CNET Rides & Reviews Top-Trim Porsche Taycan "Turbo"

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2020 Porsche Taycan: First ride in Stuttgart's world-conquering EV

This may be the greatest threat the Tesla Model S has yet faced. Join us for an exclusive first ride in Porsche's first production EV.


The closer we get to launch, the clearer it becomes how important the Taycan, Porsche's first full-production, all-electric car, will be to the future of the company. Since that first Mission E concept was unveiled at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show, you could tell that Porsche was taking this foray into battery electrics very seriously. The billions and billions the company has invested in the intervening years serve as financial testament to that commitment.

And now, here it is: a real, functional Taycan. No, the cars you see here are not final production units, as they're still lacking many final features and details -- minor stuff like air vents and rear seats. And, as you can tell by the camouflage, Porsche isn't quite ready to let us see exactly what it looks like, either. These cars were, however, in good enough shape to open the door and let me in for the shotgun ride of a lifetime: sideways on ice in an all-wheel-drive, four-door, electric sports car with somewhere north of 600 horsepower.

In other words, you're looking at the most serious threat the Tesla Model S has yet faced, and what could easily be the most compelling choice on the market for would-be EV owners who want both performance and practicality. That is, of course, if it's any good.

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Porsche Taycan on ice in Sweden

What it is
In 2018, I was fortunate enough to drive an early precursor to Taycan, the Mission E Cross Turismo concept. Though I was able to get behind the wheel of that hand-built curiosity and take it for a quick spin in the hills around Malibu, California, that car was a very early prototype, of the sort where you had to be careful where you prodded the interior lest your finger poke right through.

The cars you see here are very different things. Though still not final production units, they are largely using final production hardware. Major components like chassis, suspension, batteries and drivetrain are all there and reasonably finalized. What the engineers are focusing on now is the specific tuning of those components, a process that is increasingly handled with laptops and a tangle of adapters, not a bundle of wrenches and tools.

However, given how much of a car's behavior is dictated by software, any impressions I was able to glean from the right-hand seat must be taken with a rather large grain of salt. And, since the interiors of the three cars I rode in were in various states of finish, and often covered by camouflaging fabric, I can't really give any impressions there -- except to say that I had plenty of headroom in the front seats but not quite enough in the rear.

All the cars I rode in were of the "top-notch" trim of the eventual Taycan, confirmed by the engineers but also evidenced by the big wheels and meaty brakes lurking behind them. Porsche engineers demurred on my questions regarding specific performance figures, instead quoting the company's most recent published estimates. That is to say, more than 600 horsepower down to all four wheels, the 0-to-100 kilometers-per-hour (62 mph) sprint accomplished in less than 3.5 seconds and, crucially, the ability to do that at least 10 times in a row. Porsche also promises an 80 percent charge in just 20 minutes from one of its 800-volt chargers and a range on the European NEDC cycle of 500 kilometers. That equates to about 310 miles, but given the EPA test is an altogether different beast, expect a lower rating here.

My test ride included a morning of sliding around on a massive frozen lake in Sweden before heading out on an approximately 100-kilometer loop of public roads, most covered in snow, giving me visions of stages of WRC's Rally Sweden. Temperatures were hovering around 20 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit for most of the day.

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80 percent charge takes just 20 minutes.

On cold and range
Sweden has long been a development locale for manufacturers looking to ensure their vehicles can go in the snow and the ice. With the advent of these newfangled electric cars, what with their temperature-sensitive batteries and their relative absence of waste heat, testing in a place like Lapland takes on even more importance.

Many of my first questions about the Taycan were just how that cold, which was 35 below just a week before my visit, impacted the range of the car. Still no formal figures were given, but I learned a lot about the Taycan's thermal management system, designed to keep the battery in its optimum temperature envelope for maximum range -- and, crucially, to keep the car's motors at the right temperature for maximum sustained performance.

Performance is a crucial component. "We didn't change the requirements for the car," Bernd Propfe, director of the Taycan's platform product line, told me in Sweden. "We are aiming to build a Porsche." That means the Taycan, like any other Porsche, has to complete a set number of laps around the company's test track in Weissach without overheating. How many laps? That, Propfe wouldn't say.

Interestingly, the Taycan can prioritize engine and battery cooling, and that prioritization will be based on the car's drive mode. Put the car in its standard mode and dial up 69 degrees F on the HVAC system and you can bet your driving loafers that you'll get 69 degrees. However, Propfe told me, throw the car in Sport Plus and head out for a lap of the Nurburgring and you might have to live with 71 or 72. But, he said, the thermal system in the car is "very, very powerful," so you should never stray more than a few degrees from ideal.

In Sweden, of course, the main concern is on the other end of the thermometer. Propfe explained that the Taycan not only has the ability to scavenge waste heat from the electric motors to warm the battery, but that it can precondition both the cabin and the battery temperature in the morning before the car moves anywhere. Ideally this is done using electricity sourced from a wall outlet -- like the outdoor plugs for block heaters that are near-ubiquitous in this part of the world.


The Taycan's AWD system makes short work of snowy Swedish roads.

Regen and rolling
Lift off the throttle in many a modern EV and you'll experience a rather dramatic deceleration effect, a conversion of the car's momentum into electricity by engaging the electric motor or motors. Most EVs allow you to tune this effect to some degree, with Nissan's latest Leaf and its E-Pedal offering the most dramatic regen, able to bring the car to a complete stop and hold it there. After a little practice in a Leaf, you can almost entirely forgo the brake pedal.

For Taycan, Porsche went a different way. In the default mode, when you lift off the throttle the car doesn't drag you to a halt. Instead, it just coasts along. "Coasting is the most energy-efficient way to do it, because braking always goes along with a loss of energy, because no engine has a 100 percent ratio," Propfe said. "We strongly believe that the customer, if he wants to brake, he should hit the brake."

So, what happens when you do hit the brake? Then and only then does the car begin the dance of regeneration, harvesting speed in exchange for battery juice. Dip into the brake gently and you won't engage the physical brakes. But, tuck in a little deeper and then the hydraulic system is engaged. I asked Propfe about the feel of this system, as I've driven many an electrified machine with clumsy stoppers. Propfe assured me that, thanks to the brake-by-wire system employed here (similar to that on the Acura NSX), it's impossible to feel that transition. "They have done a perfect job," he said of the car's engineers.

911. I am not a fan of either the look nor the placement of the thing in Porsche's iconic coupe. Up on the Taycan's dashboard, however, it makes a lot more sense. In that now-empty space between the seats, the Taycan offers a second touch interface between, not unlike that found in the Audi E-Tron and other new Audis like the Q8.

But again it was the sound that caught me off guard. In the most finished of the three cars, the one with a nearly full interior, there was a distinct, and distinctly digital, sort of engine noise piped into the cabin. It sounded quite similar to the tune the Jaguar I-Pace sings, but more subtle and perhaps a bit more traditional.

Propfe, the platform engineer, was coy when I pressed for more details on the sound, saying only that this "E-Sound" is digitally created and that it will change based on the mode of the car. But, that's all still very much under development.

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Don't be fooled by those fake tailpipes. There's an EV under that camouflage.

Wrap-up
While riding shotgun is never as much fun as actually driving, I learned a huge amount about the Porsche Taycan this week. Sliding sideways on the ice, the thing felt poised and capable. Out on the road, on a rare patch of dry asphalt, a few launches left me with little doubt about the car's sheer grunt -- and a bit of whiplash. Ludicrous? Not quite, but I don't doubt Porsche's claims that this thing will prove a more consistent performer than a Model S.

But to tell for sure we're just going to have to bring these two together, and that should make for a very fine day indeed.


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GratedWasabi

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So the regenerative braking is about the only thing I learned from this and I like the way they've chosen to do it, provided it's smooth transition from regen to hydalraulic braking.

They also mentioned how heavily it's camouflaged, which is interesting. We've all seen the photos but it's good to hear that in person it seems heavily disguised.

Did anyone pick up anything else new?
 

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Moderated going flat out «over and over again» to «10 times in a row».

Also does not sound to be much less that 3.5 secs 1-100 time.

Lack of rear seat headroom.

Still no word on cam mirrors.

No word on different settings (Comfort, Sport, Sport +)
 
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I don't recall where I read this last night but additional takeaways from this article were;

- two-speed (read gears) on rear motors
- driving modes similar to current ICE offerings
- testing tires between - Michelin and Pirelli
- development of different in-cabin sounds for different driving modes
- journalist only sat in 'top notch' (aka maybe Turbo) trim level. How diluted might the other models become performance-wise?!

The momentum is building but the slow, vague and inconsistent release of information is a real emotional rollercoaster .
 

DrParis

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I don't recall where I read this last night but additional takeaways from this article were;

- two-speed (read gears) on rear motors
- driving modes similar to current ICE offerings
- testing tires between - Michelin and Pirelli
- development of different in-cabin sounds for different driving modes
- journalist only sat in 'top notch' (aka maybe Turbo) trim level. How diluted might the other models become performance-wise?!

The momentum is building but the slow, vague and inconsistent release of information is a real emotional rollercoaster .
I agree completely with the last sentiment. I’m #27 @ Chandler Porsche, last Friday I went across the street to the Audi store to preview the e Tron SUV and came away impressed. I wish Porsche would just get it over with and give us true equipment,pricing info even if they continue the Shell game with their mules. It’s getting old with all of The camouflage
 

felixtb

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i actuallydrove the audi e-tron and they have a similar breaking experience..... i did not like it at all since you feel like you end up riding the break pedale........so this actually disturbs me quite a lot.... hopefully here its been done so you can break and accelerate with toe and heal manovers on a track....... there i see the advantage buton the road there is a massive advantage with throttle peddale regen as nisan and tesla do it.....
 
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markh1000

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Lack of even an option to enable regen upon throttle liftoff is hugely disappointing. Especially if they are trying to convert Tesla drivers who consistently note 1-pedal driving as a true pleasure.

With even the non-performance Model S 75D's hitting 0-60 in 4.0 seconds, hopefully the non-Turbo Taycan will still be comparably quick.
 

Vim Schrotnock

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I really like the fact that release of the throttle will allow you to coast. I don't want the car braking unless I hit the brake. This is a huge plus for me. It does sound like they are achieving regeneration in other ways.
 

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Lack of even an option to enable regen upon throttle liftoff is hugely disappointing. Especially if they are trying to convert Tesla drivers who consistently note 1-pedal driving as a true pleasure.

With even the non-performance Model S 75D's hitting 0-60 in 4.0 seconds, hopefully the non-Turbo Taycan will still be comparably quick.
Agree, ought to be an option.

Will they offer software updates like Tesla? Any other manufacturers doing that at all?

Genious move IMO. You get a «new» car all the time.
 

Dee

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I really like the fact that release of the throttle will allow you to coast. I don't want the car braking unless I hit the brake. This is a huge plus for me. It does sound like they are achieving regeneration in other ways.
I own an I3 and it's a joy to drive as a one-pedal-car.
Just let off the pedal 1mm and you're coasting as well.
The more you're letting off the pedal the more you regenerate/brake.
Unless you're over 70km/h, then it doesn't regenerate/brake that hard.
That has to do with the rwd setup, it would destabilize the car quite a bit...
I'm really used to it and I don't use my brakes very often.

Also important, the activation of the brake lights, only when it brakes harder, the lights come on.
Still a bit too quick imo.
In that case, Porsche has a better solution, it only comes on when you actually press the brake pedal.
 

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