Game on, Tesla. The Porsche Taycan EV sedan unveiled Wednesday (Sept. 4) in advance of the Frankfurt auto show is a vehicle of superlatives, a low-slung sedan with speed, handling, and most of all, the Porsche name. It will cost half again as much as a Tesla Model S Performance model, a plus for early buyers with deep pockets who want to show off, and later on a challenge because there’s a limit to how many super-costly cars the market can absorb.
According to the trio of worldwide announcements — in China, in Europe and in Niagara Falls, Ontario — the Taycan Turbo will be $152,250 in the US (including freight), while the Taycan Turbo S will be $186,350 with launch-special pricing, after which they go up an additional $2,410 and $2,610. The “Turbo” part of the name is a misnomer (the Taycans are electric-only vehicles) but why not: There’s enough BS already floating around the high end of the EV business. What’s a little more among friends?
Mission E Comes to Life
The 2020 Porsche Taycan evolved from the concept car called the Mission E that was unveiled at the 2015 Frankfurt auto show. The Mission E-now-Taycan is Porsche’s first electric except for a couple dating back a century. In silhouette, it looks a lot like the Porsche Panamera sedan.
The Taycan is an all-wheel-drive vehicle with a motor for the front axle and a second for the rear axle. The Taycan uses an 800-volt electrical architecture with the possibility of lightning-fast recharges at the right charge-points. It is the same electrical architecture as the Audi e-Tron GT. Porsche says it takes just 22.5 minutes to run up the battery from 5 percent to 80 percent with a DC fast charger that produces 270 kW of power, under ideal conditions. (Tesla says it takes 20 minutes to charge to 50 percent, using a 150-kW Supercharger.) Charge times can be reduced if the owner sets a departure time into their phone app and the battery will be warmed or chilled, depending on ambient conditions, prior to charging. US-bound Taycans will get free charging (the first 30 minutes) for three years through Electrify America.
Inside, there’s a 16.8-inch LCD instrument panel, a center stack LCD smaller than Tesla’s, and an optional passenger-facing LCD display for entertainment. It can’t be seen by the driver. As on the Panamera, the center console is chock full of gauges and switches and extends almost to the back seat.
Porsche Taycan vs. Tesla Model S
Both the Taycan and Model S are low-slung midsize sedans with two seating rows and four doors. Many dimensions are similar: 195.4 inches long (Porsche) versus 195.7 (Tesla Model S), and width is about 77 inches for both. But Tesla is markedly taller, 56.9 inches versus 54.3 inches, with a longer wheelbase (116.5 versus 114.2 inches) for a smoother ride. Tesla also has more trunk space, 28.4 cubic feet rear and front combined versus 16.8 cubic feet. If you’re going on vacation, the two are competitive — if you, as a Porsche owner, use FedEx second-day for your golf clubs.
Looking at the high ends of the line, the Taycan Turbo S battery is 93.4 kWh, the Tesla Model S Performance is 100 kWh. Both battery packs are under the floor. Porsche projects a range of 265 miles using the WLTP (Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicles Test Procedure) methodology versus 365 miles for Tesla. (WLTP figures are about 10 percent more optimistic than EPA numbers.) Car and Driver estimates 260-270 miles for the Turbo and 225-250 for the Turbo S.
Porsche rates the Taycan at 617 hp (751 hp for a 2.5-second overboost acceleration) while Tesla is rated at around 760 hp. Porsche claims 3.0-3.5 seconds 0-60 mph for the Turbo and less than 3 seconds for the Turbo S, both versus 2.4 for Tesla’s Model S Performance. Porsche’s top speed is 162 mph (260 kph); Tesla’s is 161.
Porsche has the bigger instrument panel LCD, Tesla has the bigger center stack display, and Porsche has an optional LCD for passenger entertainment and control. Tesla has semi-autonomous (Level 2) Autopilot self-driving.
One difference is modernity: The Tesla Model S interior feels dated. It has been around since 2012 with continual improvements and is still the same basic car.
Why Porsche Did It: The Future Is Electric
From the perspective of the US, the idea of climate change may be still in doubt — in some minds, at least. Thus the comparatively lower interest in electrified vehicles here. The long distances across the US are more suited currently to a combustion-engine cross-country drive: From Stuttgart, home of Porsche, to Moscow is less in kilometers (2,400) than from Silicon Valley to Manhattan is in miles (3,000). But the world’s automakers are convinced they have to electrify, which means more EVs and more charging points every year. And they also know that nothing provides performance like an electric-motor vehicle.
Volkswagen last fall said its next generation of combustion engines, rolling out in 2026, will be its last new combustion engines ever. (With modifications, that could still be two more decades.) Porsche is part of Volkswagen.
Since the Taycan price is high, there’s already talk (among analysts and journalists) that Porsche might do a rear-drive model only to bring the price further below $100,000. To some, that would be the ideal commuter car, since it’d be eligible for an HOV sticker.
Tesla legitimized the EV market. Porsche adds an honored nameplate. Interest in high-performance EVs may grow the market and help those automakers already with great vehicles that haven’t yet caught the public eye, particularly the Jaguar I-Pace. With Porsche coming to market along with Audi, Mercedes-Benz and BMW can’t be far behind.