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Review: The Taycan carries the soul of a proper Porsche.

October 14th, 2020 by

When the production version of the Taycan was running around the world ahead of its launch, the words “soul, electrified” were proudly emblazoned on its frumpy pre-launch camouflage livery.

Porsche Taycan Nurburgring

Porsche sent the Taycan to the Nurburgring just to be extra sure everyone knew it was a sporty car. | Image: Porsche

Porsche builds soulful sports cars, renowned for being incredible drives with character of their own. They were evidently worried the Porsche Taycan, with an electric powertrain, would be decried for not having a soul – as some traditional car enthusiasts and journalists have accused electric vehicles of being soulless.

We reject the notion that any electric vehicle is soulless. The cars just have a distinct character far different from what most people are used to. Drive enough of them and you can learn to easily identify the different character any given EV has.

The e-Golf is a nimble spirit willing to carve corners, despite a weaker powertrain. Teslas are Silicon Valley tech bros – dressed stylishly – but not traditionally formal or luxe. They’ve also been hitting the gym and pack a mean punch. The e-tron is an automotive comforter, cocooning its occupants in peace and quiet. Its massaging seats can literally rub the day’s stress away.

Porsche’s “soul, electrified” proclamation begs the question: just what kind of soul does the Taycan have?

Porsche Taycan Rear Quarter

From the outside, a four-door sedan might usually say “family car,” but Porsche took advantage of the Taycan’s electric nature to incorporate design elements impossible or uncommon for conventional cars.

It has a steeply sloped rear roofline, with wide, powerful rear haunches reminiscent of the 911. It shares the sculpted fascia of other Porsches, but the hood is lower, more aerodynamic and more aggressive – no need to leave room for an engine. Wide headlights and vertical cooling vents on either side of the car’s face complete the striking front end. It looks great in pictures and it’s downright jaw-dropping in-person.

Porsche Taycan Front Fascia

At first glance, this athletic sedan doesn’t read “family car,” it reads “sportscar.”

Maybe even “supercar.”

Sit inside the car, and the first thing you’ll notice is the solid bolstering its seats carry. These are not the fat, plush seats of a luxury tourer like a Mercedes S Class. These are tight (though still plenty comfortable) sport seats, prepared to hold on tight while you drive hard.

Porsche Taycan Interior

The Taycan I drove had the standard, paltry three screens – one curved gauge screen for the driver and two center touch screens. The lower panel is meant for controlling systems like HVAC and media. The higher center screen is a mix of information and control. It allows for a deeper dive into some of the settings.

A fourth screen placed in the dashboard in front of the front passenger is available but was not equipped on this example.

Overall, the human-machine interface works okay. The curved gauge screen is very cool and the multitude of controls on the steering wheel and stalks are a breeze to work. However, the touch panels aren’t as intuitive or responsive as Tesla’s displays. The lower screen especially requires a firmer, more precise touch. It was slower to respond to commands and uses haptic feedback I personally found to be too strong.

Porsche Taycan Curved Screen

Range and charging information is displayed on that lower screen and also on the gauge cluster screen. At 100% charge, the Taycan indicated available range of anywhere between 250 and 270 miles depending on the drive mode, a much higher number than its 204-mile EPA range rating.

While we didn’t have the opportunity to perform an in-depth range test, the indicated number did appear accurate based on our driving conditions. The range display usually adjusted appropriately with driving – that is to say one mile driven meant one mile less on screen. This is wildly different from the behavior most other EV range displays exhibit. They can be so off base that they’ve earned the nick name “guess-o-meters” and are mostly ignored.

Taycan Charge Port 1

Wait, where is the CCS Port?

This experience matches up with the experiences of other reviewers, who found the Taycan to be more efficient than its EPA testing results would indicate. Green Car Reports found the Taycan to be more efficient even on the highway, where most EVs struggle to meet their EPA ratings at high speeds. Road trips are a go in the Taycan.

Road trip-ability is helped by the insane charging speeds the Porsche Taycan is capable of. Properly equipped DC Fast Chargers can charge the Taycan at speeds up to 350 kW, capable of recharging the 93.4 kWh pack to 80% in less than 20 minutes.

Porsche Taycan CCS Port

There it is! Porsche includes two charge ports. J1772 on each side plus CCS on the right.

Road trip-ability is also helped by the Taycan’s incredible road manners. The thing is an unyielding beast on the open road.

“I got on the highway and up to speed, just to where the car felt comfortable driving,” a Current Automotive staffer told me after a they test drove the car. “I looked down at the speedometer and saw I was doing 107 miles per hour.”

The Taycan is dead solid, quiet, smooth, and composed at speed. It devours the road like it’s nothing.

The high-speed stability and comfort makes the Taycan an incredible grand touring vehicle, besting even the Model S in highway driving character. You’d think that the comfort would extend to daily driving too and it is indeed a comfortable car more than capable of fulfilling daily duty, but Porsche’s failure to adopt one-pedal driving holds it far back in this regard.

Porsche Taycan on Track

Porsche’s approach to regenerative braking is behind the curve in general. It’s probably the weakest part about the driving experience.

The Taycan has five drive modes. In most of them, automatic regenerative braking defaults to off. When you lift your foot off the accelerator, the car’s standard behavior is to coast like a car equipped with an old-school torque converter automatic transmission. Regenerative braking only begins when you start using the brake pedal. It basically drives like a normal gasoline car in this mode which is really disappointing.

When I first turned automatic regenerative braking on, I was expecting a full one-pedal driving experience and was sorely disappointed. The auto regen is very slight, with deceleration only noticeable during the initial bite. It feels more like engine braking with a traditional manual car than regenerative braking in any other electric vehicle.

Strong automatic regenerative braking and one-pedal driving is a beloved feature for electric vehicle drivers. Once you get used to one-pedal driving, it becomes the far easier and superior way to drive especially in the daily stop and go traffic most people face in their commutes. It’s an absolute game changer and not carrying it could be a dealbreaker for some drivers. Porsche lacking a feature proudly carried by the Chevrolet Bolt EV is not great.

One-pedal driving doesn’t have to be the default setting, but it should always be an option. At least Porsche could potentially add or adjust this via over-the-air updates.

The upshot is that Porsche’s brake pedal feel is far superior to some other electric vehicles. It’s firm and responsive, nearly impossible to tell where the car shifts over from regenerative to friction braking. This is crucial for the most exciting part about the Taycan: performance driving.

You see, the Taycan is a good daily driver and great grand tourer, but it’s worse than a Model 3 at the former and not significantly better than a Model S at the latter.

Porsche Taycan Cornering

The Taycan is bigger on the outside and smaller on the inside when compared to the Model 3 – the worst combo for a daily – and it lacks one-pedal driving. Tesla crushes it in the infotainment department too, the Porsche’s many screens may look nice, but they don’t measure up when compared to Tesla in usability. Plus, the Taycan doesn’t get access to Tesla’s Supercharging network, which is still unmatched in terms of public fast charger numbers and placement.

It doesn’t even stand out that much from a Model 3 when driven in a sporty fashion – it’s slower to 60 mph and very few curvy public roads can be driven fast enough to take full advantage of the Taycan’s potential.

It’s only when you cross the threshold from sporty driving into performance driving that the Taycan begins to truly shine.

We don’t have a full road course to drive cars on, but we do have access to small test track owned by the City of Naperville. It’s not enough to fully stretch the legs of a car like the Taycan, but it’s enough space to drive a car harder than you can on the street.

I turned the drive-selector knob on the steering wheel to Sport Plus, felt the suspension drop the car, and heard the “Porsche Electric Sport Sound” kick on in the background – a low hum at idle.

I punched it, and the Porsche’s attitude flipped from fancy to ferocious.

The 4S might be the slowest trim in the Taycan lineup, but 562 horsepower is still a lot of horsepower. The motor response feels explosive when you get on the go pedal at any speed. All electric vehicles feel quick to 30, or 45, or 60 miles per hour, but the Taycan charges hard to triple digits. It feels like the car could never run out of steam, and it only gets better when you approach a corner.

The Taycan’s handling is sublime. Even on all-season tires, the Taycan has unfathomable amounts of grip. The steering is so direct you may as well be driving the car with mind control. Feedback to the driver is excellent too. The Taycan tends towards on-power understeer coming out of a corner, but the steering wheel clearly telegraphs what the front tires are doing. It’s very easy to drive by feel and adjust your inputs based on what the car is telling you, which is important since the car wants to accelerate out of every corner like an unchained beast.

Reviews of the modern Porsche 911 talk about its dual nature. The sportscar gotten bigger and more comfortable over the years. Modern generation 911s can be used as grand tourers in a way classic ones would not have been, but they still drive like incredible sportscars when the driver demands it.

It feels like Porsche took that same soul, electrified it, and dropped in the Taycan. It’s a supremely comfortable electric grand tourer that drives with incredible ferocity when unleashed in the right environment.

“Soul, electrified.”

Sounds about right.

Porsche Taycan Headlight

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