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Stuttgart’s groundbreaking 700bhp-plus pure-electric four-seat sports car is driven in pre-production form
  • First Drive

    Porsche Taycan 2020 review

    Stuttgart’s groundbreaking 700bhp-plus pure-electric four-seat sports car is driven in pre-production form
Andrew Frankel Autocar
27 August 2019

What is it?

For reasons I think I understand, this story feels different. Every week, we go some place to drive some thing, and lucky we are to do so. But to drive the first all-electric Porsche – well that, surely, is different.

Different because Porsche and electricity seem as natural a fit as fire and ice. Different because if Porsche really can pull it off and produce the world’s first electric production driver’s car, the ramifications could be enormous. But, for Porsche, perhaps not quite so enormous if it cannot.

Because of the way the media is micro-managed these days, especially with cars as important as this, there is still much about the Porsche Taycan I am not allowed to say, because the car has yet even to be unveiled. So far as official information is concerned, all that exists is what Porsche published when it revealed the Mission E concept in 2015, most of which is now obsolete.

If what follows seems more speculative than factual, you could nevertheless conclude that I know rather more than I’m saying, because not being specific was a condition of getting in the car. I shall therefore leave it to you to decide how well informed such speculation might be. In the words of Francis Urquhart: ‘You might think that. I couldn’t possibly comment…’

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There are, in fact, two Taycans, at least that Porsche is owning up to. Actually, there’s certainly a third and very probably a fourth, but in these days of top-down launches, these are less powerful versions that have yet to be seen or driven, officially or otherwise. Which leaves us with the two top cars, widely rumoured to be called Turbo and Turbo S, in line with Porsche’s naming convention. (I know it seems strange given neither even has an engine let alone a turbocharger, but we’ll get used to it.)

Both have batteries rated above 90kWh and standard power outputs substantially in excess of 600bhp. The difference (besides the S having ceramic brakes, a stiffer set-up, standard four-wheel steering and 21in wheels clothed in high-performance tyres) is that while both will ‘overboost’ for 2.5sec at the time, the S will do so rather more, raising its total output to well over 700bhp, with in excess of 750lb ft.

So while the car is predictably heavy – think something around the 2.25-tonne mark – so too is it blindingly quick. The 0-62mph time of the Mission E was quoted at 3.2sec, and I’d expect a Taycan Turbo S to be as far below the three-second mark as the E was above it.

When I drove both cars in prototype form, their interiors were completely camouflaged but have since been revealed to feature next-generation high-definition imaging that, if you choose the optional passenger information display, provides TFT screens almost from wall to wall across the entire width of the car. It looks quite intimidating but, in terms of the admittedly limited operations I was able to use, it all works fairly intuitively.

What's it like?

And that is quite enough about the Taycan’s static qualities. You sit low in the car, in line with Porsche’s determination to present the Taycan as a sporting, driver’s machine, despite its mass, electric powertrain, four doors and (reasonably) spacious cabin. Shut your eyes and you could almost be in a 911.

Press a button to put the car in standby mode and depress a little lever to knock it into drive. We ease away from the Weissach test track and out onto the public road. The strange thing here is that, even having spent many hours in the Taycan’s passenger seat in the Arctic, I still don’t really know what to expect. Fact is that while electric cars from major manufacturers are becoming considerably more common, there has still never been one like this, or even remotely so. For all the apparent familiarity, this still feels like the biggest voyage into the unknown for years.

And yet… Sitting in this brand-new car with its brand-new platform and powertrain, here’s something very familiar. It feels like a Porsche. Not like a Cayenne or Panamera but – and it feels silly saying it, given the weight of the car and the length of its wheelbase – something closer to a 911. And I’ve not done 30mph yet. It’s all about the steering: the heft, the precision, the off-centre linearity all are cut straight from the Porsche sports car textbook.

I find it utterly surprising and profoundly reassuring, not least because now we’re out of Weissach and time is short. I have to drive fast right away, despite every other seat being occupied by Porsche engineers. I don’t much like driving rapidly with anyone in the car, let alone overseen by the best in the business, but there is no choice.

The Turbo S (if that is its name) is fast enough to make you feel giddy on overboost. The torque delivery is so instant, the acceleration so violent and explosive, that it’s briefly not that pleasant an experience. And that’s with 700bhp. I don’t find it hard to imagine what any one of the growing mob of 2000bhp electric hypercars will be like: I find it impossible.

The rate doesn’t really abate until you’re well into licence-losing territory, and you’ll be fearing for your liberty before it becomes in any way normal.

The sound? Unmistakably electric, for sure, but not unpleasant when extended, unlike many petrol engines, at least one of which is made by Porsche. There’s a sound enhancer that might on paper appear completely pointless because all it does is play an acoustically optimised version of what’s already there, but I quite liked it. It adds character to the car’s muted voice, and even if it’s only a sliver, it’s appreciated nonetheless.

We’re going fast now and I’m learning all the time. The suspension takes big chunks of Panamera componentry but the actual three-chamber struts are unique to the Taycan. The car rides eerily well but is so deftly damped in Sport and Sport Plus that with that steering and devastating acceleration, it’s monstrously fast from point to point, even on difficult roads. No car in my experience has ever managed this amount of mass so well. No, you can’t lob it as you might a shorter, lighter car, but once you’ve guided it into the apex, its composure is phenomenal.

But is it fun? Well, yes, because its capabilities will leave you slack-jawed and anything that can do that is always amusing, and no, because it’s still nothing like the fully immersive driving experience of, say, a 911. And with four doors, that mass and that wheelbase, but without a flat six or any gearbox, that’s not too surprising.

There’s still stuff I’d change here. Most notable is the lack of ‘engine’ braking when you come off the accelerator. It is Porsche philosophy that, broadly speaking, one pedal should make the car go and the other should make it stop, and while you can vary the degree of off-throttle deceleration, I’d like more, even at its peak in Sport Plus. I kept barrelling up to corners tapping a non-existent paddle for downshifts that weren’t there. You need to use the brakes – or what feel like the brakes – far more than in a normal car. In fact, up to 80% of the available deceleration does not require the massive discs at all. Took me a while to get my head around that one, too.

I have a smaller issue with the brakes themselves: buy a Turbo S and ceramics are standard, although I far preferred the meatier feel of the still mightily powerful tungsten-coated brakes on the Turbo.

In fact, with the Turbo costing around £15,000 less than the Turbo S at approximately £120,000, I’d seriously consider it for its smaller 20in wheels, even more compliant ride and better-feeling brakes, although I would tick the option for the S’s standard four-wheel steering, which helps to shrink the car in tight turns and provides formidable stability in quick curves. But most owners will, of course, fork out the additional £15,000, not for what it buys them but for what it saves them: the thought of friends and neighbours concluding that the additional letter is absent through finite financial resource.

Should I buy one?

Let’s for a minute forget the Taycan is electric. Just in terms of what and how it does what it does, is this a proper Porsche? In these days of Cayennes and Panameras, and based on first impressions of the prototypes I drove, unequivocally so.

If you want to enjoy driving a Porsche more than this, you need one with its engine behind the driver. And yet it’s one of the most comfortable GTs I’ve known and without question the quietest. In the distance and directions it is able to throw the net of its abilities, it is an astonishing, even an astounding, achievement.

Is this, then, the world’s first mainstream electric sports car? There I must stop you. It is sporting, for sure, and far more so than any other, but will Taycan owners set alarms and go for pre-dawn blasts – I mean whirrs – just because they can? That I doubt.

Then again, it is not that kind of car, and nor was it ever intended to be so. For now, the Taycan and its creators will have to be happy with having created the best electric car yet to go on sale, and having done so by a mile.

Porsche Taycan specification

Where Stuttgart, Germany Price £135,000 (est) On sale late 2019 Engine front and rear electric motors Battery over 90kWh Power over 700bhp (on overboost) Torque over 750lb ft Gearbox 2-spd, direct drive Kerb weight 2250kg (est) Top speed over 155mph 0-62mph less than three seconds Range 310 miles (Mission E, claimed) CO2 0g/km, 16% Rivals Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid, Mercedes-AMG GT 63 S, Tesla Model S Performance

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Comments
19

bol

28 August 2019

for the £50k electric sports car of 2030 I guess. It’s going to take me a while to get used to the looks (a bit fried eggy again?) but I’d far rather the conspicuous consumers were driving these than Bentleys - and after all, for most it really isn’t about how they feel to drive, it’s all about hoe they feel to be seen in. 

28 August 2019

But more importantly, the review highlights the one thing holding EVs back - they are superior in every other way, apart from weight. They need a higher charge density to be lighter, faster, better than a combustion-engined car.

28 August 2019

This is from Autocar on 23rd Aug 2019 (some 5 days ago ) "When it goes on sale in the UK, the Taycan will be positioned between the £55,965 Cayenne SUV and £67,898 Panamera five-door coupé".  I feel I've been lied to for several years by a German car company and the press, AGAIN.  

Yes I kown the £120k/£135k prices are for the top end model but I don't believe the difference between the highest and base version will be over 100%

Was this lie just to deter people from buying a Model S or 3?  If nothing else, hopefully, people will now realise just how far Tesla were/are ahead of the VAG. 

typos1 - Just can’t respect opinion

28 August 2019
Not an electric sports car but more of a GT, so basically an electric panamera in concept as the panamera is a sporting GT all be it conventionally powered.

@ XXXX I too was expecting a lower price going by previous reports but then the price range of the panamera is from £70k - over £120k ISH so it is possible that the lower powered models implied in this review may be closer to the price originally mooted?

28 August 2019

Agreed si73, but, this is where BEV prices get interesting. Whereas a Panamera might get a range of drives, engines (some extremly low selling), gearboxes, Hybrid motors and batteries you can up the price. But with a BEV it gets difficult to vary the price much because the £120k model with a 90kwh battery looks expensive to the £65k (see earlier post) version with a 75kwh battery (which has the advantage of being much lighter) yet still capable of a sub 4 second to 60 time.

typos1 - Just can’t respect opinion

28 August 2019
That's a fair point, with just a larger battery or more powerful motor difference the price range as you say would probably be smaller, more in keeping with the range of a basic model S to a high power version. And they've already added the turbo s with the extra chassis and brake tech, 4 wheel steer and carbon brakes so it's not like there is much else to reduce the premium with on lesser versions.

28 August 2019

The headlights remind me of a Bond Bug. The rear lights of a nightmare. I've paid very little attention to this car up to this point. Please tell me this is some kind of prototype camouflage.

28 August 2019
jmd67 wrote:

The headlights remind me of a Bond Bug. The rear lights of a nightmare. I've paid very little attention to this car up to this point. Please tell me this is some kind of prototype camouflage.

I assumed the lights were camouflage, I do hope so.

28 August 2019

 For the performance potential,and the small trade off in handling, this Car is priced quite well, the overall shape is fine too, it looks compact, I say looks because it isn’t, maybe because this one in the pics is in Black, and the saying 2000bhp isn’t needed is true, how fast can you go on a main Road?, do you just do Runway/Trackdays with it, if 2.5 to 60mph doesn’t get your juices flowing, you need help, no, this Car might make a dew brands review their products....

Peter Cavellini.

28 August 2019

Did Porche designers previously work for Tesla or did they use a photocopier for the rear?

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