Four years on from announcing plans to go electric with the Mission E concept, Porsche has finally officially unveiled its hotly anticipated answer to Tesla’s Model S – the Taycan.
It’s been a slow and drawn-out reveal, with sketches, camouflaged prototypes, interior shots – not to mention the inevitable Nürburgring lap time (7min 42sec) – drip-fed to the public through 2019. But now it is finally here; this is the Taycan you will be able to buy at your local Porsche dealership.
First, the basics. The Taycan is a four-door, five-seat saloon car with an electric motor powering each axle, a large boot at the rear and a smaller one at the front, variable all-wheel-drive, and a range of up to about 280 miles on the WLTP test cycle.
Porsche is offering two versions of the Taycan at launch, which it has inexplicably called the Turbo and Turbo S. Of course, these electric cars have no turbochargers, but Porsche must feel the name means more to its buyers than its literal description. A little more imagination would have been welcome here, Porsche.
A lesser, non-‘turbo’ model of Taycan will join the range later this year, and in late-2020 the same platform will be used by a vehicle known for now as the CrossTurismo, which is a Taycan with a chunkier, taller body. A more ‘lifestyle-focused’ car for outdoorsy types, if you will. By 2022, Porsche says it will have invested more than €6 billion in electric vehicles.
Enough of the housekeeping, how fast is it? Well, the Taycan Turbo S normally produces 460kW (625PS or 616bhp), but this is increased to 560kW (750bhp) for 2.5 seconds with an overboost function. Maximum torque is a claimed 1,050Nm.
Despite weighing 2,295kg, this power output means a 0-62mph (100km/h) time of 2.8 seconds. The car reaches 125mph (200km/h) in 9.8 seconds and has an electronically limited top speed of 161mph.
What’s key here, Porsche says, is how the Taycan can achieve maximum acceleration repeatedly without any drop in performance, and cruise at high speed (on the derestricted Autobahn, naturally) without concern.
This due the all-new 800-volt architecture and use of permanently excited synchronous motors, instead of the cheaper but less efficient asynchronous motors used by some other EVs. Porsche’s motors use fixed magnets instead of an electric current, which creates far less heat and prevents performance drop-off.
Unusual for an electric car is the Taycan’s multiple-speed gearbox. The first gear (and overboost) is called upon to offer maximum accelerative performance when the driver stamps on the pedal, while the second gear is used the rest of the time. Shifting between the two is seamless and with no drop in torque delivery.
Also unusual for an EV is how the Taycan’s regenerative braking system works. Instead of feeding kinetic energy back into the battery every time the accelerator is lifted, like in a Tesla or any other electric car, the Taycan only tops up the battery when you press the brake pedal. This means the car coasts when you lift off, like a non-electric car. Porsche says this gives better brake feel and ensures the Taycan reacts predictably to driver inputs – handy, as the retardation of other EVS car vary with the temperature of the battery pack.
When the brake pedal is pressed, the regeneration system feeds energy into the 93.4kWh battery at a rate of up to 265kW, more than double the rate of other EVs. Porsche says the brake discs are used so little – only around 10 per cent of the time – they should last almost indefinitely. A tungsten coating is applied to prevent them rusting due to lack of use.
But when they are called upon, their stopping power is mighty. The Turbo S comes with carbon discs as standard, measuring 420mm with 10-piston callipers at the front, and 410mm with four-piston callipers at the rear. The Taycan Turbo is fitted with regular steel discs.
Inside the leather-free interior, the Taycan takes Porsche’s traditional five-dial instrument cluster and gives it a modern makeover. The readout is now entirely digital, stretching across a curved 16.8-inch TFT display behind the steering wheel. At each edge the Taycan has a set of touch-sensitive buttons with haptic feedback, allowing the driver to adjust the suspension, traction control and lights with an outstretched index finger.
Further haptic controls are found on an 8.4-inch touchscreen in the lower half of the centre console, displaying climate controls when driving and battery status when parked.
Above this sits a 10.9-inch infotainment system which will be familiar to owners of current Porsches, and there is an optional passenger display, too. Identical to the central infotainment screen, this lets the passenger control music, nav and other systems without distracting the driver. In the interests of safety, this screen cannot be used when the passenger seat is empty.
Finally, a fifth display with haptics sits behind the front seats, for rear passengers to control entertainment, climate and cabin lighting. Apple CarPlay is available via a USB connection at launch, but with a wireless Bluetooth option coming soon. Porsche says Android Auto is not offered because 85 per cent of its buyers use iPhones.
The only piece of tech you won’t find in here is a head-up display, but Porsche says it’s working on adding one as an option later.
A new voice assistant lets drivers control the climate, navigation, interior lighting and seat-massage functionality by saying “Hey Porsche” then giving their request. Porsche says the system works with natural language, so the driver can say something like “Hey Porsche, I’m cold” and the temperature will be adjusted.
The recognisable flat-six soundtrack synonymous with Porsche is of course missing from the Taycan. As standard, this is replaced by a near-silent whine from the electric motors, only really heard under hard acceleration.
But an optional extra called ‘Porsche Electric Sport Sound’ brings sci-fi acoustics to the cabin. Similar to that of the electric Jaguar I-Pace, the Taycan’s sound does not aim to mimic an internal combustion engine, but instead adds a little drama to proceedings. During our passenger ride we thought the noise suited the car well, and we didn’t really notice the lack of a wailing exhaust note.
Charging speed is another area where Porsche believes it can outperform the competition. The Taycan’s unique 800-volt system allows its battery to be charged at up to 270kW at launch, a little higher than the Tesla Model 3 is capable of. However, Porsche believes it can up the Taycan’s charge rate to 400 or even 500kW in the future, once more powerful chargers are installed.
For now, using the Ionity charging network, which is steadily growing across Europe, the Taycan’s battery can be filled from five to 80 per cent in as little as 22.5 minutes. Porsche also states charging speed as 100km (62 miles) for every five minutes it’s plugged into the fastest chargers.
Porsche won’t be offering an alternative to the Tesla Supercharger network, but is instead launching the Taycan with Porsche Charging Service (PCS). This will include more than 200,000 charging points worldwide by 2020. These are installed and run by various companies, but can all be accessed by Porsche drivers using PCS, which is accessed via the Taycan’s navigation system and a smartphone app.
It is easy to fall into the trap of calling every premium electric car a ‘Tesla killer’. But with prices starting at £115,858 for the Turbo S or £138,826 for the Turbo S, that’s not what the Taycan is, given the Model S stops at just over £90,000.
Instead, we should recognise that the electric car market is maturing quickly and is at a point where Tesla, Jaguar, Audi, VW and Porsche can each serve their own sectors of the market. And, importantly, they can do so without treading on each other’s toes, and without any one car being labeled the killer of another.
A future entry-level Taycan could be positioned to more closely match Tesla’s Model S on price, but for now Porsche gets to claim the top rung of the mass-produced electric car ladder.
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