While the Taycan is the first modern production all-electric Porsche, it is not actually the first all-electric Porsche ever. That honour goes to the Lohner-Porsche that Ferdinand Porsche created back in 1899.
With hub motors powered by batteries with a terminal voltage of 60-80 volts and a capacity of 170-300 Ah the Lohner-Porsche had a top speed of 35km/h and a range of around 50km.
Fast-forward 120 years and the new Porsche Taycan improves on those numbers dramatically. The range topping Turbo S model that we tested has a 93.4 kWh Lithium Ion battery pack and two electric motors that deliver 671 hp and 1,050 Nm of torque. The 800-volt power supply, a technology originally developed for the 919 Hybrid LMP1 racecar, is the secret behind the Taycan’s power and efficiency.
It passes its ancestors top speed in less than a second on its way to break the 100km/h mark in just 2.8 sec, and 160km/h in 6.3 sec en route to its electronically limited 260km/h top speed. Range on a full charge is 388-412 km for the Turbo S version and 381-450 km for the less powerful Turbo.
So what does Taycan (pronounced Tai-kan) mean? After going through six hundred possible names, some existing others made up, Porsche settled on Taycan. This combination of two words of Turkic origin means “soul of a spirited young horse.” In Japanese “Taikan” roughly translates as “physical experience,” which is about right for a high performance electric car.
Porsche is well known for constant technology transfer from their racing programme to the road cars. This is just as true for their hybrid, and now electric cars.
“One of the major problems the race engineers had to solve during the development of the 919 Hybrid LMP1 racecar was increasing the electrical power while keeping the motors cool,” explained Michael Stange, Manager for the Taycan model line.
“The hairpin shape copper winding technology they developed for the two permanently excited synchronous motors is a direct transfer from the 919 racecar, and this allows cooling air to flow better within the motors, which can then produce more power for longer. At the same time the 800 volt system helps to significantly reduce the size of the package.”
The lack of a requirement for radiator air intake helps aerodynamics. The base Taycan Turbo, which has 680hp and 850Nm of torque, boasts a groundbreaking Cd of 0.22, while the 0.25 of the more powerful Turbo S is still impressive.
It should be noted at this point that the 680hp/850Nm of the Turbo and the 761hp/1,050Nm of the Turbo S are the overboost figures produced when Launch Control is activated. The output of both models in normal driving is otherwise a still potent 625hp, with the Turbo S gaining its extra power and torque from a larger inverter for the front motor. The front axle motor has a single speed transmission while the rear axle motor has a two-speed transmission that you can hear changing up as we noted elsewhere.
From a practical point of view although the Taycan is based on the same platform as the Panamera it does not have the sheer space or versatility of its bigger brother.
While their silhouettes might imply that they have similar packaging, where the Panamera is a hatchback the Taycan has a bootlid like a conventional saloon. Together with the shorter rear overhang this restricts the size and shape of objects you can place in the rear luggage compartment, although the rear seat backs also fold in a one-third/two thirds split.
To help make up for the loss of absolute cargo space the absence of a combustion engine allowed Porsche to place a 911/Boxster/Cayman style additional luggage bay in the front. That said, half this space is taken up by the battery charging cable pack, although you could simply place this in the rear compartment or rear cabin.
The rear seat arrangement also makes the Taycan a four or five-seater and its head and legroom are barely less capacious than the Panamera. However, it was interesting to discover that the Lithium Ion battery was restricted to 33 modules to maximise rear seat foot well space. A larger battery would have further extended range but compromised rear passenger comfort.
Considering the way Porsche instrumentation and infotainment systems have been gravitating towards big graphics based touchscreens with their current generation it is not a big stretch to see how the Taycan cabin architecture and infotainment displays took a small leap further.
If you are at all familiar with these systems accessing the relevant information is fairly straightforward. In fact the only function we could not find was the button to raise the small rear bootlid spoiler for a photograph. An engineer later explained that unlike other Porsche models there is no manual control for this part of the active aerodynamics. Problem solved.
Unlike a combustion engine whose output increases with revs, an electric motor produces its peak power and torque just off idle. That is why pure electric cars are able to accelerate from rest so rapidly.
So despite having less absolute power and torque than the 918 Spyder and weighing some 675kg more, the Taycan Turbo S benefits from the instant application of its 671hp and 1,050Nm of torque to the tarmac, which imposes incredible shock loadings on the driveshafts and the tyres.
While Porsche engineers first encountered these issues during the development of the 918 Spyder, the instantaneous twisting forces acting on the driveshafts of the much heavier Taycan Turbo S are significantly greater and so they have been beefed up accordingly.
The worse case scenario arrives when you use the Launch Control facility, which is really easy to use. All you have to do is select Sport Plus from the drive menu, press the brake pedal down hard with your left foot, apply throttle with your right foot and then release the brakes.
Totally unleashed the Taycan catapults forwards like a cannon ball. So total is the cars grip on dry terra firma, and so fierce was the acceleration that I had visions of the tyres rotating on the wheels as we left the line. Only when we passed the 200km/h mark a scant 9.8 seconds later did I let off the throttle so that we could exhale and start breathing again!
The only other time I have experienced such a totally explosive departure from the line was during speed testing with the Bugatti Veyron back in 2007. In fact the 0 to 100km/h times of these two cars are not dissimilar, although thanks to the latest electronic systems the Porsche’s traction off the line is even more formidable.
At the other end of the scale I simply cannot imagine a car of the Taycan’s performance abilities without the PCCB ceramic brakes. Yet these magnificent anchors do not have to work particularly hard in most situations because 60% of retardation is normally provided by the electric motors when you lift off. So those expensive PCCB brakes really are for life.
The Taycan’s ability on a twisty road is simply mind-boggling. Up in the mountains with very sparse traffic on a Sunday and great sight lines through most bends we charged the roads I am familiar with as a two-time contestant and 2017 Class Winner of the Silvretta Montafon Rally.
On these fast mountain roads the Taycan seemed to bend the laws of physics out of shape with its sheer pace. Of course the optional rear steering fitted to our test car helps the car turn into a given bend more crisply, but it feels so nimble it is really hard to countenance that the steel and aluminium Taycan weighs 2,295kg. Had I not known this beforehand I would have said that the car weighs 1,600kg, so responsive and agile is its handling in the bends.
The way it keys into the line set by the driver, especially if you trail brake into a corner to settle the nose, is very rewarding to a keen driver. Control weights and linearity are an area where Porsche is very strong and consistent, and the Taycan’s power steering is on the heavier side of medium weighted. It requires more effort than a 992 Carrera for instance, but it has a very satisfying amount of feel and is perfectly matched to the response of the rear axle so that the car feels totally all of a piece.
The fine chassis dynamics underline the low centre of gravity conferred by having the big Lithium Ion battery pack spread across the lowest point of the car. In absolute terms the Taycan’s centre of gravity is 9.8% lower than the 992 Carrera and 22% lower than the Panamera, whose basic platform it shares.
With most front or rear drive cars you still have to manage the throttle past the apex, but with the advanced traction management system of the Taycan reacting five times faster than any past Porsche control system the ability of the car to deploy its massive output is all the more incredible for the sheer lack of drama.
While the average driver will likely bottle out well before the car’s limits the more experienced enthusiast will find that once the physical limits are finally broached the characteristic velocity of the chassis is very linear. I soon found the technique for exploiting this to liven things up a bit.
Slow in fast out is still the order of the day, trail braking into the bend to settle the nose and balance the car. Then you gradually increase throttle using the seat of your pants to balance the chassis with power as the tyres begin to protest.
Past the apex a bigger application of throttle allows the tail to gently step out. You catch it with a flick of the wrist and the system hooks up and fires you out of the bend and down the straight like a cannon ball.
On the many uphill hairpin bends on the ascent this also proved to be the fastest way through the bends and the g-forces that instantly pin you back in your seat simply cannot be replicated by a combustion engine that requires revs to build its power and torque. Even a Bugatti Veyron or Chiron does not produce full grunt just off idle.
That instant torque hit is also the key to rapid and safe overtakes that would be marginal with a normal car of the same power output. The combination of instant go and peerless traction allows you to literally look for a gap and almost the next second find yourself there.
While the Taycan is blindingly fast point-to-point it is safe with it because its intrinsic handling and braking are on the same plane as its straight-line speed. And the fact that it has a cossetting ride even in Sport mode means that you can maintain a rapid pace across demanding roads as long as the battery charge lets you.
The Panamera derived three-chamber air suspension helps the driving dynamics in many ways. First of all its self-levelling capabilities significantly limit squat, dive and weight transfer under hard acceleration and braking, helping to maintain the cars equilibrium across its massive performance envelope.
It also confers superb ride quality even with the huge 21-inch wheels worn by our test car. In Comfort mode the car just glides along with minimal disturbance from most surfaces, while in Sport mode its control over body movement is iron fisted. The only time the car felt slightly uncomfortable was when attacking a fast sweeping bend with a big undulation in the middle, which made the back end squirm a little on its bushes.
But this was definitely the bushes not the tyres whose grip and traction was unimpeachable.
Unless you have driven a hybrid car before the lack of combustion engine noise is eerie at first and is something you have to get used to. Porsche has engineered a synthetic noise into the car that you can active via the infotainment system. However, we thought it sounded like one of those sci-fi type synthetic sounds and a bit hollow so we turned it off after a few minutes.
The Taycan is not as quiet inside as the Audi e-tron or the Mercedes EQC, which are luxury rather than sporty vehicles and benefit from significant physical soundproofing material around their rear electric motors and inner wheel arch wells in particular.
While the sportier Taycan allows a lot more of its electric motor noise to filter through to its cabin this slight whine never becomes intrusive. It is also interesting to note that you can hear the two-gear transmission shift up at around 80km/h (50mph) in normal driving.
Even without special insulation from tyre noise the massive 265/35ZR21 and 305/30ZR21 Goodyears on 9.5J and 11.0J x 21-inch alloys did not produce significant rotational noise. We half expected Porsche to use tyres with a noise attenuating foam layer on the inside of the tread as used by McLaren for their 570GT and the new GT, but they do not.
The debate over the sound an electric car makes to warn pedestrians of its approach has resulted in Porsche’s acoustic specialists engineering a reasonably interesting external sound for the Taycan as it drives away. However, unlike a combustion engine sound it is impossible to describe this with words so you will have to experience it for yourself.
The Porsche Taycan exceed all our expectations in terms of mind bending acceleration, handling, grip and comfort in an all round package that simply redefines the high performance saloon.
The Taycan is no ordinary electric car. It is an electric Porsche, pure and simple. So now all we have to do is wait for the charging infrastructure to catch up with this automotive tour de force.