There has never been an electric vehicle like the 2020 Porsche Taycan. I write this not just based on what the automaker has revealed of its first EV, but with first-hand experience from the passenger seat of the Taycan with a German hot shoe at the wheel. The Tesla Model S might offer more range, a more affordable price, or an ever-so-slightly quicker sprint to 60 miles per hour (I have a feeling independent testing will prove the Porsche quicker), but the sum of the Taycan's dynamic parts are leaps and bounds beyond anything Tesla has to offer.
As part of an embargoed backgrounder in mid-August at Porsche Cars North America's Atlanta, Georgia headquarters, I was able to experience the Taycan (from the passenger's seat) on the Porsche Experience Centre's mile-long handling circuit, skid pad, and wet handling area. While the car I rode in wore camouflage both inside and out, the experience was enough to put the Taycan high on my list of cars I’m excited for.
Get Low, Low, Low, Low
The Taycan is slightly smaller than a Panamera, at just 495 centimetres long and 137 cm high (compared to 505 cm and 142 cm high). Getting into the front seats isn't a challenge, although I struggled more slipping into the Taycan’s second row than I would have with the Panamera’s more generous roofline. The rear bench of my Taycan Turbo S demonstrator was comfortable enough, but my hair was brushing the headliner – I wouldn't want to hang out back there for too long. Anyone that values passenger space should either consider another vehicle or wait for the roomier Taycan Cross Turismo, due in late 2020.
Slip into one of the front seats and there is a lot to like, even with camouflage all over the cabin. Sightlines ahead are excellent, and as Porsche looked to the 911 for inspiration on the Taycan's seating position, you sit suitably low in the car. The hip point is more aggressive than even the Panamera’s. The seats are excellent, though, even with camouflage padding getting in the way.
Porsche's seating strategy follows its other models with standard, Sport, and Comfort options. The two-piece setup should look good and, as reported last week, will be available with either leather or an eco-friendly leather alternative. I'd love to comment on the controls, but as you're about to read, I spent most of my lap hanging on for dear life.
As we rolled out to the PEC's track entrance, my German driver came to a stop and asked, very seriously, if I was ready. I replied with a simple, yes, and was soon assaulted by G forces as he pressed the accelerator. The Taycan Turbo S is effortlessly quick. It's the kind of acceleration that blurs your vision. But the shock is how unrelenting the thrust is. Unlike a petrol-powered vehicle, there are no peaks or valleys or idiosyncrasies. It's brutal and constant. The Taycan alters your definition of straight-line speed.
But the immediacy isn't only down to the power delivery. The tyres hook up with virtually no drama, thanks to their size (the Turbo S wears 305/30/21s in back and 265/35/21s in front), the special compound that manages to offer the benefits of low rolling resistance – the special rubber extends the Taycan's range by 12 to 19 miles compared to typical sport tyres – without compromising handling or braking ability, and the all-wheel-drive effect provided by the twin electric motors. After negotiating a couple of turns at a relaxed pace, our driver ended up on another straight and repeated the performance. The launches would be completely undramatic if it weren't for the way the G forces crush you and how quickly the scenery blurs.
The launches would be completely undramatic if it weren't for the way the G forces crush you.
The acceleration runs also highlighted the lack of histrionics from the two-speed gearbox in the back and the single-speed unit in front. In Sport and Sport Plus, the rear gearbox sets off in its short, aggressive first gear before upshifting at around 60 mph. But because of the relentlessness of the torque, the normal sensation that even the quickest gearboxes exhibit on hard, foot-to-the-floorboard upshifts is totally absent. At the same time, there's no perceptible kick down under hard deceleration, which heralds our entry to the skid pad.
Now, strictly speaking, there's no good reason for an electric car to drift or do donuts. That said, the Taycan can and will kick its back end out and toast its low-rolling-resistance rubber with little provocation. I know this because my German chauffeur did just that multiple times.
My driver took me out of the spin dryer with yet another burst of acceleration down a straight, but instead of coming to a complete stop at the end, he speared left into a tight downhill section that quickly kicked back right. Despite the speed and intensity with which he attacked the corner, this 2,300-kg saloon's weight barely registered given how the suspension coped with the sudden changes of direction. That's thanks in large part to the optional active anti-roll bars in the so-called Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control and the four-wheel-steering system.
My driver attacked several more turns with a gusto better associated with a 911 GT3, and much like how it accelerated, the Taycan Turbo S seemed entirely unbothered. Moreover, I was impressed by how few adjustments my driver had to make. While he was clearly talented, I got the impression that he had absolute, unshakeable confidence in the Taycan's abilities. I base that on our conversation as we lapped, where he was surprised by the small size of PEC's track, saying with a heavy accent, “I thought everything was big in America.”
Even from the passenger's seat, though, the driver's confidence was easy to understand. The Taycan's body motions – and mind you, our Turbo S had all the handling goodies – were incredibly progressive and predictable. Even after a short stint, I felt like I could have climbed behind the wheel and attacked the PEC's track with the same gusto.
And even if I goofed, a stint on the wet handling course showed how easily the Taycan's nannies could curb the electric motors' ample torque. The wet slalom course seemed downright manageable, and even when my driver stabbed comically at the accelerator pedal, the nannies kept the Taycan straight and true. This car feels every bit as impressive in the wet as the new 911 and its nifty Wet driving mode.
Does It Feel Like A Porsche, Though?
Well, yeah. In fact, I emerged from my short stint wondering just why anyone would buy another Porsche. That declaration is probably a bit premature, considering it's based on a five-minute stint from the passenger's seat, but the impact of the Taycan ride along was eye-opening all the same. More than shocking me with its performance, the Taycan Turbo S has me excited about how Porsche will flesh out the trim range for its first electric car. If Porsche can get this car's goodness to trickle down to more affordable variants, the company is going to have a hit on its hands.