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Porsche Taycan Turbo: First Drive

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Article and photos by Ryan Carignan

The White Whale
I’ve seen the manufacturer presentations, read the articles, and watched the reviews. I’ve even climbed around inside one at the Los Angeles Auto Show, but now it’s sitting in front of me, and thanks to Porsche Silver Spring, I have the key!


Taycan 4S pictured above.

Upon initial approach, it looks and feels like a “normal” car. The design is well-executed and modern, but it doesn’t scream out for attention. The Taycan doesn’t rely on exaggerated design cues to look “futuristic.” Unlike some of the initial forays into hybrid and electric automobiles, it’s not an egg or a super-efficient yet ugly shape. I would hazard to guess that to the untrained eye, or to a non-enthusiast, it will be mistaken for a Panamera.

The interior is well designed and intuitively organized, although the infotainment system will require a little familiarization time for new owners. Not because it is different than other Porsches, but because of new menus and options regarding electric power management. Overall, the interior is very familiar to anyone who’s driven a modern Porsche. There are small touches like the curved display gauge cluster behind the steering wheel that make you realize there’s something different. As does the placement and engagement of the shift lever behind the wheel versus on the center console like the 992. This move is a distinct departure from other Porsches and frees up real estate for more screens and controls.


The Taycan shift lever, tucked behind the steering wheel.

So Many Screens
About the screens and controls: There are a lot of screens, and zero buttons or knobs to control audio and climate control. I won’t go into my normal rant about the lack of tactile controls that can be manipulated without taking your eyes off the road in new cars. But let’s just say that if I were to get into it, the Taycan would be just a notch or two behind every Tesla for my worst offender list of this short-sighted and flawed trend in automotive design. The Taycan has a start button and a few controls on the steering wheel that allow you to handle some of the quick stuff, but anything else is done via a touchscreen.


All the screens and note the smudgy fingerprints on the center… get used to it.

The start button is located on the left per Porsche tradition, but now resembles a super-sized version of a home button on older iPads, and when pressed it doesn’t initially seem to do much. The gauge display comes to life and a few lights illuminate, but the car is dead silent, making you question for a minute if you did anything at all. 

The control knob on the steering wheel for changing drive modes is well placed and easy to manipulate. What is different in the Taycan than any other Porsche I’ve driven with this feature is how you can feel the changes being made to the car as you switch from “Normal” to “Sport” and “Sport Plus.” There are audible and tactile changes as the vehicle manipulates the air suspension settings and prepares the battery for extra performance anticipating more aggressive driving. You can feel a slight vibration in the accelerator pedal as the changes are made, which is something I’m not used to.


One of the best steering wheels in the business.

Once I was situated and adjusted my seating position and mirrors, I pushed the shift knob down into Drive, and slowly let off the brake and pressed the gas… err accelerator. The car eased away from the parking spot without a sound, which for someone who only has minimal experience driving electric cars, is a little disconcerting. 

Compared to my old Cayman or my current Macan, the Taycan is closer to the Cayman regarding the seating position, but the interior is roomy and comfortable like the Macan. The overall size of the vehicle is a little smaller than the Panamera, but the interior passenger space feels about the same. All this to say the car is the right size for me. It’s easy to maneuver through parking lots and spaces, and it feels just perfect on the road. 

In traffic, the Taycan Turbo is a delight. The view out the front is reminiscent of any recent Porsche sports car, and I had no problems identifying where the car was in the lane as I drove. The steering is light but responsive. My drive experience wasn’t varied enough to really be able to grade the steering feel in all conditions, but for a typical commute, I had zero complaints. 

Strap In and Hang On
Once traffic cleared and I had an open lane, I decided it was time to feel what this EV acceleration was all about. At most, I used 50% throttle, and we moved through time and space at a rate I have not experienced in a car before. From supercharged and turbocharged small blocks, large displacement big blocks, or twin-turbo flat sixes, nothing I’ve driven or ridden in has matched the shove of this car. Electric torque is, literally, an eye-watering experience; it’s also totally addictive. I want it, I need it now. Anyone have $165K they want to give me? More on that later. 

Once we resumed normal speeds and my brain had, more or less, caught up to what just happened, I drove the car like you normally would on a commute, and it was great. My route placed a few roundabouts in my path, which was a perfect opportunity to feel how the Taycan Turbo felt with some moderate cornering. It was planted even with temps in the mid-30s and sub-par quality roads. It was easy to flick into and out of the turns as I maneuvered through the roundabout as aggressively as traffic and common sense would allow. If there was any body-roll, I couldn’t detect it. I’m sure an opportunity for higher speeds and varying types of corners would present a better opportunity to judge, but beggars can’t be choosers. 

As luck would have it, I encountered a perfectly timed light at a four-way intersection that led directly to a four-lane highway. There wasn’t a single car in front of me in any of the four lanes, so I made my right turn, and as the wheel approached the center, I nailed it. Clearly, I had no telemetry equipment or even a stopwatch, but my perception was that we went from 5 miles per hour to, umm, many times thatin about three seconds. I’m sure it was slightly slower than that, but it doesn’t matter because it took longer for my brain to process it all. Besides, it’s the first few hundred yards that really make this carnival ride. 

You and your passengers have to physically prepare yourself for acceleration, make a quick mental checklist before hitting the go pedal. Head against the headrest, check; two hands on the wheel, check; a clear lane for more space than you think you need, check. The next-level surge of power from a sport sedan EV is like the best roller coaster launch you’ve ever experienced, and in the Taycan, you can do it over and over again.

The Taycan is fast, as is every dual-motor Tesla and other sporting focused EVs. What is so astounding is how the car jumps forward with seemingly zero effort, it is difficult for your brain to process what is happening due to the lack of normal aural and physical cues. There is no engine vibration, and unless you engage Porsche Electric Sport Sound mode (which we did), there is no audible cue that you are accelerating at an obscene rate. No rising RPMs, no screaming flat-six or roaring V8. There is just the fact that a second ago you were back there, and now you are very far down the road. 

Silent, Not Silent
I mentioned the Porsche Electric Sport Sound option, let’s chat about that. It is a $500 option for the 4S and the Turbo but is standard on the Turbo S model. You can turn it on and off through the main screen on the center console, and I’m sure there is a way to program it with certain drive modes via the “Individual” setting. According to Porsche, the option “enhances the vehicle’s own sound and makes it sound even more emotional – both outside and inside the vehicle.” Since I was driving, I can’t speak for the “outside” part of that statement, but I whole-heartedly agree with the “inside” part. There is no scenario where I would not select this option if I were to buy a Taycan. 

When you activate the Porsche Electric Sport Sound, the car makes sci-fi worthy noises that correspond with acceleration and deceleration. If you close your eyes and think back to any sci-fi movie version of the future from the ’80s and ’90s with electric cars, it sounds about like that. The hum of an electric motor as it accelerates, a mix of Blade Runner and the Jetsons. I know some people have criticized this tactic, but I loved it. I needed that bridge from an internal combustion engine’s building crescendo to the silence of the EV to help my brain process the entire event.

All EVs share a common trait, they are inherently quiet. Most auto enthusiasts credit sound to be a large part of the visceral feeling they enjoy when driving and therefore are concerned about whether quiet EVs will have the same appeal. After experiencing the Taycan Turbo, I’m not concerned about the lack of noise-related excitement. If anything, I’m concerned about the lack of noise masking how fast you are driving.  

After that brief banzai run, it was back to the mundane afternoon traffic, which around here, means creeping along until your turn approaches. Here, the Taycan Turbo once again became a perfectly normal companion. My drive may have been brief, but I have a better understanding of the appeal of EVs as a daily driver/commuter vehicle. I also have even more hopes for the future of cars as more automotive manufacturers delve into the market Tesla forced them into.


Touch “buttons” for easy access options.

Is it Worth It?
For the practical aspects, the Taycan may not be the best option for everyone. As amazing as the car is, and for all the wonderful improvements Porsche has brought to the luxury EV market (like genuine quality control, consistent panel gaps, reliable build quality), it is wildly expensive and doesn’t have the anxiety-reducing range of a Tesla. The EPA rating for the Taycan model line was recently released and it was disappointing to anyone who had not been paying attention. Porsche has known for a long time they were not going to have the range of a Tesla Model S or Model 3. They have not publicly positioned the car as a “Tesla killer,” but far too many automotive and non-automotive journalists did before anyone had driven it. However, even knowing that segment-leading range was not a goal of the Taycan, an official range of around 200 miles is a letdown. 

The Taycan is a Porsche first, an EV second. Porsche eschewed semi-autonomous technology or one-pedal driving that seems to be the main focus of cars from Tesla. Even though several journalists have reported achieving ranges closer to 240 miles during testing, you still have to expect the average person will be closer to the lower number, especially since Porsche allows the Taycan to do full-power launches at any point in its charge. This is very different from how Tesla manages its battery power where drivers are prevented from harnessing full power after the battery reaches a certain percentage of charge. I’m sure that is just one variable to explain the massive difference in ranges, but certainly not the only one.

The Taycan Turbo I tested also left me a little disappointed with its interior trimmings. To be clear, I think the layout, ergonomics, and overall design (minus the over-reliance of touch screens) is far better than other EVs; but for $165,000, I want a full leather cabin. The Taycan is not immune to Porsche’s philosophy of making you pay extra for conveniences and options that really should be standard for the price. There is a reason Porsche has one of the best profit margins per vehicle, and while the Taycan is probably not matching the other models, I doubt Porsche is losing money like many other EVs. 

Overall, I was extremely impressed with the Taycan, and if I had the money, I would absolutely buy one.

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