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The Taycan's heart is electric: its soul though, is very much that of a Porsche. Jonathan Crouch takes a look.
Fully electric performance cars are all much the same right? They all give you a great big heavy battery, a couple of electric motors and enough pulling power to tear up the tarmac. Oh yes and they all feel terrible the first time you throw one into a corner. For a long time now, Porsche has been mulling over how to deliver something better. Its first thoughts on the subject were delivered by the Mission E concept, a futuristic design study that did the motor show rounds back in 2015. It showcased class-leading recharging times, astonishing electrified charging tech and the world's most slippery EV model shape. And it was closer to sales reality than most realised, its production-ready counterpart, this model, the Taycan Sports Saloon, launched in early 2020.
There aren't many cars that can keep up with a Taycan Sports Saloon, whatever drivetrain they might use. Even the base rear driven Taycan offers 408PS (with the standard 79.2kWh 'Performance Battery') or 476PS (with the optional 93.4kWh 'Performance Battery Plus'). The AWD Taycan 4S offers 435PS (or 530PS on Overboost), puts out 640Nm of torque and deals with the 62mph sprint in 4 seconds flat. The three top variants all get that larger battery. There's the Taycan GTS (598PS), but quite a few customers will choose one of the two top variants, the Turbo and the Turbo S. Both put out 625PS in standard form, extendable with an Overboost function to 680PS on the Turbo and 761PS on the Turbo S. The Turbo S generates a stupendous 1,050Nm of pulling power and if on this top derivative you activate Launch Control (standard across the range), you'll discover that 62mph can be reached in just 2.8s. Across the range, to ensure that the car really feels quick, Porsche has engineered in a bit of motor whirr that you'll hear under heavy throttle and we'd pay extra for the optional Electric Sport Sound system that further amplifies it. But the most difficult task the engineers had here was in disguising what as usual on an EV is a prodigious kerb weight - in this case around 2.3-tonnes. Plenty's been thrown at that problem here, starting with torque-vectoring four-wheel drive. On the two volume models, you're going to need to pay extra for a lot of the extra tools that together should make this car feel somehow more agile than a Panamera - things like Dynamic Chassis Control, electromechanical roll stabilisation and rear-wheel steering, all co-ordinated by a clever Porsche 4D Chassis Control set-up.
We're looking at the Sports Saloon Taycan model but you can also have the same engineering with Sport Turismo and Cross Turismo SUV-style body shapes. The Taycan Sports Saloon is our focus here and its styling confirms that it is indeed possible to create an EV model shape that looks both contemporary and distinctive. Visually, there's plenty of Porsche DNA here - specifically the four-point LED headlights, the lateral air intakes and the pronounced wings that flank the very flat bonnet made possible by the compactness of the electric drive unit. The silhouette is characterised by a dynamic, flat 'flyline', plus there are automatically extending door handles and two roof options - one contoured from light aluminium, the other fashioned from panoramic glass. The rear design features a seamless glass light strip. Behind the wheel, there's a dashboard apparently influenced by the original 911 design from 1963 in the respect that there are very few buttons and the instrument cluster is wider than the steering wheel. The gauges are displayed on a cowl-free 16.8-inch curved digital screen. The higher central infotainment screen is 10.9-inches, plus there's also a lower 8.4-inch display for the climate controls which also includes a notepad for entering info into the sat nav. And if that's not enough screens for you, it's possible to specify yet another one ahead of the front seat passenger so that your companion can enter in, say, navigation or music preferences for you. And rear seat space? Well in size, the Taycan sits between a 911 and a Panamera and rear compartment room reflects that: two adults will be quite comfortable and they'll get a further screen (5.9-inches) if you've specified 4-zone climate control. Special recesses in the under-floor battery allow for so-called 'foot garages' which improve legroom while keeping the seating position low. In terms of boot space, there's nothing like as much as you'd get in, say, a Tesla Model S: there's a 366-litre boot (about the same as you'd get in a VW Golf), plus a further 'frunk' nose compartment offering a further 81-litres.
There are three Taycan body shapes - this Sports Saloon joined by two crossover variants, the Sport Turismo and the Cross Turismo. It's the Sports Saloon that's our focus here. There are five Taycan Sports Saloon model choices, your options kicking off with the rear-driven Taycan, which is priced at around £73,000. The other three models all feature AWD, starting with the Taycan 4S which costs around £84,000. The Taycan and Taycan 4S both come as standard with Porsche's smaller 79.2kWh battery pack: you'll have to pay around £4,500 extra for the larger 93.4kWh 'Performance Battery Plus' pack you'd ideally want in this car. That's standard in the midrange Taycan GTS (598PS and around £104,000) and in the two top versions in the range. Rather strangely given that this is an electric car without an engine, Porsche has retained its 'Turbo' badging for these, the 'Turbo' version (which costs around £117,000) and the Turbo S (which costs around £139,000). As you'd expect, it's possible to spend a further fortune on the options list - which you'll need to do if you want all of the handling systems we touched on earlier. As you'd expect, there's also a whole portfolio of available camera and radar-driven safety and autonomous driving tech. Most Taycan owners will want Adaptive Cruise Control, which works particularly well as part of the Porsche InnoDrive system. This can look ahead for up to two miles as you drive using radar and sensor feedback plus predictive GPS data before then modifying speed and gearshift strategy to better suit the speed limits, topographic road features and traffic flow you're likely to encounter. 'Active Lane Keeping', 'Traffic jam Assist', 'Lane Change Assist' and 'Night Vision Assist' features are also available.
The key difference with this EV over anything else we've seen is its 800-volt power supply, which is double that normally seen with electric cars and is based on tech trialled by Porsche in its Le Mans-winning 919 Hybrid race car. The idea here is that by pushing up voltage, you can drop the current without affecting power output. Lower current means faster charging times. Using a three-phase 11kWh wallbox, replenishment will take around 9 hours; a more common 7.2kW garage wallbox not requiring a three-phase supply would take slightly longer. Porsche is keen to talk of the Taycan's peak charging capacity of 270kW, which theoretically means that the 93kWh battery can be recharged from 5% to 80% in just 22.5 minutes: that's at an 800-volt charging station. Currently, there are two of those in the UK... A more easily located 400-volt public charging station will take about an hour and a half to do the same thing - providing you pay Porsche extra for the optional on-board booster which increases the car's standard charging peak from 50kW to 150kW. As for WLTP driving range, well on the rear-driven Taycan that's 268 miles (with the 79.2kWH 'Performance Battery Plus') or 301 miles (with the 93.4kWh 'Performance Battery'). On the Taycan 4S variant with that standard 79.2kWh battery pack, you're looking at just 188 miles. The 'Performance Battery Plus' package (standard on the two Turbo variants) will take you 216 miles in the Turbo version and 205 miles in the Taycan Turbo S. Recharging (speeded by this car's clever 800-volt power supply set-up) takes around 9 hours using an 11 kWh garage wallbox and three-phase supply. Or at a 400-volt public charging station, it'd take about an hour and a half to charge from 5 to 80%.
If, like us, you'd begun to imagine that the golden age of the motor car was well behind us, there's cause for hope here. And even for an argument that a really well engineered EV can restore to enthusiasts some of the driving involvement and excitement that's been lost in recent decades as powerful petrol engines have become sanitised by turbochargers, particulate filters and camera-driven technology. Ultimately, those petrol engines have to go but what replaces them doesn't necessarily have to be an automotive domestic appliance. The Taycan proves that. This car is priced to be vanishingly rare but its technology will in future surely be shared with more accessible EVs in Porsche's Volkswagen Group parent company. And from there, other competing volume brands will have to copy it. So the Taycan might really be a turning point in EV development. The place from which automotive engineers regained emotive control in motor car development. There's a place in the market for electric cars produced merely to go you from one location to another. But a desire for more than that will also exist amongst those who come in search of something extra. And if you'd despaired of an EV, any EV, ever properly providing that, then you need to try this car.
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