What is it that sets a Porsche performance car apart? What are those elements that win industry awards with such metronomic regularity? You could argue that astonishing handling, detailed feedback, high-definition control integrity and a fundamental understanding of what keen drivers need, born from years of competition success, represent the special sauce. As sacrilegious as it sounds, it’s often not about the engine. Horsepower is an easily replicable attribute.
Think about that in the context of the Taycan, Porsche’s first electric car of the modern era. Cynics might snipe that here is a vehicle trying to replicate something that Tesla achieved with its Model S in 2012, or that minus an internal-combustion engine, the Taycan is somehow commoditised; a generic skateboard draped in Zuffenhausen’s dress-up. Nothing could be further from the truth. Program director Stefan Weckbach has heard the objections before.
“The Taycan looks like a Porsche, drives like a Porsche, and feels like a Porsche; it just happens to have a different type of drive,” he says. “Even an electric sports car can be puristic and highly emotional. We don’t consider that a contradiction. On the contrary, with the optimum drive technology and the right vehicle concept, the Porsche characteristics can be brought even more to the fore.”
Its positioning in the market is unambiguous. “It was clear from the beginning that an electrically powered Porsche – like every other Porsche model – must be the sportiest vehicle in its segment,” says Weckbach.
Wheels recently had the opportunity to experience the Taycan at flat chat, have a poke around its naked underpinnings and talk to the Porsche engineers in charge of its development. It’s been a long time coming, but it is clear that Zuffenhausen is not about to be rushed into launching anything that strays from the original design ethos.
Porsche will initially introduce three variants of the Taycan to Australia in October 2020. The Taycan 4S, the Taycan Turbo and the flagship Turbo S all feature dual electric motors that drive all four wheels and a two-speed transmission at the back. An entry-level rear-drive Taycan will subsequently be introduced.
The range-topping Turbo S was on hand for us to sample at the reveal in Grevenbroich. This features a crushing 560kW and 1050Nm system output, a range of 420km and a 93kWh battery (84kWh net) composed of 384 LG cells with a pulse-controlled inverter on both axles to convert the battery pack’s DC charge to the AC required by the permanently excited synchronous motors.
Featuring in-built magnets, these motors are more expensive than asynchronous units, but the hairpin-wound copper inside delivers incredible energy density and compact packaging. Put simply, more copper equals more torque, and the way Porsche has wound the copper in this unit, built 100 percent in Zuffenhausen, ensures 70 percent fill per cubic centimetre, compared to around 45 percent for a traditional pull-in winding. It’s also easier to cool as a result. Whereas an asynchronous motor features a rotating magnetic field that can heat-stress the rotor, Porsche’s solution delivers repeatability, powertrain engineers claiming that the Taycan will handle 10 consecutive 0-200km/h sprints without any degradation of power.
The Taycan Turbo S is monstrously rapid. With a development driver at the wheel on a closed test track, Porsche’s 2.8-second 0-100km/h claim and 9.8-second sprint to 200km/h felt, if anything, conservative. The 505kW/850Nm Turbo won’t be much slower at 3.2sec/10.6sec and delivers up to 453km of range. The key difference between the two models is that the Turbo S gets a second pulse inverter on its front axle and so can handle more torque. The pulse inverter is also employed as a traction-control device, being able to cut and reapply power 10 times faster than Bosch’s traditional all-wheel drive ESC chipsets.
Unlike most EVs (apart from the Rimac C_Two with which it shares some technology), the Taycan has a two-speed transmission on the rear axle. The motor will spin to 16,000rpm, but the gearbox gives it added flexibility. In Sport and Sport Plus modes when, incidentally, launch control is offered, the transmission logic prioritises first gear for aggressive acceleration capability allied to an overboost function. In Range and Normal modes, the taller second gear is prioritised for efficiency. Weighing just 70kg, the transmission is subtle, but under full acceleration it’s possible to hear, if not feel, it snick up a gear. If required, the Taycan can run on its front motor alone at speeds of up to 150km/h, whereupon the rear motor cuts in.
“It’ll lap the Nürburgring in significantly less than eight minutes,” said Dr Ingo Albers, the director of chassis engineering on the Taycan project. He’s right. It later recorded a 7min42sec lap of the Nordschleife. “It did an eight-minute lap without any braking,” he adds later, almost as an afterthought. All of the Taycan’s energy recuperation (up to an industry-best 265kW versus the 50-100kW of most competitors) comes via the brake pedal, and Albers claims that 90 percent of all braking events when you request the pedal are handled by energy recuperation, rather than troubling the brake discs. It’s but one mind-boggling aspect of the Taycan’s dynamics.
To look at a naked Taycan is to see repurposed aspects of Panamera suspension such as the rear wishbones and struts, some custom chassis elements like the canted-in front uprights and the three-chamber air suspension mixed with an underfloor battery pack, which is a stressed member and gives the Taycan a lower centre of gravity than a 911. Weight distribution is 51 percent front and 49 percent rear for the Turbo S, with the 2900mm wheelbase being virtually shortened with rear-axle steering.
Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC) is an active roll stabilisation system that splits the front and rear anti-roll bars into two halves. When the processors detect bodyroll, a pivot motor twists the two halves in opposite directions, effectively cancelling lean angle. Albers claims that in the Taycan, “bodyroll is reduced to zero”, with the only detectable roll coming via tyre deformation. Reducing roll oversteer tendencies is clearly desirable in a vehicle that weighs 2295kg.
“We have PSM [stability control] with a Sport setting that offers a safety net, like a virtual rubber band, or there’s PSM off. And off means off with us,” grins Albers. I can attest to the fact that a Taycan will go very sideways indeed when provoked. It’s phenomenally adjustable, which is hardly surprising given the dynamic options at the car’s disposal. Drive can be shuffled back and forth and from side to side, there’s torque vectoring by braking, and a lock-up differential.
The cars we saw were fitted with a mixture of Michelin Pilot Sport and Goodyear Eagle F1 rubber. The standard 20-inch Taycan Turbo ‘Aero’ wheel is shod with 245/45 R20 front and 285/40 R20 rubber rear, while the Turbo S gets 21-inch ‘Mission E design’ wheels with 265/35 ZR21 boots up front and 305/30 R21s at the back. An optional carbon aeroblade ‘Exclusive’ 21-inch wheel is also offered, as are 20-inch and 21-inch all-season tyres, or 20-inch winter tyres that are snow-chain compatible. The air suspension system borrows its compressor from the Panamera and drops the ride height by 10mm at 90km/h and then by another 12mm at 180km/h. A pneumatic lifter also raises the nose of the car briskly for driveways or speed humps.
I’ll freely admit that my first glimpse of a Taycan provoked mild disappointment. Gone are the otherworldly proportioning and suicide doors of the original Mission E concept, replaced by a more practical – and taller – superstructure. Sit a Taycan next to a Panamera and the bonnet is lower, but the windscreen header rail much the same height, gradually tapering back, making rear headroom that bit tighter. There’s still a characteristic Porsche fly line, but that slinky silhouette now looks a bit more porcine. “It reflects the genes of the Mission E,” claims Dr Bernd Propfe, the platform director. “We’ve done our utmost to bring this into production.”
It’s almost sensible. The obligatory pair of golf bags will fit into the 400-litre rear luggage bay, leaving the 82-litre frunk for your charging cables or a soft bag. “You don’t even need to put the driver on the rear seats,” beams Propfe.
The exterior panels are aluminium, with a blend of hot-formed and cold-drawn steels making up the Taycan’s floor, adding strength and improving acoustics. Cast and extruded aluminium is also used, the aluminium battery frame weighing in at 151kg, with 28 screws rigidly mounting it to the bodyshell for crash protection. Clearly a lot of work has gone into protecting the battery pack, with rams that lift the rear motor over it in the event of a rear-end collision. Porsche intends to break with general tradition and submit the Taycan for EuroNCAP crash testing, internal tests showing that in 40 percent offset tests at 64km/h, the car suffers zero deformation of A-pillars or doors. A pyrotechnic bonnet is also fitted in order to retain the Taycan’s low front end.
There are some very slick touches, including an optional charging flap that glides into the body and then upwards. This has been tested for anti-trapping and ice-breaking ability and also keeps the charging flap out of sight of vandals when the car is on a public plug. Slightly less slick is the vast glass roof that has no tint and no blind, which is not ideal for Australian conditions, despite its 100 percent UV proofing. Dr Lutz Tender, director of body engineering integration, assured us that a steel roof would also be offered, and noted that a photochromatic glass roof was rejected on the grounds of durability.
The cabin is a marked departure from existing Porsche designs. The dash features no cowled binnacle, Porsche instead using a huge 16.9-inch freestanding curved glass display treated with anti-glare coatings. A set of eared tabs sits at each end of this screen, with the lights on the left and functions for ESC, lifter and others on the right. There are also driver-assignable hot keys. Sitting on the upper dash, rather incongruously, is the knurled gearshifter tab, much as we’ve seen in the 992 version of the 911, while the Sport Chrono option features a neat little manettino mode dial on the steering wheel arm and the analogue clock front dead centre of the dash rolltop.
The most striking aspect of the interior is the 10.9-inch optional screen that sits ahead of the passenger. This co-driver screen can be used to marshal sat-nav and infotainment, switching to a blank screen when the passenger seat is empty. In between these two displays is another 10.9-inch centre display, while the centre console houses an 8.4-inch haptic display. Porsche billed this Times Square array of screens the “distraction-free concept”, Miriam Mohamad, user interfaces manager for the Taycan, claiming “less is faster”. If she can point to a vehicle with more information displayed, I’d be interested to see it. Wireless Apple CarPlay and over-the-air updates will be supported, and there’s a now almost obligatory voice-activated assistant, summoned by saying “Hey Porsche”.
Considerable thought has gone into the Taycan’s air-conditioning system. This has no manually controllable vents. Instead, the front-seat occupants bring up an HVAC screen and drag schematic circles towards the part of their bodies they want heated or cooled. Motors in the ducting do the rest. With ‘Diffused’, ‘Focused’ and ‘Individual’ modes, it initially seems an unnecessarily complex solution to a relatively simple problem.
Much has been made of the Taycan’s 800V electrical architecture, Porsche playing heavily on the fact that a five-minute charge will secure you 100km, sucking on the car’s 270kW charging power. The problem, as it stands, is that there isn’t a network of 800V chargers for the Taycan to exploit this. The company readily admits that most will be charged overnight at the owner’s home, using the Porsche Mobile Charger Connect on a 240V AC plug at 11kW, which will take six to eight hours. In conjunction with the Porsche Home Energy Manager, it supports smart charging applications and provides overload protection for your domestic connection.
The Porsche Charging Planner calculates travel time to a specified destination including live traffic updates and battery charging times. Once the destination has been entered and the vehicle knows where it will be charged, it preheats the cells to their optimum temperature to ensure the shortest charging times. The distance-to-empty calculator assesses both topography and driving style.
On a typical 400V public charger, the Taycan will charge at 150kW using the standard (for Australia at least) high voltage booster which juices 50kW up to 150kW. Porsche is planning to install the 800V ‘Turbochargers’ at its main dealerships, and these will charge a warm battery from 5 to 80 percent in 22.5 minutes. Expect to double that time if the battery is cold. Chargefox has announced that it is in the process of rolling out 800V chargers across Australia.
The Taycan is fitted with a pair of charging flaps; one on each front guard, for Type 2 Mennekes AC on the driver’s side and CCS DC charging ahead of the passenger door. Porsche guarantees the battery to at least 70 percent charge for eight years or 160,000km and recommends that the battery pack should be charged to 80 percent on fast chargers to save time and preserve the life span of the cells.
Porsche has already sold its entire first-year build run of 30,000 Taycans, and given that it sold 35,573 911s last year, the company is bullish that Taycan demand will rival that of its iconic sports car. Built alongside the 911 at Zuffenhausen, the Taycan will slot into Porsche’s range somewhere just below the Panamera. Expect the flagship Turbo S to be around $350K before on-roads, with the Turbo just under $300,000 and the 4S just under $200,000 when the three arrive in Australia next year. Typical option spend will be around 15 percent on top of those numbers. The rear-drive entry-level car is likely to debut in 2021, as is the Cross Turismo shooting brake body.
For the time being at least, the Taycan will sit at the progressive end of Porsche’s three-pillar strategy of internal combustion, plug-in hybrid and full EV. The investment into the Taycan makes it clear that this pivotal vehicle represents revolution, not evolution, within Porsche’s traditionally conservative corridors of power. “How do we bring Porsche into the next generation? How can we bring the fascination of sports cars into the future?” asks Dr Robert Meier, Director Complete Vehicle, Porsche Taycan, yet the future strategy is unambiguous. “Make no mistake, the combustion engine will be superseded by the electric powertrain,” he says.
The Taycan is Porsche’s future. It may seem like sacrilege, but the rest is just detail.