2020 Porsche Taycan Turbo S Review: Don’t Fear the Future

Porsche’s new electric car proves that driving fun won’t go extinct with the internal combustion engine.

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The 2020 Porsche Taycan Turbo S is vicious. It’s easy to shoehorn bombastic or hyperbolic adjectives into car reviews, especially with today’s crop of carbon-fiber-and-metal bolts of lightning. And yet, after sitting on an arrow-straight country road in Denmark on the outskirts of Copenhagen and releasing the brake pedal while mashing the accelerator to activate the launch control, the resulting take-off can be described by no other term but: Vicious.

The Taycan Turbo S’s full shot of 750 horsepower and 775 pound-ft of torque is enough to make the 2.5-ton sedan shudder through a scooch of wheel spin for a hair of a second. Once the wheels bite, you’re propelled forth with enough g-force to make you dizzy as your senses try to recalibrate. You become acutely aware of internal organs smashed backward, a disconcerting sensation that evokes unease. Your heartbeat spikes (confirmed by this author’s Apple Watch) and you realize that you haven’t breathed once in the 2.6 seconds — Porsche’s own measure, and a conservative one at best — that it’s taken to blow by 60 miles an hour.

When it’s over — when you’ve railed the stoppers in hope of abating the queasiness flooding your body — several beats go by while your central nervous system restores equilibrium. Calm returns and you’re left with one thought reverberating through your head: “Let’s do it again.”

Buy Now: $185,000+

The Good: Porsche engineers cared little about making an electric vehicle that would set records for efficiency while allaying range anxiety. If you want to save the world, go buy a Chevy Bolt. If you want pure, exhilarating performance, buy a Taycan.

What Porsche has created is a driver-focused road rocket that happens to use an electric drivetrain. And it’s a very solid drivetrain: A permanently excited synchronous motor perches atop each axle, with a slightly larger motor in the rear. A two-speed transmission is fitted to the latter to help provide rapid acceleration, with the palpable shift happening around 50 miles an hour. Power comes from an 800-volt system anchored by a 93.4 kWh battery pack that’s good for a reported 270 miles in the European driving cycle. (When the EPA weighs in, expect that to drop down to 220 miles or less for American users.)

Atop the revolutionary drive train, a world-class cabin awaits, well-appointed with four (!) futuristic touchscreens and comfortable seating for four adults (though even with the footwells dug out of the battery pack in the rear, adults over 6’2” may feel cramped on longer hauls).

Who It’s For: Fans of Stuttgart’s finest machines, first and foremost. Taycan buyers will likely have another Porsche residing in the garage. They’re used to the wonderfully bright, responsive driving dynamics a Porsche imparts, and expect the Taycan to uphold those high ideals. (It does. They won’t be disappointed.) Eco-crusaders may realize a smaller fraction of the owner pool, but this isn’t for folks who like traditional EV driving.

Watch Out For: A lack of range. If lengthy trips with no chance for charging is a frequent occurrence in your life, the Taycan isn’t for you. That said, on the media launch in Europe, we averaged about 300 miles per day, much of it hard-and-fast driving, yet we only had to stop for one 25-minute charge (albeit a high-amp one) over five or six hours behind the wheel.

While the touchscreens are nice, the lack of physical buttons for volume or climate control is a disappointment. You shouldn’t have to dive into a few levels of the infotainment to move the direction of air. And the optional passenger-side touchscreen is frustrating because you must be sitting perfectly straight in the seat with your butt all the way back for it to activate. Slouch, and it won’t turn on.

Alternatives: There’s the Tesla Model S P100D (starting at $133,000), though despite Elon Musk’s push to have his electric sedan viewed as a Porsche competitor by trying for lap records at Nurburgring, you likely wouldn’t cross-shop these two machines. Get the Tesla if you enjoy drag races; pick up a Taycan if you’d like to go fast and turn.

If you’re eyeing blisteringly quick four-seaters, you might consider a combustion engine car and look at the Mercedes-AMG GT 63 S 4-Door (from $136,000) or the BMW M5 Competition (from $110,000), as both pack more than 600 ponies and are a hoot to drive.

Review: Our test drive route took us from Copenhagen, Denmark, to Hamburg, Germany, across a smattering cross-section of road types. At our disposal was the Taycan Turbo S and the base model Turbo. (Lesser variants will arrive down the road.)

Now, if you’re puzzled as to why Porsche chose this nomenclature when neither vehicle employs a turbocharger, well, here’s your answer: Porsche says it wants its customer base to understand precisely where the Taycan variants fall when compared to other models. As one Porsche engineer pointed out, “If your biggest issue is with how we named the vehicles, then we must have done a great job on engineering the vehicles themselves.”

The guaranteed power for both the Turbo and the Turbo S is 616 horsepower, but thanks to the “overboost” function, the Turbo S can briefly shove a staggering 750 horsepower to the wheels along with 775 lb-ft of yank, while the Turbo temporarily offers 670 horses with 626 lb-ft of twist. On winding country roads, both cars are heaps of fun to hammer. The adaptive air suspension adjusts based on your selected driving mode; Sport Plus, Sport, Normal, and Range (for maximum efficiency) are on offer, with Sport and Sport Plus tightening everything up and making the twisty bits a snap to devour.

The 5,132-pound car does well to hide its largess. It’s composed, offering sporty responses even under moderate throttle and wheel inputs. It’s a mite smaller than the Panamera, and despite being heavier, the Taycan feels tidier and not as unwieldy. Rear shoes that are one foot wide (305/30/21, to be precise) don’t hurt in giving the Taycan absurdly stable footing.

Whenever there’s a bit of straight road, it becomes almost obligatory to stop and perform a few savagely intoxicating launches. The ability to rinse and repeat this feature is a point of pride for the Porsche engineers and a testament for their ability to thermoregulate the powertrain. Relentlessly flog a Tesla, and you’ll see the car quickly begin to reduce power in a bid to maintain charge and battery life. The Taycan, on the other hand, doesn’t care how hard you push: So long as there’s juice in the battery, you’re free to dance all the way up to its limits as often as you’d like.

On the autobahn in Germany, V-max runs proved pupil-dilating. Porsche claims a top speed of 162 mph, but we were hitting an indicated 167. Engineers were excited for this portion of the drive, as they’d spent a chunk of time ensuring it would deliver peak performance here. Indeed, burning up the autobahn, the Taycan feels very comfortable at those extreme speeds. At full tilt, it is loud inside the cabin, however. Wind noise seeps in despite the heavily-laminated windows and other sound-deadening measures. But that’s a trivial complaint, and common to most cars at those speeds.

The Turbo S uses ten-piston carbon-ceramic stoppers that are 5mm larger up front than the Turbo’s iron discs; both have four-shots in the back. Porsche claims 90 percent of the braking is done with energy recuperation rather than with the hydraulics; regardless, the system will slow either car in a hurry. However, diving into the Turbo’s brake pedal provides a more linear feel than in the Turbo S.

As for regenerative breaking, your choices are only on and off; there aren’t multiple degrees, available as in other electric cars. This may be a slight miss because, while you may not want to do one-pedal driving, a little more resistance at your disposal wouldn’t be the worst thing. (In Sport Plus and Sport, the regen from the throttle lift-off is marginally more substantial than in Normal or Range, but it’s nothing special.)

Still, this EV will take precautions to make sure it saves itself from dying. After four hours of highway and country road ripping, our Turbo S told us that it would arrive at our planned charging point 20 miles away with 1 percent left in the battery. It then began to shut down some systems, like the air conditioning, and limited the speed to 56 miles an hour. (Floor the accelerator and the car will oblige, though.) The car also began to precondition itself for optimal charging speed — so when we did arrive at the fast charger at 1 percent, the car realized electron transfer speeds of up to 273 kW, and we were back up to 80 percent in about 25 minutes.

Verdict: Tesla’s reign as the makers of fast electric sedans has been a lengthy one, but only because the likes of the Taycan hadn’t emerged to illustrate the California carmaker’s flaws and show us what we were missing. The answer is a lot — and Porsche’s Taycan represents a monumental leap forward in terms of what a performance electric sedan can be.

2020 Porsche Taycan Turbo S: Key Specs

Powertrain: Dual synchronous electric motors; two-speed transmission on the rear motor; all-wheel-drive
Horsepower: 616 (normal operation), 750 (overboost)
Torque: 774 pound-feet (overboost)
0-60 MPH: 2.6 seconds (manufacturer figure)
EPA Range: Still uncertain, but figure around 220 miles

Buy Now: $185,000+

Porsche hosted us and provided this product for review.

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