Flat out in Porsche’s electric supercar
Foot on brake. Foot on accelerator. Wait three seconds… launch control is ready. I sidestep the brake pedal and my head slams against the headrest as the low-slung four-door leaps off the line. I feel the front tires momentarily scrabbling for grip, and what feels like a gearshift at about 50 mph (80 km/h). Then it’s a volcanic surge of thrust that continues unabated even as the speedo flicks past 150 mph (240 km/h). Make no mistake, the 2020 Porsche Taycan is a seriously fast car.
The Taycan is not only fast. It’s also fun, as I discovered on the 15,000-foot-long runway at Vandenberg Air Force Base. With the nannies off and Sport + mode selected, the Taycan’s rear-biased dual-motor all-wheel-drive powertrain allows lovely long power slides, the instant-on torque easily overwhelming the rear tires. There’s a precision to the relationship between right-foot input and powertrain output that an internal combustion engine, with all its reciprocating masses and efficiency losses, simply can’t match. It takes a little getting used to at first, particularly in terms of smoothly coming off the power, but once you’re dialed in to the … er … electrifying responsiveness of the Taycan’s powertrain, this four-door Porsche feels almost as playful as a new 911.
I’m driving a lightly disguised pre-production Taycan, with the interior hidden under sheets of cladding (although we drove a black prototype, the newly unveiled production car is also pictured in this review). The steering wheel is straight out a 992-series 911, and the seating position is identical to that of Porsche’s iconic sports car. The Taycan wraps around you, and the view through the windshield is eerily familiar, front fenders peeking over the cowl and defining the front corners of the car.
Porsche is saving the details for the official launch, but I can say this Taycan is a top-spec model. 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.
The Taycan is built on the Porsche-developed J1 BEV platform and uses the same three-chamber air suspension and 48-volt anti-roll system as the MSB-platformed Panameras, Bentley Continental GT, and Rolls-Royce Flying Spur. There’s a familiar feel to the measured cadence of the Taycan’s ride over large humps and heaves, but the body motions are much more tightly controlled. The anti-roll system keeps the car flat through turns, though you’re always aware of its mass on directional changes—the Taycan probably weighs as much as a Bentley. The underfloor battery pack means most of that mass is close to the ground, however: The Taycan has a lower center of gravity than a 911.
Like Audi’s E-Tron, the Taycan uses e-motor regen to slow the car when you press the brake pedal, the mechanical brakes only being used if the rate of deceleration exceeds 0.3 g to 0.4 g. The transition is utterly seamless. The feel through the pedal is every bit as precise and consistent as you’d expect in a Porsche, and the system will continue harvesting energy right up to the point of ABS intervention. As mentioned, Porsche’s excellent PCCB carbon-ceramic brakes are standard on the top-spec Taycan, which is likely to follow Porsche’s current naming convention and be badged Turbo S, even though it has no internal combustion engine, much less a pair of turbochargers. The PCCB brakes will be optional across the Taycan range; they may be overkill.
Steering feel is a little meatier than in a 911 or Panamera, but the response is pleasingly linear, with good feedback. There’s some mild understeer on corner entry, even with the four-wheel steering system, though Taycan vehicle line director Robert Meier says the available Michelins would better support the front axle. Even so, midcorner balance and corner exit traction is impressive: The Taycan simply grips, grunts, and goes. Combined with stupendous rolling acceleration—punch the pedal at 40 mph (64 km/h), and you’re doing 60 in an instant—it means this electric Porsche sedan will be very hard to catch on a winding road.
Lift off the accelerator, and the highly aerodynamic Taycan coasts for a long, long time before its speed starts to drop. Unlike in other EVs, kinetic energy is not harvested and sent back to the battery the moment you lift off the accelerator; there is no ‘one-pedal’ driving mode, or even mild lift-off regen. As a result, the Taycan flows beautifully down the road, slowing only when the driver decides to brush the brake pedal. It’s more efficient—capturing kinetic energy and sending it to the battery inevitably means losses during the process—and much less tiring for the driver. (I became painfully aware of the need to keep pressure on the accelerator at all times, especially on the freeways, during my 700-mile drive across Europe in the Jaguar I-Pace last year.)
We’ll wait until we can do our own testing before we make a call on the Taycan’s efficiency, but on the strength of this first drive, Porsche’s claim the car will deliver consistent levels of performance appears to be accurate. I did numerous back-to-back acceleration runs to 150 mph (240 km/h) and beyond, and the Taycan launched as ferociously and built speed as relentlessly as it did the first time. Every time.
The new benchmark in real-world electric car performance is here. And it wears a Porsche badge.