HAMBURG, Germany – In the four years since Porsche showed the Mission E concept at the 2015 Frankfurt auto show, its designers, engineers and test drivers have worked relentlessly to create the carmaker’s first, fully electric sports car. And also, its most complex vehicle yet. After countless rumours and photos of test mules in zebra-skin or black camouflage, the production version, named Taycan (pronounced tie-khan) to evoke a frisky young horse in Turkish, was revealed to the world simultaneously in China, Niagara Falls and Germany, on September 4.
Just a few days later, we finally had the long-awaited opportunity to drive the new Taycan. It came in the form of the Taycan Road Show, an elaborate “road trip” that would take 11 groups of auto journalists from its starting point in the Norwegian capital of Oslo to Stuttgart, in Germany. This free-form caravan would traverse 9 different countries in 18 days, over a route that totalled 6,400 kilometres.
Throughout the journey, up to 18 pre-production Taycan Turbo and Turbo S test cars would stop for an electron refill at one of the 141 stations of the European Ionity network, of which Porsche is a partner. There, the Taycans showed off the prowess of a unique 800-volt system that can raise the charge level of its 93.4-kWh lithium-ion battery from 5% to 80% in barely more than 22 minutes, at a maximum rate of 270 kW. In a year or so, the Taycan should take advantage of the full 350 kW capacity of fast chargers installed at Ionity stations and their North American counterparts within the Electrify Canada and America networks.
Up close, the Taycan looks much like the morphed shapes of a Panamera and a 911, combining the taut, flowing profile of the former and smooth front and rear fascias of the latter. In fact, the Taycan is 55 mm lower than a Panamera and shorter by 236 mm, yet wider by 28 mm on wider tracks and a 199 mm shorter wheelbase, with shared suspension design. Our two days at the wheel confirmed it has much in common with the sleek 4-door in terms of handling and takes after the legendary sports car, in sheer performance.
With the light, frameless door open, you lower yourself into a Taycan rather than climb aboard, in true sports car style. The sparse and strictly horizontal instrument panel that spans the full width was inspired by the original 911, born in 1963. It houses three digital screens (if the optional passenger screen is included) and nary a physical control, except for a short, stubby transmission lever sticking out and a vertical button for Park. A fourth, vertical touch screen on the console is mainly for a climate control system you basically set and forget, but also for audio, navigation, phone and other settings.
The small, finely-shaped steering wheel seems to have been lifted directly from the cockpit of a 918 Spyder, including the round knob that lets you switch at will between five driving modes: Range, Normal, Sport, Sport Plus and Individual. Other buttons and a pair of thumbwheels let you configure the 16.8-inch main cluster and roam through numerous menus. Taking the time to familiarize yourself with its myriad systems is strongly recommended.
Visibility is great, in spite of a slit-like rear window. Driving position is spot on, with a solid footrest and 3-position memory. Well-sculpted Sport front seats, a no-cost option, provide an impeccable blend of comfort and support while the rear seats are just cozy, designed to accommodate the typical 1.75-metre (5-foot-9) adult, Porsche says. Getting in and out will work your abs nicely, since the cushion is quite low, scooped out to preserve headroom under that sloping roofline. The seatback folds in sections to extend a trunk that will swallow two small suitcases and a pair of backpacks, essentially.
Joining the caravan en route, our first driving day took us from Copenhagen to Børkop aboard a Turbo S, the more radical and most powerful of the pair. It delivers a 2.5-second burst of 751 hp and 774 lb-ft of torque when launch control is invoked, in Sport Plus mode. Good for repeated 0-100 km/h sprints in 2.8 seconds, Porsche promises. The corresponding figures are 670 hp, 627 lb-ft and 3.2 seconds for the Turbo. Otherwise, both versions get 617 hp from their two “permanently excited synchronous motors.”
The Taycan’s poise and solidity are apparent immediately, with excellent ride quality and body control provided by its air suspension and adjustable dampers. Keep in mind, however, that Danish and German roads are never as taxing as ours in North America. The Turbo and Turbo S felt quite similar, dynamically, although the latter runs on wider and lower aspect-ratio performance tires.
Both cars were quite manoeuvrable, with rear-wheel steering that reduces turning diameter and the quicker steering ratio that comes with it. They were surprisingly agile too, with the lowest centre of gravity of any Porsche, thanks to a propulsion battery laid beneath the floor. We will need a track rather than the quaint Danish country roads, to safely explore and compare the Taycans’ cornering limits.
That said, full acceleration never feels anything less than fierce in both the Turbo and Turbo S. There is humungous, instant torque, delivered via all-wheel drive traction and a unique 2-speed transmission at the rear axle, its lower gear used only with launch control or vigorous throttle inputs. Only once did we feel the shift to the higher gear that occurs around 80 km/h. The thought of using launch control in Sport Plus mode on Danish roads did not even cross our minds. Short bursts were more than impressive enough.
Hitting warp speed
We crossed into Germany on the second day, aboard the tamer-looking Turbo, and were soon driving on Autobahn 7 towards Hamburg. Speed is still unrestricted on two thirds of this mythical network, but traffic is often dense, imposing its own limits. When it finally cleared a bit, we floored the Turbo to test this electric car’s ultimate performance mettle and were properly slapped into our seatbacks, even from generous triple-digit speeds.
With relentless thrust, we soon passed the Taycan’s claimed top speed of 260 km/h and saw 269 on the speedometer before a small van pulled into the left lane, far ahead. The Turbo’s tungsten carbide-coated cast-iron brakes, with huge 415 mm discs and 10-piston calipers in front, pushed the nose down just slightly and scrubbed the speed effortlessly. In fact, brake modulation is simply flawless at all times, even if Porsche claims energy regeneration will do 90% of the braking in a Taycan. The Turbo S gets even larger and lighter carbon-ceramic discs that are optional on the Turbo.
The Taycan inspires total trust and remains utterly stable and planted, even at top speed, with its aluminium and steel body automatically lowered 20 mm by the air suspension and the small rear spoiler deployed just the right amount. Unquestionably, it is pure Porsche!
It is amazingly quiet too, making the most of its exceptional aerodynamics and 0.22 drag coefficient (it’s 0.25 for the Turbo S, with wider tires). No need to raise your voice at more than 260 km/h, an impossible feat at 100 km/h in several sports cars.
There is much to explore and discover still, about Porsche’s first electric car, switchable, synthetic motor sound included. But if this spectacular 4-door sports missile is any sign, the following acts in the carmaker’s ambitious electrification strategy are not to be missed.
Model: 2020 Porsche Taycan
Base price: Turbo: $173,900 – Turbo S: $213,900
Engine: Permanently excited synchronous electric motors (front and rear axles)
Peak output: 617 hp (Turbo: 670 hp and Turbo S: 750 hp with launch control)
Peak torque: 627 lb-ft (Turbo) and 774 lb-ft (Turbo S) with launch control
Transmission: single speed (front axle); 2-speed (rear axle)
Drivetrain: all-wheel drive (AWD)
Suspension front: Independent aluminum double wishbone, air springs
Suspension rear: Independent aluminum multilink, air springs
Steering: electric power steering, rear axle steering (optional on Turbo)
Length: 4 963 mm
Width: 1 966 mm
Height: 1 378 mm
Wheelbase: 2 900 mm
Turning diameter: 11.7 metres (Turbo) / 11.2 metres (Turbo S + rear-wheel steering)
Weight (DIN): 2 305 kg (Turbo) 2 295 kg (Turbo S)
Acceleration (0-100 km/h): 3.2 seconds (claimed: Turbo) 2.8 seconds (claimed: Turbo S)
Range: 381-450 km (Turbo) 388- 412 km (Turbo S) according to LMTP norm
Energy consumption (city/highway/combined): not yet available.
Top speed: 260 km/h (manufacturer), 269 km/h (observed)