Road Test of the Year 2020: Porsche Taycan Turbo
I hate to be that stereotypical reviewer who mentions Tesla every time an electric vehicle is talked about, but I promise it’s relevant here.
You see, the Tesla Model S has long been the only zero-emission executive saloon on sale.
However, with the introduction of the Porsche Taycan it’s got the closest thing to a rival that it’s ever had. Given Tesla’s cultural impact in recent years, this German EV is quite an important car then.
You might be asking if the Taycan is even a saloon. It certainly blurs the lines. Looks are subjective but I adore its styling. It’s wide, hunkered low to the ground, and has a truly unique face. At first glance, it looks like a saloon, but it’s sleeker, with a coupe-like slope to the rear.
There is a small downside to this, which is that rear headroom is affected slightly. But despite the door aperture feeling quite small and the need to drop into the seat, once you’re in it’s not as claustrophobic as you might expect – perhaps cosy is a better word.
Up front, there’s a minimalist feel. There are three displays – one portrait-orientated screen lower in the centre console, one landscape screen higher in the dash, and digital instruments. All very futuristic.
You sit low like you’re in a 911, with the cabin wrapping around you. This makes the car feel small without being cramped – another Porsche trait. For purists with no imagination, the Taycan is the antithesis of a Porsche. It has no internal combustion engine, therefore it’s bad. But they’re forgetting that Porsche’s USP was making a sports car with an engine in the boot – its brand is built on trying something new. And don’t get those keyboard warriors started on the Turbo badging…
However, even the biggest sceptic couldn’t deny that there’s something inherently Porsche about the way the Taycan drives. The ride is sublime and the steering smooth and direct. The electric powertrain has that gut-punch acceleration that we’ve come to know and love from EVs, but there’s just something more refined about the way it delivers power.
Today we’re testing the Turbo, which is one off the top-spec Turbo S. That means we have peak power of 671bhp, which contributes to a three-second 0-60mph time. You can step up to the Turbo S to shave a couple of tenths off that time via a 761bhp motor, but honestly, the Turbo is quick enough… It uses two permanently excited synchronous motors, one on each axle, and a two-speed gearbox. This makes it pretty unusual among EVs, which usually stick to a single-speed. It means the Taycan can have an acceleration-focused gear and one for cruising speeds.
Further proof that Porsche isn’t messing around here is that the battery pack is future-proofed. It’s the first EV to use an 800-volt system rather than the usual 400, which means it can be driven at higher speeds for longer, cuts down charging times and reduces the cabling needed, saving weight.
It has a capacity of 93.4kWh, which gives a range of 238 to 281 miles under official testing. Meanwhile, it can charge at speeds of up to 270kW, so topping up the batteries doesn’t take too long – providing you can find one of the few public chargers that can currently achieve these speeds. Most importantly for a Porsche, though, it’s not all straight-line speed and impressive numbers, because it drives well too.
Considering this is a four-door car, when you’re pushing on it seems to shrink around you. This is helped not only by the compact cabin design but also by the way you can truly feel how low the centre of gravity is. You sit down low, while the weight of the batteries is in the floor. When you go round corners there’s simply no body roll.
I’ve genuinely never driven a car in this class that hides its weight so well. And if you’re worried that the lack of noise will take away from the experience, it doesn’t.
You can add artificial sounds that make you feel like you’re flying around in an episode of The Jetsons, but even without it, the assault on your senses that comes from hustling this torquey monster along a B road doesn’t require a thrumming boxer engine to be enjoyed.
If you’ve got this far it’s probably pretty clear that I’ve totally fallen for the Taycan. I’m not even really a Porsche guy, but I feel like the boys and girls in Stuttgart have done an almost perfect job. It’s as premium and refined as a Porsche should be, with performance and handling that only the company that builds the Cayman and 911 could provide.
I’m sorry that’s such a boring, gushing verdict but I’m in no way surprised I gave the Taycan the highest score of any car here. So let’s end on something a bit more controversial. I say this as someone who likes the Americans’ attempts… but I think the Porsche Taycan is the car Tesla fanboys think the Model S is. And that’s high praise indeed.