Most electric vehicles drive like fast golf carts.
While each is undeniably zippy in a straight line, the tactile feedback sought by automotive enthusiasts is nearly always lacking. Blame amateurish chassis tuning, improper accelerator response, synthetic steering feel, and unpredictable regenerative braking systems. Even though some automakers are beginning to understand proper tuning, most electric vehicles continue to present themselves as combustion-free appliances.
The range-topping 2020 Taycan Turbo S, with “PCCB” carbon-ceramic brakes. (Photo: Kelley Blue Book)
Porsche, an automaker synonymous with race-winning sports cars, recently introduced its own interpretation of an all-electric vehicle. The sporty four-door sedan is called a Taycan, and it is the first EV that doesn’t allow its electric propulsion to get in the way of proper driving dynamics. In fact, I’d argue that the seamless integration of two powerful motors has enhanced the enthusiast’s discerning behind-the-wheel driving experience.
Mash the accelerator pedal from a standstill and the Taycan Turbo S launches with near-instantaneous acceleration (it is downright nauseating). The blast to 60 mph, which is completely drama-free, takes about 2.5 seconds. Of course, the Porsche is powerful (the range-topping Turbo S boasts a maximum of 750 horsepower and 774 pound-feet of torque, while the motors in the Taycan Turbo deliver 670 hp and 626 lb-ft of torque), but that’s not its greatest card. Instead, credit 800-volt PSM motors, all-wheel drive, four massively wide tires, and a two-speed transmission on the rear motor. While each of those individual systems are beneficial, the innovative gearbox is the game changer.
The 2020 Taycan Turbo S with its rear wing, just below the glass, closed and flush. (Photo: Kelley Blue Book)
Electric motor torque and power output decreases with speed, so Porsche fits the Taycan with a two-speed gearbox to perfectly exploits the motor’s power output to improve both off-the-line acceleration and top speed. From rest to lofty top speed the dizzying acceleration is linear and seamless. And, because the gearbox is always optimizing ratios, there is no dead spot if the driver stabs the pedal at any speed in search of power.
Porsche also takes a different approach to accelerator lift-off regeneration. Most electric vehicles maximize brake regeneration during coasting, which prompts excessive drag and deceleration. Porsche considers this wasteful as even the most efficient regeneration system is only good for about 90-percent recuperation. And, their engineers point out, skilled drivers want to carry speed and momentum during spirited driving.
As a result, the Taycan glides when the accelerator is not pressed and only calls on brake regeneration when the brake pedal is engaged – effectively mimicking the dynamics of a combustion vehicle. From the driver’s seat, the Taycan’s acceleration to braking transitions are completely natural and entering a corner carrying speed is effortless. Moreover, trail braking and modulating vehicle balance with precision through the brake pedal is also possible.
Cut-away of the 2020 Porsche Taycan Turbo S. The two-speed gearbox is on the rear motor. (Photo: Porsche)
Underpinning the Taycan Turbo models is a sophisticated adaptive three-chamber air-suspension system that utilizes electronic damper-control, electromechanical roll-stabilization, active torque-vectoring, and four-wheel steering. While it is arguably the most complex suspension ever fitted to an electric vehicle, the tenacious German engineering paid off – the Taycan delivers ride, stability, and cornering dynamics unmatched by any other combustion-free offering on the market.
Toss the sedan into a corner and it hunches down and settles immediately, without any sign of bounce or wallowing. The high-performance tires (a tuned part of the equation) don’t give up a speck of grip, clenching the pavement with tenacity enhanced by the vehicle’s mass and low center of gravity. And, thanks to neurotic testing and tuning, the Taycan’s steering is accurate and well-weighed, which allows the sleek sport sedan to feel small and agile – belying its physical stature.
Cut-away of the 2020 Porsche Taycan Turbo S, which shows the flat battery pack and both electric motors. (Photo: Porsche)
The German automaker hasn’t left a single dynamic stone unturned, including high-speed stability. Most electric vehicles fizz-out above 120 mph, when their single-speed motors are far past their torque and output peaks. The Taycan’s two-speed gearbox allows it to soar to 167 mph, which is the speed I saw on the Autobahn last week. Carefully tuned aerodynamics (Cd of .22), which include active intake vents and a multi-position rear wing, translates to remarkable stability at speed – I’ve driven dozens of vehicles in excess of 150 mph and none have been as relaxed at such velocity.
And don’t forget about braking, as the Taycan Turbo models are fitted with oversized rotors and multi-piston calibers that absorb enormous amounts of heat – all tuned on the racing circuit. Brake feel underfoot is near-perfect and brake modulation, including the required transition from regeneration to mechanical caliper (it happens at about 0.4 G’s of deceleration), is faultless.
267 km/h on the German autobahn converts to a blistering 166 mph in the Taycan Turbo. (Photo: Kelley Blue Book)
Many years of driving passionless electric vehicles from companies such as COTA, Nissan, FIAT, BMW, Chevrolet, and even Tesla have left me disheartened and deflated. But after two full days of driving the Taycan Turbo S and Turbo models on the European continent, I’m left smitten. Thanks to a focused approach to proper powertrain and chassis dynamics, Porsche’s all-new electric sport sedan evokes newfound driving thrill and excitement in a traditionally mundane combustion-free ecosystem.