Published on September 1st, 2019 | by Dr. Maximilian Holland0
Porsche Taycan Already Faster Than Panamera Sibling & Other Combustion Peers Around Twisty Race Tracks
September 1st, 2019 by Dr. Maximilian Holland
Despite not surpassing some of its combustion peers over the full lap of the Nurburgring Nordschleife circuit, a recently released onboard lap video shows that the Porsche Taycan has effectively outperformed its Panamera sibling (and the BMW M5 and M5 Competition) over the twisty first half of the course. This indicates that on the vast majority of the world’s race circuits, where mid-speed corners dominate over high speed straightaways, the Taycan will be able to lap faster than the Panamera and similar 4-door saloons, such as the BMW M5.
The Taycan’s recently published Nurburgring Nordschleife onboard lap video clearly shows that the new electric Porsche is faster through all the twisty corners and mid-speed sections of the track than the BMW M5 (F90), and likely faster than the Panamera Turbo (for which an onboard full lap video was never released). You only have to watch the lap video of the Taycan and the lap video of the BMW M5 side by side to see the virtual race play out (make sure your pause/play dexterity is enough to synchronize the timing clocks across the two videos).
The Nurburgring Nordschleife Lap Video Reveals Taycan’s Dominance of The Twisties
“What’s that?” I hear you say. Didn’t the Taycan record an overall lap time a bit slower than its key peers? Yes, but take a good look at the lap progress side by side. The Taycan’s marginally slower full lap time (07:42 vs. the Panamera’s 07:38 and the M5’s 07:38.9) only comes as a result of the Taycan not matching the long legs of its fossil peers on the higher speed sections, mostly in the 2nd half of the course. These include Kesselchen, Pflanzgarten, and, of course, the famously long (almost 3 km) and unseemingly fast (~290+ km/h) final straight from Dottinger to Tiergarten (course map below).
The Nurburgring Nordschleife is a uniquely useful track for manufacturers, since they can subject vehicles to a wide variety of surfaces, stresses, and loads. The extended track length, number and variety of corners, changes in elevation, surface quality, camber, and other variables ensure new car prototypes get a veritable assault course challenge. Professional drivers are available for hire who can apply consistent dynamic loads to prototype vehicles for dozens or even hundreds of laps. For many manufacturers, it’s not primarily about handling or high performance, it’s mostly about durability testing. Hyundai, for example, has a 40,000 square foot facility nearby, and uses the circuit mainly for ensuring durability, subjecting prototype vehicles to up to 480 laps.
This all makes good sense. What’s not always so obvious it that the high speed and exceptionally long 2.86km back straight is actually very unusual on modern circuits, and is not representative of peak speeds on other popular race tracks. Whilst this uniqueness gives manufacturers another means of stressing the vehicles beyond what they would normally encounter, it does also mean that long-legged cars can potentially claim a better overall lap time than vehicles that are actually more capable in the curves, but which have lower absolute top speeds.
Case in point — watching their respective lap videos side by side, the Taycan is evidently faster than the BMW M5 for almost the entire course, only getting caught up and passed on that final back straight, via a much higher top speed (289 km/h vs the Taycan’s 261 km/h). This straight alone hands the BMW a 3–4 second advantage for the overall lap (07:38.9 vs. 07:42). Whilst no video has been released, we know that the Panamera Turbo’s full lap time (07:38) is a second faster than the standard BMW M5, but also a couple of seconds slower than the limited edition BMW M5 Competition (7:35.9). For a fuller list of lap times, see Wikipedia (most listings have useful links to onboard videos).
However, even this faster BMW M5 Competition (lap video) only sees the rear end of the Taycan over the entire first half of the course (up to the 3:50 point), comprising mainly twisty technical sections. The M5 competition only catches back up during the sustained fast corners after Ex-Muhle and approaching the high-speed Kesselchen. From there, the BMW’s lead climbs to around 2–3 seconds by the start of the final straight, but the BMW’s longer legs along this straight (up to 292 km/h) put it another 3–4 seconds further ahead of the Taycan by the finish line.
Given that the standard M5 is a second slower than the Panamera Turbo, and the M5 Competition is 2 seconds faster, and all have similar top speeds along the final straight, we can interpolate the Panamera’s performance relative to the Taycan from the two BMW lap videos. In other words, the Taycan would almost certainly be ahead of the Panamera for at least the first 03:50 of the Nordschleife (since it’s ahead of the “faster” M5 Competition for this long). Yet, since the Panamera is also a second faster overall than the standard M5, it would likely catch the Taycan a bit before the back straight (since this is where the M5 catches the Taycan). Perhaps in the high-speed Pflanzgarten curves.
For those of us who were wondering, Porsche never released a Nordschleife lap time for the top-of-the-line Panamera Turbo S E Hybrid, which is more powerful but also significantly heavier than the standard Panamera Turbo. In the few other race track lap times that Porsche has shown for the Panamera Turbo S E Hybrid, it always announces the resulting (and somewhat unspectacular) result as “the fastest luxury 4-door hybrid sedan,” suggesting the standard Panamera Turbo is usually faster around most tracks.
Worth noting is that, as well as being almost certainly ahead of the Panamera Turbo around the first half of the Nordschleife, the Taycan is also faster over the initial twisty sections than a few vehicles with much faster full lap times. For example, despite a full lap time 8 seconds ahead of the Taycan (07:34), the video of the Porsche 911 Carrera S (991.2) shows it to be behind the Taycan on lap position until the 02:11 mark (around the Wehrseifen corner). Likewise, despite a full lap over 14 seconds faster (7:27.48), the Ferrari 812 Superfast only sees the back of the Taycan until the 0:45 mark (around Quiddelbacher Hohe). Even the Ferrari 488 GTB (full lap 07:21.63) is no faster than the Taycan through Hatzenbach, until exiting the Hocheichen corner (around the 0:40 second mark). In short — the Taycan is blisteringly fast through the early mid-speed curves of the Nordschleife (especially sections under 200 km/h), and is only really caught up, and eventually surpassed, by sports sedan peers on the higher speed sections.
This raises the question of how the Taycan will compete with peers on more typical race circuits, all of which have significantly more modest peak speeds than the headline-grabbing Nurburgring Nordschleife.
Typical Race Tracks Feature Lower Peak Speeds than the Nordschleife
As mentioned above, the Nordschleife’s back straight from Dottinger to Tiergarten is an unusually long 2.86 km (1.77 miles). Pre-1990, the Cicuit de la Sarthe (home of the Le Mans 24 hour race) did have a 5.54 km straight (albeit with a high speed kink) that saw some of the highest peak speeds in motorsport. Since then, chicanes have been added to deliberately limit excessive high speeds, and the longest single straight on this circuit is now around 1.85 km, significantly shorter than final straight of the Nordschleife. Anyway, the Circuit de la Sarthe rarely hosts road-going vehicles, sports saloons, or peers of the Porsche Taycan.
If you’ll agree that we can put to one side the speedway ovals and similar circuits that seem to be designed for monotony, without the twisty technical sections that interest most track drivers, no other circuits approach the peak speeds seen on the Nordschleife. Perhaps closest are Belgium’s Spa (the 1.02 km Kemmel straight) and Portugal’s Portimao (the 1.1 km back straight). In a track-focused supercar like the McLaren 720S, these two circuits can see peak speeds of 281–283 km/h (~175 mph). Yet this is still significantly more modest than the 318 km/h that the 720S reaches on the Nordschleife. Sport Sedans like the BMW M5 reach peaks of ~289 km/h on the Nordschleife, but more modest ~250 km/h peaks on Spa.
Whilst Spa and Portimao see significantly more modest peak speeds than the Nordschleife, their speeds are still unrepresentative of the most popular track day circuits in Europe. These include the German tracks of the Hockenheim Short Circuit (where the Porsche Panamera Turbo peaks at 198 km/h) and the Sachsenring (where the Alfa Giulia QV peaks at 224 km/h and the Mercedes AMG GT 63 S at 240 km/h). In France, there’s the popular Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours GP, which sees peak speeds of 234 km/h for the Porsche 911 GT3 RS. Sports sedans like the Panamera, M5, and Taycan peak at somewhat lesser speeds. In the UK there’s Anglesey Coastal circuit, where sports sedans like the BMW M5 and Alfa Giulia QV peak at around 215 km/h, and Bedford Aerodrome West circuit, which sees slightly lower peak speeds than Anglesey.
Finally, in the US, a popular track day circuit is Leguna Seca, which sees the likes of the 911 GT3 RS (991.2) peak at under 220 km/h, and sports saloons typically a bit slower. Then there’s Willow Springs Big Willow Circuit, which sees peak speeds of 240 km/h, even for supercars. Perhaps the fastest popular track in the US is Virginia International, which sees the overall production car lap record holder, the Ford GT40, peak at 263 km/h, and sports saloons peak at around 245 km/h.
In summary, many of the world’s most popular race circuits — the kind that sports car owners are most likely to occasionally race on — see peak speeds significantly lower than those on the Nordschleife. Indeed, for 4-door sports sedans like the Porsche Taycan, Panamera, BMW M5, and similar, the absolute peak speeds (usually seen just momentarily on one point of the circuit), are typically in the range of 200 to 220 km/h (up to 137 mph) on popular mid-speed circuits, and up to 240 to 250 km/h (up to 155 mph) on popular high-speed circuits.
The implication is that — on any of these typical circuits — the Taycan’s top speed of “only” 261 km/h (162 mph) will not hand an undue advantage to its peers, unlike what we see on the atypical Nordschleife. Instead, most popular circuits are mainly characterized by shorter straightaways and twisty, technical, mid-speed corners, exactly the kind of features that saw the Taycan dominate during the first half of the Nordschleife. Typical racetracks will thus give the Taycan a strong lap time advantage over its peers, including its Panamera sibling.
Conclusions — The Taycan Will Change the Minds of Traditionalists
Expect to see plenty of Taycan lap time results and occasional onboard videos — from Hockenheim, Leguna Seca, Willow Springs, and similar tracks — in 2020 and thereafter, with the Taycan clocking faster laps than the BMW M5, Panamera Turbo, and other peers. We’ve already seen similar reports from the Tesla Model 3 dominating lap times relative to its combustion peers (e.g., the BMW M3 and Alfa Giulia QV) on some short twisty circuits, and the Taycan’s dominance against its combustion peers will further reinforce the case that sports-focused EVs have a bright future.
Whilst few people are in a position to spend $130,000 on a Porsche sports sedan (or even $55,000 on a Tesla), these vehicles are just the start of the wave. We can expect to see fully electric equivalents of the Mazda Miata/MX5, Subaru BRZ, and other affordable sports cars in the future. Now that combustion vehicles have to meet increasingly stringent (and necessary) emissions limits, delivering enough power to keep pace with developments in electric powertrains will only get more difficult in the future.
Sports car brands are aware of this, and many are developing all-electric supercars for delivery over the coming years. These include upcoming vehicles by Lotus, Nio, Pagani, Pininfarina, Rimac, and Tesla. As this trend continues, all sports car manufacturers will soon have to go the fully electric route (and perhaps plug-in hybrid in the short term) in order to stay competitive and relevant at each price point. In the short term, we will no doubt still see some attempts from some legacy manufacturers to develop ever more powerful combustion engines, but electric dominance will be largely settled in the performance realm by 2025 if not earlier. History will record that Porsche was one of the earliest to make the leap.