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Porsche Taycan: First Ride

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Article by Rob Sass
Photos courtesy Porsche

By now, thanks to the wonders of the Internet, most of the world (my octogenarian parents included) knows about the Taycan and Porsche’s audacious intro of the car in three different “sustainable” locations — wind and solar farms and a hydro site in the form of Niagara Falls. Not too many people at this point, however, have any sense of how it drives. But in advance of the first journalist drives in about two weeks, a few of us got in a couple of quick laps in the right seat at the Porsche Experience Center in Atlanta, under the condition that we would respect the information embargo that expired yesterday. And while right seat time isn’t the same as left seat time, the car’s game-changing status was readily apparent.

The all-electric 800-volt powertrain is of course the novel part of the Taycan, and it’s all-new. But it’s the car’s foundation and Porsche’s commitment to making it the sportiest vehicle in its class that will be the key differentiators when it faces off against the other premium electrics like the Karma Revero and Tesla Model S. Porsche has of course had about 15 years of experience in making large, heavy vehicles handle like sports cars. In that time, they’ve learned a great deal, and we’ve all benefitted from things like rear-wheel-steering and Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC), which senses the vehicle’s roll angle and keeps things impossibly flat for a two-and-a-half ton vehicle with a high center of gravity.

The difference with the Taycan is that while its battery packs contribute mightily to its a two-and-a-half ton curb weight, their placement recessed into the floor pan also gives the car a far lower center of gravity than any combustion car could have. This advantage, combined with the aforementioned Porsche chassis sorcery makes for a very good handling car that while inherently neutral, when combined with the instantaneous, and truly savage amount of torque available, can (with driver’s aids turned off) easily be provoked into really entertaining oversteer situations, pretty much on-demand. I’m convinced that the professional driver giving us taxi laps in the Taycan could have done virtually the entire short course in a drift. And if you thought Launch Control in a Turbo S was the automotive equivalent of snorting a speedball, it pales in comparison to the experience in a Taycan — with 761 PS/750 hp, you hit 60 mph in about 2.6 seconds in the Taycan Turbo S.

While it’s a goofy segue to go from launch control to ergonomics, the interior of the car is actually pretty exciting as well. As one would expect, there are no analog gauges. The entire freestanding wing that is the instrument panel mimics the general shape of that in the original 911, but it’s almost infinitely configurable, including the ability to turn the entire panel into a navigation screen. There is of course a generously sized touch screen in the center of the dash for infotainment needs, with a very intuitive climate control panel below it. There’s even an optional touch screen from the front-seat passenger. The drive selector sprouts out of the dash to the right of the steering wheel. The standard rear is configured to seat two people, a bench for three is optional. 

What’s missing? Very little as it turns out, but as most casual observers have been quick to point out, the iconic Porsche exhaust is obviously not part of the picture. The car does however make some noise, and for anyone who has ever watched a Formula E race, it’s a familiar, high-pitched whirring noise, that while not artificially manufactured, has been enhanced by altering the frequency and amplitude of the natural sounds made by the electric motor. A switch allows you to dial this up a bit if you so choose.

As I mentioned above, Taycan is a game-changer, and not just for Porsche, but for the industry. As was Porsche’s practice with the Cayenne and Macan, they were content to let others take the first crack with an unguided missile, waiting a bit and then ambushing the competition with its own precision-guided weapons in the small and medium crossover classes. So it will likely be when the first Model S/Taycan comparos take place. Make no mistake, the Tesla is an impressive car, but it’s slightly-more-taut-Lexus handling, combined with Buick-like build quality will have it relying more on the rabidity of its Silicon Valley-centric fan base than its actual merits versus a newer, better thought-out competitor. 

Porsche’s tagline for the Taycan is “The Soul Electrified,” a clever way of pre-empting any nonsense about its drive system rendering it some kind of soulless appliance. There will be holdouts and intransigents, the same types of people who reflexively disliked the 928 because the engine was water-cooled and in front. But anyone remotely objective will realize that this is the future, and that the soul of a Porsche doesn’t emanate from a combustion chamber, and the evidence thereof is not found exclusively in an exhaust note.

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