2020 Porsche Taycan EV Review: We Drive the Tesla Fighter!
We spend a speedy afternoon with the first-ever electric Porsche.
The Taycan EV is the most significant all-new Porsche since the first Cayenne launched in 2003. That's quite the proclamation, but lest you think this is hyperbole, remember what the Taycan represents: It's Porsche's first all-electric car, and the super-sedan rings the starting bell on the brand's focused march toward electrification. The official debut is still a short while away, but thanks to a quick overnight trip to Stuttgart, we now have time behind the wheel of a near-production prototype. We can't talk about much technical details—check back next week for a full rundown on specs, charging specifics, and launch date—but we can provide a look at what to expect.
The technocrats in Weissach aren't fooling anyone. Though all Taycan mules we interacted with that afternoon were blacked out from nose to tail, the cartoonish headlight and taillight graphics did very little to mask the true shape. Expect a car that's noticeably more compact than a Panamera, and sleeker than anything short of the 911 and Boxster/Cayman family. In fact, the Taycan is stylistically closer to a four-door 911 than the Panamera ever was.
It's lithe and lean, a logical translation of the Mission E concept into production form. And the rakish profile isn't just for show; according to engineers, the Taycan has a lower center of gravity than the current 911. Low mounting points for the weighty battery pack and the front and rear electric motors are to thank for this enviable packaging. We can't reveal any official numbers, but the Taycan isn't going to be dainty, and we wouldn't be surprised if it ends up heavier than some Panamera variants.
It's Fast in Every Single Way
Don't tell that to the chassis engineers, though, as they didn't get the memo that heavy car means heavy handling. Our drive stint didn't include flogging the pricey test mule on the test track, but we did ride shotgun as factory hot-shoes did their very best to liquefact our insides and peel back our faces with a handful of flying laps. Mum's the word on full suspension particulars, but the engineers on hand confirmed the top two trims ride on a three-chamber air suspension and pack dynamic anti-roll bars, all of which did an incredible job of managing the overall mass. The Taycan's newly minted status as the fastest four-door EV around the Nürburgring should provide another clue to its prowess, as did our previous ride-along experience in the Taycan Turbo.
At least one version, the top-spec model, also includes rear-wheel steering that greatly quickens the pace around the track. Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC) needs to be on full alert at all times in the Taycan, too, thanks to near-instantaneous reaction from the electric motors. Freed from the oily grips of physical clutches and differentials, engineers cited two-millisecond task times for torque vectoring and the stability and traction control, a remarkable improvement from Porsche's internal-combustion models' 10-to-20-millisecond task times.
Befitting the Taycan's status as a performance-oriented EV, trying to describe the acceleration is an all-you-can-eat grab bag of cliché and hyperbole. Power was enigmatically quoted as "over 600 horsepower," with the zero-to-60-mph sprint claimed to slide comfortably under the three-second mark. In keeping with Porsche's tradition of underrating the official figures, the one we rode in feels much, much faster than even the sub-three second claim. In fact, it really seemed to be somewhere in the low-two-second range, if you can believe it. Sorry, Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid—you don't stand a chance.
-story continues below-
Along with crossing your eyes with insta-torque, the accelerative capabilities of the Taycan give rise to another technological party piece. According to Porsche, leadfoot Taycan drivers can launch, abuse, and beat their car as much as they want without a noticeable dip in performance, a pointed reference to Tesla's Model S and its inability to deliver maximum performance over and over again. Only when you're truly irresponsible or starved for a charge station will the Taycan go into a limp-home mode. Case in point: Soon after our experience in Germany, a British journalist launched a prototype from zero to 124 mph dozens of times with only a 0.8-second deviation in times from start to finish.
his oppressive thrust, when blended with impeccable body control, makes for quite the combination. From the passenger seat, it's like riding shotgun in a low-flying spacecraft from your favorite sci-fi romp. It's quiet, but it's not mute. There's a great deal of both real and fabricated powertrain noise, and unless you experience it for yourself, it defies any reasonable written explanation. On the inside, there's a mid-pitched hum that's a bit Star Trek-y, but still reassuring. It doesn't have quite the same effect as the GT3's 4.0-liter at 9,000 rpm, but it makes the inevitable transition from sonorous fossil-fuel engines a skosh less painful.
Of course, we were too busy holding onto whatever we could grab to fully appreciate the futuristic soundtrack. It wordlessly rips around a track at speeds not previously seen in any production EV—that 'Ring time, by the way, was just 7:42, the same as posted by a 997.1 911 GT3. After the grippy stuff, the test driver then proved EVs can still slide as he elegantly held the rear end out in a sensational drift. Clearly, it has plenty of Porsche verve.
And Now We Drive
My brief drive time arrived soon after, only now I'm prowling the narrow streets of Weissach proper. It's apparent right from the first intersection this isn't a strange or polarizing driving experience whatsoever. Those familiar with Porsche's current lineup will feel right at home. I unfortunately spent precious minutes behind a dawdling VW Polo, but that provided an opportunity to explore the Taycan's numerous driving modes and regen settings.
Porsche purposefully left the ultra-aggressive "one pedal driving" regen setting on the shelf, instead opting for a few distinct modes that offer a larger variance of driving styles to suit the situation. In the default mode, the car "sails," with very little motor braking, while another mode adds moderate resistance for improved power regen. The ideal mode seemed to be the automatic regen setting, which uses the onboard sensors and radar cruise-control systems to adapt the aggressiveness of the regen to the environment. In other words, when the road is clear, it's smooth sailing. Run into traffic, and the regen system kicks in, automatically slowing the car down as necessary—all without driver intervention. It's highly intuitive, and we used this setting more than the others.
Even when you do hit the brake pedal, the systems are working behind the scenes to scavenge "more than" 250 kW, according to Porsche. The first 0.4 g of brake deceleration is handled entirely through the regen system, without the actual brakes coming into play until that threshold is exceeded. In normal urban driving under 50 mph, the regenerative setup was strong enough to achieve a dead stop in most cases without ever engaging the massive carbon-ceramic discs at all four corners.
Aside from the trick braking/regen system, the Taycan very much feels like a very quiet, superior handling Panamera. The steering is sharp and quick as you'd ever want from a midsize sport sedan, with the rear-wheel steering aiding both low-speed maneuverability and high-speed stability. It rides just as comfortably as its big brother when you encounter broken pavement, too.
So, is it a real Porsche? Of course it is. If you consider the Panamera and Cayenne worthy standard bearers of the marque, the Taycan ranks up toward the top of the heap, perfectly encapsulating in one car the brand's tireless march toward engineering perfection. It's also one hell of a first go at the contentious EV segment. If everything goes according to plan, we're going to look back on the 2020 Porsche Taycan as a watershed moment in the brand's history. There's much more to tell about the Taycan, but you'll need to wait a week until all the information is fully revealed. It will be worth it.