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2020 Porsche Taycan Turbo S first drive: Always on

2020 Porsche Taycan Turbo S
2020 Porsche Taycan Turbo S
MSRP $185.00
“If you're looking for a high-performance electric car with a six-digit price tag, this is your best option.”
  • Packed with tech features
  • Immediate power at any speed
  • More practical than you'd think
  • Very quiet in normal driving
  • Modest electric range
  • Regenerative braking could be customized

Porsche made a name for itself by building high-horsepower, high-octane cars for the road and for the track, not by catering to motorists who want to reduce their carbon footprint. Although company founder Ferdinand Porsche dabbled in hybrid technology in the late 19th century, the automaker’s reputation is intertwined with the internal combustion engine. It began unscrambling this egg when it stepped into the hybrid segment in the 2000s, and it dialed in an additional degree of separation when it launched the Taycan, its first volume-produced electric car, in 2019.

Can a Porsche be electric? Or does making one with a battery instead of a gas tank fly into the teeth of logic? I traveled to Stuttgart, the German company’s hometown, and borrowed a Taycan Turbo S to find out.

Design and interior

Visually, Porsche’s low-slung electric sedan changed little as it transitioned from the head-turning Mission E concept introduced at the 2015 Frankfurt auto show (back when the Frankfurt show was still a thing) to the Taycan unveiled in 2019. It puts a markedly more futuristic spin on the company’s design language, but it nonetheless looks unmistakably like a car that grew on the same family tree as the 911 and the Panamera, among others.

The design study’s rear-hinged backdoors remained on the drawing board for safety and packaging reasons, however. They’re horribly expensive and not terribly practical to build; ask Lincoln if you don’t believe that.

2020 Porsche Taycan Turbo S
Ronan Glon

Inside, the Taycan feels exactly like a Porsche. Look elsewhere if you want wide, velour-upholstered seats and a sky-high seating position. Its cabin offers a 2+2 layout with plenty of space for the front passengers, but headroom is a bit tight in the back due to the sloping roof line.

Fit and finish are nearly perfect throughout the entire cabin — anything less would be alarming considering the Turbo S carries a base price of $185,000, –and the Taycan is more practical than its sleek lines suggest. It carries 12.9 cubic feet of your stuff out back, and 2.8 cubes in the “frunk,” which is enough room for a few bags of groceries or a briefcase. It’s also where the charging cord normally goes.

Tech, infotainment, and driver assist

Fittingly, Porsche’s first series-produced electric car is its most high-tech model to date. It has a curved, 16.8-inch digital instrument cluster with individual gauges that can be configured using buttons on the steering wheel. There’s a 10.9-inch touchscreen for the infotainment system, an 8.4-inch screen with additional functions right below it, and a fourth screen on the right side of the dashboard, though it can only be used when the car detects someone is sitting in the passenger seat.

Put another way, there are as many screens within the driver’s line of sight as cylinders in a Boxster’s engine bay. The amount of features packed into the dashboard is gargantuan, and it takes a while to figure out which features do what. Everything is where you expect it to be, but Porsche didn’t put a volume knob on the dashboard. While the driver has one on the steering wheel, the front passenger needs to use the touchscreen on the center console, which becomes a needlessly awkward task if there’s something in the cupholder right behind it.

2020 Porsche Taycan Turbo S
Ronan Glon

Apple CarPlay compatibility comes standard, but Android Auto isn’t available. That could change soon.

Lane-keeping assist, traffic sign recognition, and adaptive cruise control are available. These features are driving aids — they don’t make the Taycan autonomous by any stretch of the imagination, but they’re useful on long drives and they work as advertised.

InnoDrive technology, which is like cruise control on steroids, is a $3,610 option that should be standard considering the Turbo S has a supercar-like price. It’s a data-driven feature that relies partly on information sent by the car’s various sensors to calculate the best driving strategy for a given route. It knows when the road is wet by analyzing feedback from the stability control system, for example. It also takes maps into account to tell when there’s a hill it needs to accelerate for, or a bend it needs to slow down for to ensure the passengers don’t feel like they’re on a roller coaster. InnoDrive stays about two miles ahead of the driver, Porsche told me.

Driving experience

Good enough doesn’t cut it in Stuttgart.

While there are tamer, cheaper variants of the Taycan, the Turbo S is the flagship model that demonstrates what Porsche is capable of in the electrification arena. It’s built on a 93.4-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack that powers a pair of electric motors (one per axle). This configuration is hardly unusual in the electric car world, as it delivers through-the-road all-wheel drive, but what’s noteworthy is that the rear motor shifts through a two-speed transmission for better performance.

2020 Porsche Taycan Turbo S
Ronan Glon

Its maximum power output checks in at a baffling 750 horsepower and 774 pound-feet of torque, but those figures are only under your right foot when a temporary overboost function kicks in. The drivetrain delivers 613 horses in normal conditions, which is plenty. Hitting 60 mph from a stop takes 2.6 seconds, so it’s there well before you’ve read through this sentence.

Porsche has installed the ignition on the left side of the steering wheel for decades. It’s a habit it picked up when pilots still started major races (like the 24 Hours of Le Mans) by running from the pits to their car. They could use their left hand to turn on the engine and their right hand to put the transmission in gear. Although the Taycan doesn’t have a key, Porsche put the power button on the left side of the instrument cluster to honor tradition.

There is no need to press it, though. It turns itself on automatically when it detects that someone with the key fob in their pocket has taken a seat behind the wheel. Moving the little gear selector down puts the Taycan in gear without the slightest clunk or noise, and it creeps forward in complete silence. Around town, it’s as smooth, quiet, and stress-free as you’d expect an electric car to be. The adaptive air suspension filters out the cobblestones that line the streets in small German towns, and the relatively light low-speed steering makes it easy to maneuver. There’s a 360-degree camera that shows how far its corners are from things waiting to take an expensive stab at them, like concrete barriers.

2020 Porsche Taycan Turbo S
Ronan Glon

Quaint towns with picturesque houses and bakeries that sell delicious pretzels made me feel like I was driving the Taycan through a postcard, but there is more to Germany — and to the car — than crawling around looking for a snack. I left Neckarsulm (where NSU once made cars, and where Audi manufactures cars today), pointed the Taycan’s low nose towards Stuttgart, and waited for the sign indicating there’s no speed limit to see how it behaves at the other end of the driving spectrum. And, to my surprise, it’s again smooth, quiet, and stress-free, even at 155 mph, which is near its 161-mph top speed.

There is evidently no engine, so the only noise comes from the tires and the wind, and it’s possible to have a conversation without raising your voice. Taking the engine out of the high-performance equation required chasing down every squeak and rattle that its exhaust note would normally cover up. I spoke with some of the engineers who worked on the project and they all told me hushing the ride at 155 mph was much easier said than done, especially because adding extra sound-deadening material would have increased the Taycan’s weight and decreased its range.

What impressed me the most about the Turbo S is the way it accelerates from, say, 100 to 155 mph. Or, if you’re outside of Germany, from 50 to 80 mph. It’s always on, the power is always there, and there is never the slightest hint of lag. It’s an approach to performance that would require a colossal displacement to achieve with internal combustion technology, and it’s one of the most exhilarating aspects of the driving experience.

2020 Porsche Taycan Turbo S
Ronan Glon / Digital Trends

On back roads, the Taycan feels a lot like a Panamera in the sense that it’s a big, heavy car that hides its weight well. It’s equipped with four-wheel steering, so the rear wheels turn slightly in the opposite direction as the front wheels at up to about 30 mph, and you can feel the difference when you’re driving on a road that looks like a cooked piece of spaghetti. It’s nimbler than its size and weight would lead you to believe. Above 30 mph, the rear wheels turn (again, ever so slightly; this isn’t a forklift) in the same direction as the front wheels to increase stability.

If I could go back in time and participate in the development process, I’d dial in a more pronounced energy recuperation effect (or at least add an option that lets drivers crank it way up if they want). In some electric cars, and a handful of plug-in hybrid models, you rarely need to touch the brake pedal to slow down or come to a gradual stop; you simply take your foot off the accelerator and the motors do the rest. In the Taycan, the regenerative braking system is extremely powerful (Porsche told me it can slow the car at up to 0.4 Gs), and the brake pedal always feels consistent, but one-pedal driving isn’t possible. While its brakes have a huge amount of bite (they need to stop a 5,200-pound missile going approximately 160 mph), I’d welcome the ability to one-pedal drive it on back roads.

Electric range and charging

In the United States, much has been said about the Taycan’s range and not a lot of it has been positive. It received a 192-mile rating from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is low and does not qualify it for the coveted long-range status. In the European Union, where all cars go through a testing cycle called WLTP, the Turbo S earned a more usable 256-mile rating. In the real world, which neither testing method reflects well, the Taycan’s range depends on a wide variety of factors including the outside temperature, whether you’re using the air conditioning, and if you’re spending more time on the highway or in the city. Your mileage will vary.

I spent about 40% of my time on the highway, 40% on back roads, and 20% in cities, including some of Stuttgart’s finest traffic jams, and the Taycan consumed an average of 23.7 kilowatt-hours of electricity to cover 62 miles. This figure makes it more efficient than the range estimate it earned on either side of the pond. It was reasonably warm and I had the A/C on during the entire drive. I could have done better, and I could have done a lot worse. No two drivers are identical, no two trips are exactly the same, and the bottom line is that the Taycan has plenty of range.

2020 Porsche Taycan Turbo S
Ronan Glon

Charging speed is as important as range when you’re driving an electric car every day, and the Taycan is compatible with 350-kilowatt fast-charging that zaps its battery pack with approximately 60 miles of range in about 4 minutes. Whether you live near a 350-kilowatt charger is another matter; if not, the battery will happily take a charge from a slower station.

To find out, tap your way into the navigation menu using the touchscreen and ask it to pull up a list of the charging stations in your vicinity. It organizes the results by distance (the closest ones are listed first), provides the number of plugs in a given location, notes the charging speed, and even lets you know how many are currently occupied in rea -time. This extremely useful feature takes much of the guesswork out of driving an electric car.

In the United States, the Taycan comes standard with three years of unlimited 30-minute fast-charging sessions at Electrify America stations. There are over 400 chargers scattered across America, and many more are planned.

How DT would configure this car

I’d start with Dolomite grey metallic and keep the standard 21-inch alloy wheels for a more low-key look. I’d skip the screen in front of the passenger, and I’d add the aforementioned InnoDrive technology even though it’s not cheap.

Our take

More than spätzle cooked in a Tesla-flavored sauce, the Taycan looks, drives, and feels like a true Porsche no matter how you approach it — and holy moly is it priced like one. Don’t let the unflattering range estimates fool you into thinking it’s unpractical to drive daily, or not capable of road-tripping. Living with the Taycan requires changing your habits, but that’s the case with any electric car regardless of range, horsepower, and price.

Porsche has electrification figured out, which is a relief considering the Taycan won’t remain its only battery-powered model for much longer. There is a more spacious, Cross Turismo-badged variant with an adventure-friendly wagon body around the corner, and the next-generation Macan due out in the early 2020s will be entirely electric. Audi’s upcoming E-Tron GT, which should break cover in 2020, will be closely related to the Taycan under the skin.

Should you get one?

Yes. If you’re looking for a high-performance electric car with a six-digit price tag, this is your best option.

Editors' Recommendations

Ronan Glon
Ronan Glon is an American automotive and tech journalist based in southern France. As a long-time contributor to Digital…
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