First Drive: 2020 Porsche Taycan
Shot into orbit
COPENHAGEN, DENMARK—I’ve come here to drive the 2020 all-electric Porsche Taycan and I’ve reached a number of conclusions:
• Electric cars are real, and here to stay.
• How quickly they become mainstream will depend on how willing governments and others are to spend the billions necessary to build the infrastructure required to support them.
• The unveiling, and subsequent debut, of the Taycan (pronounced Tie-can, by the way) had to have been the longest in the history of automotive marketing and public-relations.
Allow me to explain.
In mid-August, I flew to Atlanta to attend a technical briefing about the car — which has two models, the Turbo and the flagship Turbo S — held at the Porsche Experience Centre there. While in class, I learned virtually everything there was to know about the car. About how, and this is most important, it would leave no — zero, nada — CO2 imprint.
I also learned that the Turbo S version can generate up to 560 kW (750 hp) with Launch Control, and the Taycan Turbo up to 500 kW (670 hp). The Taycan Turbo S accelerates from zero to 100 km/h in 2.8 seconds while the Taycan Turbo completes this sprint in 3.2 seconds. The top speed of both is 270 km/h.
All that, as I said, without polluting the atmosphere or disrupting the tranquility of the environment.
Then, four weeks ago, I drove over to Niagara Falls, where the car was unveiled in the North American city where public hydroelectric power was introduced. There were simultaneous unveilings on a solar farm near Berlin and a wind farm on Pingtan Island in China.
Canada’s hydroelectricity and the wind and solar power of the other locations are symbolic of what Porsche calls its commitment to sustainability and the environment, which I will talk more about later. By 2022, incidentally, that commitment to electro mobility, which the company calls its new era,” will have cost it more than six billion euros.
The four-door sedan Taycan Turbo and Taycan Turbo S models that were shown in the Falls are among the most powerful production models the sports-car manufacturer has in its product range, and it’s where performance meets efficiency.
I found out what that was like when, finally, six weeks after going to Atlanta, I flew over here to Copenhagen to actually climb aboard and strap into the world’s first all-electric sports car for a Global Media Drive. All I have to say after our two days in the car is that I still have a great big smile on my face every time I think about it. In fact, it’s a grin that goes from ear to ear.
I will tell you about that drive, but first, an aside.
Porsche and Telsa will soon be at odds, if they’re not already, over who has the best, and fastest, EV sports car. Just the other day, Tesla’s Elon Musk, for instance, announced that the Model S had set lap speed records at both the WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in California and at the Nürburgring in Germany.
But, so far as I know, there are rarely independent verifications of these Tesla records. Porsche, on the other hand, invites journalists from all over the world to join them, hands them the keys to their cars and says, “Have at it. See what this Porsche will do. Find out for yourselves and tell your readers all about your experiences, warts and all.”
Which explains why my driving partner, Michael Bettencourt, and I were so keen to check out a couple of Porsche’s claims contained in the Taycan’s marketing brochure — because we could.
For instance, this zero-to-100 km/h in 2.8-seconds business.
At a rest stop on the Autobahn, we drove our Turbo S to the top of the “on” ramp leading to the highway and stopped. As we wanted to try to “top out” the car’s advertised maximum speed of 270 km/h, we felt it best for Bettencourt, a child of 45 (or so), to drive because if something untoward should happen, we wanted younger reflexes reacting.
So, Michael selected the launch control driver mode, held the brake down while the power loaded up and, once the rev counter hit its limit, he simultaneously took his left foot off the brake and rammed the throttle to the floor with his right. In the blink of an eye, it felt as if we were being shot into orbit. The torque snapped us back into our seats just like that. Holy cow! Now I know how drag racer John Force feels while travelling the quarter mile at the U.S. Nationals. We did not have a stop watch, but if we weren’t going 100 km/h from a dead stop in 2.8 seconds, or faster, you could have fooled me.
From there we went directly to the outside fast lane of the Autobahn and tried to top out that Turbo S. We passed 265 km/h (see photo), but then Michael had to take his foot off the throttle because somebody crawling at a paltry 225 or so was in our lane and we didn’t want to run into them. But the car was still accelerating effortlessly when we had to abandon our land speed-record attempt, and so 270 was definitely possible. If only.
The car can reach these speeds, incidentally, because of adjustable air intakes and a variable rear spoiler. And thanks to air suspension, the car’s frontal surface area can be reduced by lowering the car in two stages at high speeds. When I was supermodified-car racing in the 1980s. the giant wings we used on top of the cars at some speedways were held in place by air shocks. The faster you went, the flatter the wing became. Pretty much like the Porsche Turbo S.
Once, earlier in the day, when we’d been forced to hit the brakes because some nitwit moved into a lane he had no business being in (the Autobahn we were on had four lanes — the inside lane was where traffic going 110 km/h was fine, but then every lane to the left got progressively faster), the car reacted calmly, almost stoically. There was very little, if any, shimmying and the Porsche had no difficulty settling comfortably into the lane where traffic was moving much slower than we’d been driving.
And if something did go wrong? Airbags are everywhere throughout the cabin, and more can be added if you want to pay for them. In short, you feel very confident in the Taycan.
OK, back to the drive.
For anyone who has, or is worried about, mobility issues, this car is not easy to get into or to exit. It is a low-slung sports car (the Turbo S is 1,378 mm high and the Turbo is 1,381 mm), which is in the vicinity of 4.5 feet. I was able to squeeze into the front seat, but I didn’t even try getting into the back, because the roofline slants downward toward the rear.
My driving mate, Bettencourt, is nimble, so he tested out the back seat on my behalf. He reported that he had ample headroom and that he felt quite comfortable because the floor has been lowered to create a “foot garage” for people sitting back there (yes, Porsche really calls it that).
Once inside the front seat, the car is really comfortable. It’s like a cocoon; it seems to wrap itself around you. In addition to steering the car, you can do any number of things on the steering wheel (turn up the sound on the radio, select driving modes, and so-on) and the dash spreads across the front of the car from the driver’s side to the passenger’s where, for extra money, you can have a continuation of the displays, which include Bluetooth, navigation and so-on that your passenger can activate, if needed. I mean, why have the voice control “Hey, Porsche!” available if your partner is sitting beside you?
A 10.9-inch infotainment display comes down from the dash onto the centre console, and this presents one of the new nitpicks. The driver — in this case me — would be reaching to touch the display screen to, say, change the radio station, and accidentally brush the infotainment display, turning on one of the heating/air conditioning fans in the process. This is more annoying than anything, but it is something Porsche should look into.
Porsche says the Taycan is the first production vehicle with a system voltage of 800 volts (most electric cars have 400). This significantly reduces the charging period — ours took about 22 minutes to charge up — and if done properly in a timely manner (such as gasoline car operators always adding gas or filling up when the needle gets around the quarter-tank mark), eliminates the threat of range anxiety.
(I have always had range anxiety in EVs. Not anymore, at least with this car. Several times on our drive through Denmark and Germany, we were knocked off our pre-arranged routes by demonstrations — children all over the world were calling for action on climate change — and roads that were closed for construction without warning. Although we had to wander around before getting back on track, I was never concerned that we would run out of juice. The car told us exactly how many kilometres were left, and unless there was a calamity, I knew we had enough to get us to where we had to be.)
The overall capacity of the lithium ion battery is 93.4 kWh. This battery supplies power to two electric motors, one on the front axle and the other on the rear. A two-speed transmission is used on the rear axle to drive all four wheels, plus drive the car’s acceleration and speed.
This is one snazzy car.
In the past five years, Porsche says it’s reduced the CO2 emissions per vehicle it’s manufactured by more than 75 per cent. It’s working to eliminate its environmental footprint entirely and, according to company officials, is doing this three ways by using what it calls Porsche Production 4.0 — being smart, mean and green. Smart means flexible and connected production, lean means responsible and efficient use of resources, and green means sustainability and environmental protection.
As mentioned earlier, the company is calling this a new chapter in its history with a focus on performance, range and technology. They say the Taycan is a pure sports car that can also be driven every day.
I am crazy about this car, but is it feasible? Maybe not quite yet, said one executive who is deeply immersed in the project. Why? Because the infrastructure is just not there yet. But it’s coming.
Benjamin Passenberg is project manager for the Taycan’s high voltage system and calls the car the highlight of his career — to date.
“I was working on plug-in hybrid vehicles, so was suited for the position,” he said. “This represents a big movement for Porsche because we have a plan: by 2025, half of our vehicles will be electrified, so they will be either plug-in hybrids or fully electric vehicles. I think by 2030, maybe a little later, most vehicles that are sold will be fully electric. Some markets will be earlier than others, but they will all come, eventually.”
Passenberg seemed surprised when told that most electricity for cars in Canada is free at the moment, even though governments depend on taxes from motorists who use oil and gas to fund their operations.
“In Europe, we pay for electricity at charging stations,” he said. “A lot of change will have to come in the world because the infrastructure is not really ready. It is developing quickly, but for housing areas, for example, the street lights will all go out if too many electric vehicles would charge at the same time. But that will come. And governments will enforce bylaws, for example, that you can only drive into cities if you have an electric vehicle. At least at certain hours. So I think electricity will find its way.”
The world is changing, let there be no doubt. But there’s something about cars that people find attractive. Young schoolboys in Denmark, for example, riding their bicycles home from school, detoured to stop and admire the Taycans that were at a charging station. And in Germany, where a demonstration was taking place in another part of the city we were passing through, people — young and old — were all turning to look at the Porsche, smiling and pretending to bow down.
The Porsche Taycan Turbo S and Porsche Taycan Turbo are now available to order with pricing starting at $213,900 and $173,900, respectively. They will be in showrooms sometime in 2020.
Norris McDonald is a former Star editor who is a current freelance columnist.
Follow him on Twitter: @NorrisMcDonald2