2020 Porsche Taycan Review: Should Tesla be Worried?

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How this Porsche electric car will test the loyalties of the Teslarati

It’s difficult to overestimate the significance of the Porsche Taycan. It’s the first electric car from one of the world’s most accomplished and acclaimed performance vehicle manufacturers, the product of more than five years’ work and an investment of more than $1 billion. It’s also the first electric car that will sorely test the loyalties of the Teslarati.

This much is clear after an exhilarating ride along some of California’s best driving roads with Taycan vehicle line director Robert Meier at the wheel. It took just a handful of corners to realize that Meier, a former Rolls-Royce aerospace engineer who joined Porsche to work on the V-10-powered Carrera GT, is pretty handy behind the wheel of a fast car. And that the Taycan performs and handles … like a real Porsche.

Our test mule was a lightly disguised preproduction car. Hidden under sheets of cladding was a fully finished interior we can’t talk about until later this month. I can tell you the steering wheel is straight out a 992-series 911, though.

Meier is very tight-lipped on the details but confirms the car is top-of-the-range spec. That means a dual-motor powertrain with somewhere north of 600 hp, and, as on the top-spec Panamera Turbo S, Porsche’s PCCB carbon-ceramic brakes and rear-wheel steering will be standard. Wheels are 21 inches. Front tires are 265/35; rears are 305/30. Our car runs Goodyear Eagles, though Michelins will also be available.

Architecturally, the Taycan, which is built on the Porsche-developed J1 BEV platform, follows the skateboard layout used by Tesla, Jaguar, and Audi, with a central underfloor battery pack and e-motors mounted at each axle. In terms of size, it’s slightly smaller overall than a Panamera, with a slightly shorter wheelbase, but the more compact packaging of the e-powertrain—and what looks to be an innovative approach to the shape of the battery pack in the rear floor area—makes it feel every bit as roomy inside. It’s a genuine four-seater.

Up front, the view out the windshield is very reminiscent of a 911, with two rounded fender tops peeking over the cowl. In fact, says Meier, the driving position is identical to that of Porsche’s iconic sports car.

As we roll out of town, the Taycan impresses with low noise levels and a compliant ride. There’s a distant whirr from the e-motors, and some muted tire noise over coarse surfaces, but it’s all well suppressed. The Taycan uses the same three-chamber air suspension and 48-volt active anti-roll system as top-spec Panameras and the Bentley Continental GT, though they’ve been retuned to cope with the Taycan’s weight and dynamic performance targets. It feels sportier, but there’s the same oily cadence to the primary ride motions as in the other two cars.

We turn off into the hills, onto a quiet, twisty two-lane, away from the traffic. Meier twists the steering wheel-mounted controller out of Normal mode, through Sport, and into Sport +. The e-motor whirr changes pitch, becoming deeper, more earnest. It’s purely showbiz; the e-motors don’t operate any differently. But as in internal combustion Porsches, the accelerator response is sharpened, there’s more meat in the steering feel, and the suspension stiffens its sinews.

Meier floors it.

It’s like being fired out of a railgun. The black Porsche lunges at the horizon, the rate of acceleration one long, linear surge of weapons-grade thrust. Corner! Meier’s hard on the brakes, the monster carbon-ceramic rotors feeling every bit as predictable and precise as in a 911, and turns in. I detect mild understeer on corner entry, then a perceptible weight transfer as what is clearly a strongly rear-biased powertrain delivers a mountain of instant-on torque to those wide rear tires.

The next few miles are epic, Meier quick and neat behind the wheel as this biggish Porsche sedan appears to compress time and space with the insouciant ease of a GT2 RS. Braking, turn-in response, midcorner balance, post-apex traction: the Taycan stays flat, grips tenaciously, and feels instantly responsive. It soaks up big midcorner heaves and sharp-edge stutters with aplomb, and the body feels as tight as a drum, despite the massive loads coming through the suspension. I sense the weight on the transitions—batteries are heavy—but Meier confirms the center of gravity is lower than that of a 911.

Even from the passenger seat, it’s obvious the Taycan sets a new benchmark for electric car dynamics. It makes a hard-driven Tesla Model S feel loose and skittish. But the big question everyone’s going to ask is: What’s the range? Meier won’t quote EPA numbers, but a peek at the instrument panel at the end of the day suggested our mule would cover at least 235 miles despite being driven at times like it was on a qualifying lap at Le Mans.

We’ll wait until we get our hands on a production Taycan before we make final judgement, but this first acquaintance suggests Porsche has created an electric vehicle with impressive performance and handling, and one that’s remarkably efficient. Other than saying the e-motors were designed to deliver both power and efficiency, Meier refuses to be drawn on how. But he smiles when I mention feeling what appeared to be gearshift under hard acceleration.

Lift off the accelerator, and the Porsche coasts down the road; unlike other EVs, there’s no driving strategy where kinetic energy is harvested and sent back to the battery. There is no one-pedal driving mode, or even mild liftoff regen. “We let kinetic energy move the car when possible,” Meier admits. “Sending it back to the battery means energy losses because the process cannot be 100 percent efficient.” As in the Audi E-Tron, normal braking via the brake pedal is achieved purely by modulating regen to a certain g threshold, above which the calipers start clamping those giant carbon-ceramic rotors.

Should Tesla be worried? Absolutely. Even from the passenger seat, it’s clear the Porsche is dynamically superior in every way. And if the numbers we’ve seen hold up under our testing, go-fast Teslas such as the Model S 100D may not have a decisive range advantage over the Taycan, especially when driven hard. Combine that with noticeably better build quality—even on the preproduction car—and the cachet of that Porsche badge, and it all adds up to one thing: The Taycan is a game-changer.


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