asked for. And yet, on the day of the unveiling of this car last year, Porsche boss Oliver Blume was emphatic in welcoming the Taycan and “the new era” it ushers in for his company.

Here we are, then: to the business of weighing, measuring, benchmarking, scrutinising, understanding and both subjectively and objectively assessing the range-topping version of the Taycan just as seriously as Autocar knows how.

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The Taycan line-up at a glance

At present, the UK Taycan range comprises three different models: the Porsche Taycan 4S, the Turbo and the range-topping Turbo S tested here. All have dual motors – one at each axle – and four-wheel drive.

In China, Porsche has launched a rear-engined, rear-driven Porsche Taycan  badged simply ‘Taycan’ and developing as much as 469bhp when ordered with the 93.4kWh Performance Battery Plus. Whether or not this model will make its way to the UK has yet to be confirmed.

Price £138,826 Power 751bhp Torque 774lb ft 0-60mph 2.8sec 30-70mph in fourth na Fuel economy 1.72mpkWh CO2 emissions 0g/km 70-0mph 42.6m

 

DESIGN & STYLING

Porsche Taycan 2020 road test review - hero side

Designers of the first wave of electric cars over the past 10 years have been gradually recovering ground in their battle to fit the batteries, motors and other hardware needed by an EV into what space is available in a typical modern car, without making those cars bigger or less practical than their combustion-engined counterparts. Some still haven’t managed it.

But the first clue that the Taycan is different comes in its measurements. This is a four-door sports coupé that’s shorter at the kerb and lower of roofline than its nearest equivalent in the Porsche line-up: the Porsche Panamera.

Glass-effect ‘Porsche’ lettering is different from how it’s presented on any other model. All testers were glad Porsche resisted the urge to make it glow with the rest of the braking illumination

Intelligent battery design is what has enabled that. Skateboard-style drive batteries in electric cars have tended to simply displace cabin volumes upwards, but the Taycan’s 93.4kWh lithium ion battery pack, which leaves what Porsche calls ‘foot garage’ spaces that effectively lower both rows of seating, allows passengers and electrons to begin to share the ‘ground floor’ of the vehicle in a way that no comparable big EV has managed before.

The Taycan’s innovativeness as an electric car doesn’t end there. It is the first 800V electric passenger vehicle in production, a fact that, among other things, allows it to move around the current to drive its twin electric motors without needing such thick, heavy cabling as it otherwise would. The car’s electric architecture also allows it to rapid charge from the mains at up to 270kW as standard, at which rate you can restore the battery from empty to full in around half an hour. It also permits the car to harvest and store energy more quickly when slowing down than a 987-generation Cayman R of 2011 could burn through it under maximum acceleration at 7000rpm.

The car is driven by two permanently excited AC synchronous motors, one per axle, which have ‘hairpin’ stator wiring for particularly high energy density. The front one drives the axle directly through an open diff and the rear one drives through a two-speed automatic gearbox and a torque vectoring e-diff. They make as much as 751bhp for the Taycan Turbo S, and 774lb ft of torque – although only quite that much in short bursts during launch control starts.

Suspension is via height-adjustable three-chamber air spheres, is governed via adaptive dampers and is abetted by both active anti-roll bars and (in the Turbo S’s case as standard) active four-wheel steering.

The Taycan Turbo S also gets weight-saving carbon-ceramic brakes as standard, and a chassis made from a mix of aluminium and steel, but, predictably, it remains a very heavy sports car indeed. With its mass almost near-perfectly balanced between its axles, our test car came in at 2355kg on our scales – 60kg heavier than the manufacturer’s claim and outweighed as a Porsche only by the plug-in hybrid Cayennes.

INTERIOR

Porsche Taycan 2020 road test review - cabin

Drop down into the figure-hugging, electrically adjustable sports seats, pull the door shut and you find yourself enveloped by a cabin that, purely in terms of its ergonomics, seemingly has plenty in common with that of a high-end Porsche 911 (just as it should) and offers a first-class driving position.

You sit low, flanked by high window ledges and a raised centre console angled upwards to meet the dashboard. A likeably thin-rimmed, small-diameter steering wheel sits directly in front of you and there’s enough adjustability in the column to bring it right in close to your chest.

The dashboard is a slightly unusual place to find a drive selector, but it works well once you’re used to it. It frees up space for storage in the centre console, too.

Pedal placement is good, and although the brake sits quite a way off to the left, adapting to its positioning takes no time at all. Meanwhile, visibility out through the windscreen and over the low-slung nose is excellent – comparable with that of a McLaren supercar, in fact – although the view out the back is tight.

The Taycan’s heavy reliance on touchscreens and digital displays is likely as much a product of Porsche’s desire to paint it as a physical representation of the digital age as it is a move to address a historic tendency for the firm to use at least three buttons where one might have done. However, as graphically impressive as the screens are, the heightened need to remove your eyes from the road to locate the control you seek is arguably the largest chink in the Taycan’s otherwise excellent ergonomic armour.

Practicality is good but not outstanding – particularly in comparison with the likes of the Tesla Model S, although perhaps the comparison there is a little unfair.

Second-row passengers will find the amount of leg room on offer adequate, provided they’re not above average height, although head space is a bit tight. The 366-litre boot is of a good, usable size and shape and is complemented by a smaller, 81-litre compartment at the nose.

Porsche Taycan infotainment and sat-nav

Porsche says the Taycan represents its new digital approach to infotainment layout. It has a slim, reductionist ‘black panel’ instrument binnacle, a 10.9in landscape-oriented ‘main’ touchscreen and a smaller portrait-oriented one on the lower centre stack that mostly stands in for physical switchgear (much like similar screens on the latest Audis, Jaguars and Land Rovers). You can pay extra to put a fourth screen ahead of the front passenger, via which he or she can manage the on-board entertainment system, although our test car didn’t have it.

The system didn’t instantly seem as easy to navigate as the one in the latest 911, because it lacks the scrolling vertical panel of shortcut buttons so handily placed on the right edge of the main screen. You often have to navigate via the home screen to get from one menu to the other – a slightly clunky process.

The system’s display clarity and responsiveness are excellent, though. Wired device connectivity can be via either USB 2.0 or USB-C. The nav is easy to programme, but its POI network of public charging points wasn’t as complete as it could have been.

ENGINES & PERFORMANCE

There’s very little out there, save perhaps Ferrari World Abu Dhabi’s Formula Rossa rollercoaster, that’s capable of preparing you for the physical experience of a full launch control start in the Taycan Turbo S.

Select Sport Plus drive mode and PSM Sport for the traction control, hold your left foot on the brake, plonk your right on the throttle and then lift your left, and suddenly every shred of the car’s 751bhp and 774lb ft are made available to you instantly – as if you’d just turned on your bedroom lamp. Our timing gear confirmed that you’ll hit 60mph just 2.8sec later, even if there are two of you in the car, with 100mph arriving after 6.5sec.

Straights can disappear deceptively quickly with very little effort and the corners are dispatched with a mass-defying blend of composure, balance, precision and poise.

Of all the cars we’ve road tested over the years, only a very small handful have matched the Taycan’s 0-60mph time. Only the Bugatti Veyron Super Sports and Porsche’s own 918 Spyder have actually beaten it.

Zero fanfare accompanies the Taycan’s brutal straight-line acceleration. There’s no apparent negotiation between wheelspin and traction control. You can hear the tyres over-rotating very slightly, just enough to generate maximum forward thrust. There’s little ‘real’ noise to speak of otherwise, save for a starship-like hum from Porsche’s Electric Sport Sound generator (which can be deactivated) and an external whoosh that crescendos into a roar as the air pressure builds on the Taycan’s windscreen.

Keep your wits about you on the road; the absence of any meaningful engine noise can combine with the Taycan’s instant, Herculean throttle response to slightly disorientating effect. It accelerates so effortlessly, silently and immediately that pushing the throttle all the way to the bulkhead even for a couple of seconds can cause you to hit really big speeds that, oddly, are made to feel slower than they otherwise might.

Even so, the Taycan’s performance never feels intimidating or unmanageable. It’s smooth and well mannered at low speeds and, because the rear motor’s low-ratio gear is generally reserved for the sportier drive modes, you’re never aware of any shift or interruption in drive.

Brake pedal feel and progression are very good on the road, but a bite point that seems to move with speed can make track driving slightly less fluent than perhaps it ought to be.

RIDE & HANDLING

Porsche Taycan 2020 road test review - on the road nose

When asked to name how much weight a world-class driver’s car could carry around with it in 2020 without stretching the bounds of dynamic credibility, the Autocar parish might ordinarily agree on a figure of 1500kg. But ask someone who’s just got out of a Taycan Turbo S where that particular kerb weight ceiling lies and we’d bet they couldn’t tell you. They’ll simply be too busy trying to fathom how a car this heavy can be made to handle with the incredible level of composure and precision, the natural chassis balance and the fluent poise you would normally associate with a car weighing nearly a tonne less.

On both road and track, but especially on the road, this car’s handling is nothing short of astonishing. The way in which it controls its mass is effortless – quite the opposite of what you expect, given how much of it there is to marshal. And yet the car remains supple and absorptive over bumps and undulations, but ever level, ever on top of its body movements, and surprisingly balanced and keen when changing direction. The chassis can get just a little bit floaty over really big inputs taken at speed. Even so, a burly builder carrying a brimful bucket of wet cement up high and close to his chest is the image that springs to mind; barge him if you like, but he’s got it – and he’s not spilling a drop.

Longer bends can be taken in balletic style, with a quite delicate amount of attitude in the car cued up on a trailing throttle, and then developed, as you exit, with power

The car’s steering is perfectly weighted and has enough tactile feel to keep you well informed about grip levels. It feels so typical of Porsche for its blend of accuracy, honest linearity and feedback, and yet it also manages to filter away any unwanted side effects of the car’s active roll cancellation, four-wheel drive and four-wheel steering systems. All you perceive is fluent precision, crisp turn-in, laudable mid-corner balance and well-matched traction, stability and dynamic poise as you accelerate away from the apex.

The air suspension automatically adjusts for ride height, but it does occasionally oblige you to check which of the car’s modes you’re using when you encounter sleeping policemen, high kerbs or steeper driveways. You can sometimes inadvertently scrape the Taycan’s nose when using Range mode (which adopts the lowest ride height), and you’ll find its ride composure at speed is better in Normal or Sport.

Driving the Taycan at the limit confirms what you began to perceive about its handling on the road: that it really does have remarkably well-balanced grip, taut lateral body control and smart chassis response for a car so heavy – albeit, perhaps, slightly less outright adhesion than something like a BMW M8 Competition or Mercedes-AMG GT 63. We started on the Dunlop circuit at MIRA with roughly 70% charge in the batteries and, after roughly 15 laps, the car was almost dead flat. But, frankly, you’d have to manage the brakes carefully to ‘track’ it for much longer than that because they do display some symptoms of fade.

The car’s track handling itself is remarkably good, though. It resists roll consistently well before sliding gently into neutrality and then gentle balanced-throttle oversteer, as your cornering speed increases. Slides can quite easily be developed using the throttle with the systems off, provided you avoid big steering corrections.

Comfort and Isolation

The Taycan’s seats have extendable cushions and adjust and support in every which way you’re likely to want them to, and they would be perfectly comfortable over long days at the wheel.

The ride is surprisingly well isolated for a car so heavy and sporting in brief, perhaps partly as a result of the damping effects of that big underfloor battery.

But it is also strikingly fluent over uneven surfaces – as long as you select the correct driving mode with which to tackle them. Since the car’s Range and Sport Plus modes sacrifice 22mm of ride height, they leave the suspension slightly short on the travel necessary to deal perfectly with bigger and sharper B-road inputs (although both work very well on smoother roads). Normal and Sport modes correct that situation very simply.

The car isn’t totally flawless from an ergonomic standpoint. The placement of the tiddly gear selector on the dashboard, obscured as it is by the steering wheel rim, makes it tricky to locate until you’re used to doing so without looking. And when it comes to flicking on your headlights or tweaking the damper setting, the lines of capacitive ‘buttons’ around the fringe of the glassy instrument binnacle do seem, at times, poor substitutes for easily grabbed physical switches.

MPG & RUNNING COSTS

Porsche Taycan 2020 road test review - hero front

Taycan prices start at £83,367 for the entry-level 4S model before moving up through £115,858 for the Turbo and finally topping out at £138,826 for our range-topping Turbo S.

The Taycan opens for business, then, where other luxury electric cars are topping out on price. But not other big, fast, four-door sporting GTs, of course. Meanwhile, the fact that it’s so much more dynamically enthralling than any EV currently available does go a long way to justifying its position. In fact, it’s so accomplished as a driving machine in its own right that next to the likes of the £140,535 Mercedes-AMG GT 63 S 4-Door Coupé, the Taycan still makes for a particularly convincing value proposition.

The Taycan is expected to be worth more after four years than the Mercedes AMG GT63 four-door is after three.

As for depreciation, it blows the competition away. After three years and 36,000 miles, CAP predicts that the Taycan Turbo S will retain 60% of its original value, versus 54% for the Tesla Model S Performance and 49% for the Mercedes-AMG GT 63 S. In fact, after four years in the Taycan, you’d still get more of your money back when you sell than you would after three years in the Mercedes.

Where the Taycan Turbo S does falter a little is on range. Its official WLTP figure of 254 miles trails the Model S Performance by 113 miles. Our testing suggested you might see a long-distance touring range of 223 miles in mixed use – respectable, especially in light of the sporting brief, but hardly Tesla-worrying.

 

VERDICT

Porsche Taycan 2020 road test review - static

This is the 100th Porsche to undergo an Autocar road test since 6 November 1953. It’ll be a few years yet before we reach the equivalent milestone for electric cars, and we have never before awarded any EV a five-star recommendation.

But never before have we tested an electric car that packages its battery so cleverly or carries that mass so invisibly. The Taycan is quite wide for a Porsche sports car and it is certainly heavy, but it performs, rides, handles and captivates so well that you simply don’t notice its limitations. Its maker promised “a true Porsche for the age of electromobility” and that’s exactly what it has delivered.

Uncorks the usable electric sports car’s potential like nothing else

It did not promise a track car, a ‘continent crosser’ or something with the hardcore focus of a GT department special, and on that basis, we’re not inclined to punish this car because it isn’t lighter, noisier, more physically involving or capable of going farther between charges. It is everything it was intended to be and more.

When genuinely different cars like this come along, we must judge them on their merits, and whether judged as an electric car, a £140,000 sports car or just a Porsche, the Taycan simply does things nothing else can.

 

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.

Porsche Taycan Turbo S 2019-2024 First drives