One day, when the market for zero-emissions vehicles is mature, we’ll evaluate Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) solely on their qualities, without fixating on the fact they’re powered by electricity.
There’s a long way to go before that happens. But that’s why I’d argue the Porsche Taycan is a landmark model; because it’s going to help us get there faster.
Taycan is not the first performance BEV. It’s not even the fastest (although it is shockingly quick).
But it is the first properly sporting BEV, with dynamic character that will please the enthusiast. It’s a Porsche first, electric vehicle second. You don’t need plug-in power first on your priority list to want one, although you will still need a big chequebook: the Turbo featured here costs $289,900, a relative bargain next to the Turbo S at $366,900.
Yes, that’s crazy expensive. And yes, you can buy BEVs that are just as fast for a fraction of that price. But if that’s your takeaway, I’d argue you’ve missed the point.
The Taycan is essentially a four-door BEV alternative to a 911, which costs $269,200 in Carrera 4 S form. If you’re stuck on the four-door thing, a Panamera GTS is $274,300.
So Porsches are expensive and Taycan is part of the family in every possible way. There’s no point in comparing the Taycan Turbo with (say) a Tesla Model 3 Performance just because they’re both electric. You don’t compare a 911 to a Toyota Supra just because they both have petrol engines.
Let’s also dispense with the performance thing right now, because it’s not that hard to make a BEV really fast. The claimed 0-100km/h figure for the Taycan Turbo is 3.2 seconds. DRIVEN editor Dean Evans recorded three seconds flat. So it’s fast enough to smack your head against the seatback and enrage your partner and it will do that all day until it goes flat. Enough said.
The genius of the Taycan is in its dynamic character, which is a really hard thing to achieve with a 2.3-tonne BEV. The steering is as tactile and precise as you demand of a Porsche, the chassis immensely grippy thanks to the amount of rubber on the road – but not at the expense of adjustability over undulating Kiwi roads.
The rear motor is nearly twice as powerful as the front and there’s a two-speed gearbox at the back. It not only helps with that brutal acceleration off the line, it can also flick down a ratio under braking. You can talk to this car with the steering wheel and accelerator, and it will talk back.
The Taycan feels exactly like a Porsche. The high-voltage architecture means much faster response times for the 4D Chassis Control, Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC) and Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus (PTV) than a combustion-engined car. It all feels very organic.
Even the brakes have a natural feel, despite being the work of more technological trickery. Because 90 per cent of the time when you’re pressing the brake pedal, the powertrain is using 100 per cent regeneration (not the actual braking hardware) to slow you down. That’s amazing.
The design and quality of the cabin is stunning, all digital and beautifully tactile touch screens, but not without its flaws. The glossy surfaces are a fingerprint nightmare and you cannot see the tiny gear selector or start button from the driver’s seat.
Despite the four doors, Taycan is still more a 2+2. But that’s okay, because it’s primarily a sports car. Rear passengers do get a “foot garage”: there’s a cutout in the underfloor batteries to make extra footroom.
The biggest challenge with Taycan for the true Porschephile is probably the soundtrack – or lack of it. The notion that a car’s character is entirely tied up with how it sounds is something we enthusiasts may have to rethink as we move forward. After all, a Porsche flat-six petrol engine sounds epic.
For Taycan, Porsche offers the Electric Sport Sound option ($980): it amplifies the sound of the electric motor into the cabin at the touch of a button. It’s still a real noise, although it sounds pretty Jetsons when you’re really pressing on.
I tried it for a few kays and then switched it off, because I like the juxtaposition of silence with sensational dynamic performance.
However, I was in the minority at the DRIVEN office, where others came back giggling like schoolchildren about the sci-fi noises. So there’s something for everyone.
Speaking of which: there’s much more to come from Taycan. If this 911-esque shape is too impractical for you, expect to see a Sport Turismo (a wagon, basically) and an SUV-style Cross Turismo in 2021.
The current entry point is the $203,900 Taycan 4S, but in time we’d also expect an even more accessible RWD version (which is already offered in China).
I’ve been lucky enough to drive many Porsches on road and track over the years, including many from the current lineup. I love the Taycan Turbo as much as any; maybe more.
PORSCHE TAYCAN TURBO
ENGINE: 93.4kWh lithium-ion battery with front/rear electric motors
POWER: 460kW (160kW front, 300kW rear)/850Nm
GEARBOX: Single-speed (front) with 2-speed (rear axle), AWD
ECONOMY: Estimated range 348km