Getting comfortable behind the wheel, it’s quite clear I’m in a Porsche, and not just because of the usual Württemberg/Stuttgart coat of arms staring me in the face. The dashboard shape is familiar-ish, the steering wheel is pretty much the same design as the one in the Panamera, and there’s the classic Sport Chrono clock under the centre point of the windscreen. Most importantly, it still smells like a Porsche.
Further investigation reveals some more unusual details, however. Firstly, the liberal festooning of screens - I’m presented with four of the things. There’s a cowl-less digital instrument cluster, an infotainment screen, another infotainment screen for the passenger, and a touchscreen with some surprisingly aggressive haptic feedback. Oh, and there’s a fifth display in the back for rear-seat passengers to fiddle with.
Then there’s the most important difference - there’s no engine start/stop button. Instead, there’s an on-off switch. Welcome to Porsche’s first-ever electric car - the Taycan.
There’s so much riding on this car being un-shit. Not just for the company making it, which wants half of its cars to be electrified by 2025, but also us enthusiasts - if Porsche can’t make a desirable, distinctive electric car, what the hell does the future hold for car lovers?
Rolling away with a faint whirr, the Taycan Turbo (I’m still not keen on that designation) initially feels like any other electric car. But put it in Sport Plus when you have a little more room, and things change. Yes, there’s that same instant torque punch you get in most faster EVs, but rather than tailing off with a linear delivery, the Taycan sustains that feeling of rapid acceleration, perhaps due to the twin-speed gearbox at the rear axle.
It’s all thanks to a 671bhp electric powertrain, made up of a 93.4kWh battery pack divided into 33 modules of cells powering a pair of motors (one for each axle) that are quite brilliantly classified as permanently excitable. The battery is laid out in the now typical ‘skateboard’ arrangement, but there are gaps in the pack to make ‘foot garages’. This allows Porsche to keep the seating position plus the roof nice and low.
The Turbo is monstrously quick off the line, dispatching 0-62mph in 3.2 seconds. But if you really must, there is the even punchier Turbo S to consider, which develops 751bhp and 774b ft of torque in its overboost mode. It’ll do 0-62mph in 2.8 seconds, and driving both derivatives back-to-back, the S really does feel faster. Each will make you swear when using Launch Control, it’s just that the S might result in an extra expletive or two. Both sound quite interesting too, with a switchable noise that’s derived from a recording of the motors’ inner workings. It’s like a rad spaceship.
The only physical difference between each version of the Taycan is the inverter for the front motor. The motors and the battery stay the same, meaning they’re both saddled with a heavy load - including its frame, the battery pack weighs 625kg. Overall, you’re looking at a car that weighs 2.3 tonnes.
Can it hide that figure? Well, it depends. Most of the time, it does an incredible job of ‘shifting’ the pounds, thanks in large part to a low centre of gravity (lower than the 911’s), clever air suspension and even cleverer active anti-roll bars. Initial turn-in is good, it stays very flat, and traction from the four driven wheels is impressive, even in the wet.
As you start to push the envelope, though, you remember that you’re driving something that weighs more than a Cayenne Turbo. The Taycan is willing, but it requires a firm hand to be guided through tighter corners at a decent pace.
The car is intended to be rear-led, and although it is possible to make the back wheels break away, you’ll find that even in PSM sport mode, arse-out moments are quickly curtailed. Just as you think about applying corrective lock, the bias between the axles is fiddled with and your short-lived slide is sorted out. If you prefer, it’s possible to switch the traction and stability control off entirely.
The steering may not be buzzing with feedback, but that’s easy to forgive when the weight and speed are damn near perfect. It’s easy to predict, as with all of the electric power-assisted systems Porsche has at play now.
Away from Adamantium-laced, multi-million quid hypercars, this is by far the best-driving EV there is. But that hasn’t come at the expense of comfort and refinement - the ride is silky smooth whether you’re on 20 or 21-inch wheels, and removing the sound of an engine hasn’t exposed all sorts of horrible noises and vibrations. It’s deathly quiet on the move.
It’s up for reasonable length road trips, too. The official range of the Turbo is 279 miles according to the WLTP cycle, which will equate to a real-world range comfortably over 200 with a mix of driving.
Once you’re at your destination, it’s time to start ‘mirin what might just be the best-looking non-hyper EV too. It sits in the middle of the two current EV styling schools of thought - the ultra-conservative efforts like Audi’s E-Tron and the OMG! ELECTRIC CAR! try-hards like the Jaguar I-Pace. For the record, I reckon there are merits to both camps, but the Taycan blends the two ideas rather brilliantly.
The Taycan looks like a Panamera that’s gone on a diet and been hitting the gym hard - ironic given how much heavier it is. It also looks far closer to the Mission E than we dared hope it might. You can even spec a set of wheels that look just like the ones fitted to the concept. And you probably should.
Other than the weight figure - an inevitability given where we’re at with battery tech right now - it’s hard to fault the Taycan. Apart from one thing - it really ought to be good, because it isn’t cheap. It’s £115,858 for the Turbo and £138,826 for the Turbo S. And that’s before we look at options.
To give you some idea of how expensive it can get, I’ve spent much of this drive day lusting after a white Turbo S on white Taycan Exclusive Design 21-inch wheels. To get those 21s painted in body colour, it’s £842 - nearly double the cost of the wheel option itself.
Other wallet-exploding options include a £3282 carbonfibre ‘SportDesign’ pack, £2315 for a snazzier suspension setup with the active anti-roll bars - which you’re going to want - £1562 for ‘truffle brown’ leather, and moving back to wheels for one moment, £2912 for those Exclusive Design rims but with carbon aero blades.
This is all quite hard to swallow when a Tesla Model S is £91,800 for the all-singing, all-dancing P100D and its longer range. Is the Taycan worth the difference? I wouldn’t want to say conclusively without getting the two cars together in the same place, but right now it’s looking likely to be a yes. The Taycan looks better, will repeatedly be able to match or better it’s quoted performance figures, is better built, and comes with proper dealer back-up from an established car company.
The Model S has charger bragging rights thanks to the superb Supercharger network, but the Ionity stations Porsche has a stake in - which Taycan buyers have free access to for three years - are narrowing the gap. There’ll be 400 stations in Europe with around 5-6 350kW charge units each up and running in 2020. We tried one, and yes, it really can give you an 80 per cent charge in roughly 20 minutes.
The Tesla comparisons do raise an issue, though - for all its successes, it’s not as distinct from the Model S as, say, a Porsche Panamera is from a BMW 7-series. Taking away something as complex as an engine does make a car’s character harder to define.
This is something we as car people need to live with. Vehicles of the future will feel more similar to one another than they do now - there’s no way to combat this. Judging by the Taycan, though, there will still be plenty of cars kicking around that are great to drive and come complete with high want-factor.