Wed. Oct 16th, 2019

Driving Impressions: Porsche Taycan Turbo S

BERLIN, Germany – Before I explain why the Taycan – part of a six billion euro group investment into current and future electric vehicles – is superb, let’s dispense with a potential chink in its armour: Porsche says the Turbo S can reach 412 km before its 93,4 kWh batteries need a boost. That’s measured on the WLTP cycle, which replaced the misleading NEDC measure to give consumers more accurate predictions for the fuel/energy usage of new cars. But, as we see at CAR when we take test vehicles on our mixed-use 100 km fuel run, WLTP is flawed; without fail, cars gulp more fuel than their claimed figure.

And so it is with the Taycan. Over 900 km of driving along German autobahns, country lanes and urban roads, we never saw a range of more than 350 km when we adjusted the charge-to-distance ratio. Now, while 350 km is more generous than what’s offered by a number of EVs, it falls short of the rival Tesla Model S Performance’s WLTP claim of 587 km. Adjusted to the Taycan’s claim-versus-real-world range, the Tesla should be able to reach just short of 500 km.

Credit where credit is due, though: this is Porsche’s first production EV. Without having driven a Model S, I can assure you it would have to be close-to flawless to compete with the Taycan in other areas aside from range and outright performance, most notably driving dynamics, build quality and overall comfort and refinement.

What’s also important to keep in mind is, in Europe, range is less of a concern than it is in South Africa. Soon there’ll be 350 kW chargers dotted at close intervals across most of the continent, which at the Taycan’s allowed maximum charging power of 270 kW can top up the battery pack from 5 to 80% in just 22,5 minutes, enough time to get a coffee and visit the loo. South Africa has no choice but to catch up or risk being left far behind…

Under that striking skin

Built on a brand-new J-platform designed to house electric drivetrains of varying sizes (there’ll be a Taycan 4S coming soon, plus other Porsches spun from this base), the Taycan boasts two electric motors arranged one on each axle, the front one working through a single-speed transmission and the aft unit making use of a two-speed ‘box. Together, these motors produce astonishing figures: 460 kW and 1 050 N.m or torque, and up to 560 kW on overboost when launch control is activated. Porsche says 0-100 km/h takes just 2,8 seconds, a figure – unlike the boast about range – I believe. I’m writing this review days after the launch ended and my neck is still slightly stiff from repeated race starts and mid-range throttle dumps, just for the heck of it.

Because it’s glorious fun. Spot a gap. Lean on the long-travel throttle. Fill the gap. Or dispatch an entire stretch of road. Or pass a train of cars in a flash. I’m sure the Turbo S is the quickest-accelerating vehicle I’ve ever driven, and the list includes some standout supercars. It’s also the speediest current series-production Porsche. At least to 100 km/h, after which performance remains mighty but does taper to the limited top speed of 260 km/h. Why not aim for the magical 300? Well, that would require a higher second ratio, or a third one, but Porsche chose to optimise the gearing for efficiency and performance at lower speeds.

Anyway, 260 km/h is plenty, as I found out on the autobahn. The Taycan felt monumentally stable and as quiet as you’d hope – thank the double glazing, three-camber air suspension which drops the big four-door close to the road’s surface and the lack of combustion racket – but it was raining pretty heavily and a speed starting with a two followed by two more digits is hair-raising when the surface is drenched.

On the road

Those air chambers endow the Taycan with a supple ride quality despite the presence of 21-inch wheels on the Turbo S (the Turbo gains 20s). Broken tarmac is dealt with really sophisticatedly – and quietly, too, because suspension thuds and tyre slap would be amplified by an ICE’s absence, so noise reduction was a big focus. The body stays flat, even in default normal mode (supplemented with range, sport, sport plus and individual settings); there’s none of the palpable head toss you get in a Jaguar I-Pace. Of course, roll is helpfully curtailed by a low centre of gravity thanks to the placement of the lithium-ion battery pack entirely below the body structure.

Twist the drive mode rotary selector into sport plus mode and the Taycan Turbo S’ demeanour alters (and I’m not only talking about the artificial, spaceship-like “engine” sound piped in through the speakers; thankfully, it can be deactivated). The suspension firms up, the steering becomes heavier and the throttle response more direct. Tackle a sinewy pass and it feels exactly like a Porsche should: alert but forgiving of driver errors, offering incredible traction, feelsome steering and fantastic braking response from the standard-fitment carbon-ceramics. It’s a joy to drive this car quickly, despite a kerb weight of 2,3 tonnes.  

And in the cockpit

Inside, it’s all screens (up to four, including an optional one for the front passenger that’s gimmicky and unnecessary) and beautifully trimmed leather, tactile synthetic surfaces and stellar perceived build quality. There isn’t much space – not as much as you’d hope for in a vehicle nearing five metres in length – but four adults can sit in decent comfort and the front and rear boots combined offer 467 litres of packing space, which is plenty.

Ultimately, there’s much to applaud here; the Taycan is unquestionably a great vehicle, not despite its electric powertrain, as some may have feared, but exactly because of it. When it arrives here in the third quarter of next year, the Taycan will be expensive, sure – a problem compounded by our government’s non-sensical taxation on electrified vehicles – but Zuffenhausen’s first production EV looks, feels and, yes, when its motors whirr away soothingly, sounds expensive. Just like the best Porsches.

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