As a crowd of protesters marches past, the sleek shape and vibrant green paint-scheme of our car draws a curious mix of admiration and admonishment. On the first day of the global climate strike, we found ourselves in Flensburg, a small German town about 160 kilometres north of Hamburg.
The 2020 Porsche Taycan Turbo S should be a point of pride for Germans of all stripes, including environmentalists on a mission. But the first all-electric Porsche in history is so new, it goes unrecognized by many in the crowd. While some of the protesters smile and give a thumbs-up as they walk past, others boo loudly and at least one swears at us.
Given that the Taycan produces no tailpipe emissions whatsoever, the insult seems misplaced.
But to be fair, the insult may be linked to our driving what is clearly an exotic car, a signal that we’re among the greedy elites of the world – the very people perceived to be part of the problem and not enough of the solution. The Porsche Taycan Turbo S retails for well more than $200,000 in Canada; for sure, it’s beyond the reach of the average motorist.
Here’s the thing, though: The battery-electric vehicle movement is still in its relative infancy and switching over to a new form of propulsion takes time and money. Early efforts from major manufacturers, such as this one from Porsche, are needed until battery technology advances, investment in infrastructure is secured and production costs go down. Until this happens, we have the Porsche Taycan Turbo S to consider – on its own merits, free from all encumbrances, from a sheer bang-for-the-buck perspective.
Heading south from Flensburg, we experience the astonishing acceleration of the Taycan Turbo S as it makes lightning-quick work of passes along two-lane roads clogged with traffic. It takes time to bend your mind around how fast the car responds in the most aggressive of the four drive modes. In the most docile setting (called “Range”), the accelerator pedal is super-soft, like a wet sponge; in Sport Plus mode, it’s a light switch triggering an explosion of performance.
The version we’re testing has all the bells and whistles, including a sound-enhancing system that adds a low growl to the car’s spaceship-like whirring. The Taycan doesn’t sound like any other Porsche, but it’s not exactly like other electric vehicles (EVs), either. The two-speed transmission linked to the rear-axle motor burbles pleasantly as it shifts up a gear and does the same when going back to first. For those accustomed to the sound of EVs, the Taycan will be a decent step up in terms of engagement.
The car also features the full range of technical niceties you’ll find in other Porsche models: torque vectoring limited slip differential, rear-axle steering, adaptive air suspension, ceramic brake discs and 21-inch wheels fitted with Michelin Pilot Sport summer tires. In making these features available, Porsche draws a line in the sand compared with other EVs, which focus almost exclusively on maximizing battery range through low rolling resistance tires and other means.
Sure enough, the Taycan is a pleasure to drive on winding country roads. The steering wheel feels a little video game-like for my tastes, but the car sweeps around corners eagerly. We do slow down on the faster roads with more rolling topography, fearful that the low-slung car – with its 93.4 kWh battery pack mounted in the floor – would not take to rally-style jumps very well.
When the time does come to use the brakes, they respond in a big way, carbon fibre pads clamping down on ceramic discs wilfully. But truth be told, we didn’t approach the limits of what the system can do. Like the car’s acceleration, the sheer forcefulness of the brakes takes time and space to measure – you would need to trigger high-speed panic stops just to get close to their potential.
About 60 kilometres north of Hamburg, we stop at a recharging station along the unlimited-speed Autobahn. This is where the Porsche Taycan Turbo S reveals its final magic trick: We arrive at the station with just 4-per-cent battery charge left. Less than 30 minutes later, the battery is at 80 per cent and we’re off again.
By its very nature, the 2020 Porsche Taycan Turbo isn’t for everyone. But it’s an engineering achievement that everyone can appreciate – and a new way of looking at what a performance car can be.
- Base price: $173,900/$213,900
- Powertrain: Dual Permanent Magnet Synchronous Motors – 670 horsepower (overboost) and 627 lb-ft of torque / 750 horsepower (overboost) and 774 lb-ft of torque
- Transmission/Drive: Single-speed (front axle) and 2-speed (rear axle) / all-wheel drive
- Range: 433-473 km / 388-412 km (combined; European testing)
- Alternatives: Tesla Model S Performance
Bearing a close resemblance to the Mission E concept revealed four years ago, the Taycan is an uncontested work of automotive art. The sculpted side panels, sweeping roofline and prominent rear section echo the design of more traditional models in the Porsche fleet. Meanwhile, the four-point LED headlights framed by downward pointing air intakes give the car a different and futuristic look. The Taycan is also the sleekest of all Porsches from the standpoint of aerodynamics, making this a slam-dunk for the design team.
With all options selected, the Taycan features four different digital screens, including a touch screen set in front of the passenger. The driver gets a curved, configurable, 16.8-inch instrument panel. In the centre console, there’s a 10.9-inch navigation touch screen mounted above an 8.4-inch touch screen that controls the climate-control system. (Drivers who prefer analogue switches will be disappointed.) The interior is not quite luxurious, but is ergonomically sound – and the optional vegan leather interior is suitably high-tech.
The Taycan has been labelled “the first all-electric sports car” in promotional materials. With up to 750 horsepower on tap, electric motors at both axles providing all-wheel-drive traction and a two-speed transmission at the back, the Turbo S is an absolute rocket. The zero-to-100 km/h time is quoted as 2.8 seconds, but feels much quicker. The top speed is supposed to top out at 260 km/h, but a colleague posted 267 km/h on the Autobahn before hitting traffic.
The Taycan represents the latest advances in electrified propulsion combined with the latest in Porsche performance-car trickery. It’s a heady mix. The sedan is quick in a straight line, quick around corners, sheds speed like a demon and recharges in a flash. This is next-level thinking that raises the bar for all future electric vehicles – and it should trigger the trickle-down development of more affordable EVs. The support systems, including navigation that accurately predicts battery charge level upon arrival, are exceedingly good.
An almost perfectly executed addition to the Porsche fleet and an important technological benchmark.
The writer was a guest of the automaker. Content was not subject to approval.
Stay on top of all our Drive stories. We have a Drive newsletter covering car reviews, innovative new cars and the ups and downs of everyday driving. Sign up today.