Porsche Taycan electric car review from a weekend test drive.
By Markus Wiemann, Head of Project Execution — Onshore Wind NE&ME, Senior Vice President at Siemens Gamesa
Last weekend I took a Porsche Taycan for a test drive. The Taycan is the first fully electric car of Porsche and was released at the end of 2019. I drove approximately 250 km (155 miles), starting from Hamburg, Germany. Find below my review that I structured into six areas: intro, design, driving experience, charging, range, and driver assistance systems.
In the segment of electric performance cars, there are only two real contenders: the Porsche Taycan and the Tesla Models S Performance. I drove different versions of the Model S in the past and will include reference to that experience. For this weekend test drive, I rented a Porsche Taycan 4S, with the larger battery option, from a Porsche dealer in Hamburg.
Before sharing some of my test drive experiences, I have two opening remarks to provide context.
Performance sport cars, no matter if they are gasoline or electric, make no sense both from an economical perspective and for the environment. Your first question should be if you really need to own a car, and for most of my life, I decided: No. If your answer is yes, there are many arguments to go for an electric car. Considering value for money, the best options are, for example, a Renault Zoe, Hyundai Kona EV, or Skoda Enyaq. These cost around one-third of the Tesla Model S or Porsche Taycan and provide everything you really need.
I am a renewable energy enthusiast and read basically every electric car review out there. As a company, Tesla especially fascinates me. One can argue about the market valuation of Tesla and the eccentric behavior of Elon Musk. However, the success of Tesla triggered a huge push of innovation in the automotive industry. Without Tesla, legacy automakers would not have started transitioning their portfolios so strongly to electric cars and investing heavily into autonomous driving. Last year, Tesla surpassed Porsche in annual sales, and once Tesla’s new factories in Shanghai, Berlin, and Austin are fully ramped up, output will reach 3 million cars per year. Just 20 years after the founding of the company, Tesla could overtake BMW, Audi, and Mercedes in worldwide sales. A remarkable achievement.
Design and image: different, but both appealing
A big factor why people buy sports cars is the brand value. So let’s start with that.
The Taycan design follows classic Porsche design language with dominant wings, and it even includes hints of air intake ducts. “Hints” because an electric car has no need for air intake ducts. The Taycan headlights are more square compared to classic 911 design, and by that accentuate the ambition to be a performance car. Personally, I love the Porsche Taycan design and it stands out more compared to a Tesla’s everyday sedan style. With a Taycan, you definitely get the attention.
The brand images of Porsche and Tesla are very different. What people typically associate with Tesla are attributes like: disruptive, techy, nerdy, make an impossible vision possible. On the other hand, what people associate with Porsche are attributes like: luxury, iconic design, classy, heritage, and car racing.
If I had to choose purely based on design, I would go for a Porsche. But perception is something very personal and both brands have positive associations with overlapping but slightly different target groups.
So, equal score in this area 1:1
The car: Porsche offers the best driving experience
Due to the low center of gravity, electric cars typically have good road grip. In this field, Porsche can build on its extensive experience in building chassis. And the handling of the Porsche Taycan is simply exceptional. Also, when driving at high speed, you can clearly hear and feel the difference. While a Tesla gets wobbly and noise level goes up, the Porsche Taycan stays rock solid on the street. Complete silence even at 200 km/h in the Taycan — if not it would play ambient engine sound in the Sport+ mode, which increases the fun factor of the car for many.
Both cars have incredible acceleration and a special mode for traffic light kickstarts. Tesla calls this “ludicrous mode” while Porsche calls it “launch control.” And, indeed, your head bangs back and your body is pushed into the seat like in a roller coaster. Before the car next to you at the traffic light even starts to move, you are 300 meters away in your Taycan.
The Porsche also shows superior workmanship, attention to details, and sophisticated materials used for the interior. Everything you touch is built to perfect luxury standards. A second area where Porsche clearly differentiates against Tesla. Tesla has improved quality levels recently, but while the Tesla Model 3 is now on par with competition, for the segment of €100,000+ cars, the Model S must step up.
For driving experience and the car itself, Porsche is the clear winner: 1:0
Charging experience: speed vs. network size
We tested charging of the Taycan at home and at a public supercharger on the Ionity network. A nice feature is that the Taycan has charging plugs both on the left and right side in the front, which provides flexibility in how to park. As a cool gimmick, the flap on the Taycan charging plug was automatically opening and closing.
The Ionity network has 300 charging stalls around Europe, with plans to extend this number to 400 within the next year. Starting from Hamburg, basically in each direction one finds an Ionity supercharger after approximately 50 km. Typically, each stall has a handful charging points with super high charging power up to 350 kW, and when we arrived 4 spot where free. The Tesla supercharger network is larger with more than 500 stalls in Europe and the stalls have more charging points. Another advantage is that Tesla superchargers are for exclusive use of Tesla owners. A downside of the Tesla superchargers is that most of them are old generations with 90 or 125 kW of power capacity per stall, and only recently Tesla started to upgrade to a 3rd generation version with 250 kW.
There are several supercharger networks available and the whole segment is expanding rapidly. We found a 50 kW charging station from EnBW just opposite the Ionity station, but it is clear that charging stations with less than 250 kW are dead horses at highway stations. Why should anyone accept waiting 1.5 hours if you can instead charge your car in 20 min?
Usability was practically as easy as it gets. We swiped the chip card and plugged in the Ionity cable. (A Tesla supercharger just skips the need to swipe the chip card.) The charging speed for our Taycan went up to 260 kW, and after about 10 min went down to 100 kW. Porsche uses 800V battery technology to enable best-in-class charging speed. After 22 minutes, we had recharged the battery from 14% to 72%, which provided approximately 50 kWh of energy. Just enough time to get a cappuccino and eat a croissant.
If in a few years from now, when every highway stop hosts superchargers, long-distance travel with electric cars will be no issue. But keep in mind that Germany has 400 highway gas stations and another 1500 highway parking locations — a comprehensive network needs 10,000 high power charging points just for Germany.
Porsche and Ionity win on charging speed, but Tesla offers the bigger supercharger network and provides users with exclusive access to the Tesla network.
With both having notable pros/cons, I again provide a score of 1:1 (now 3:2 in total)
Range & energy consumption
During the weekend test drive, I experienced energy consumption of 35–40 kWh per 100 km, which is significantly higher than the official rating of 27 kWh per 100 km that Porsche states. To be fair, my driving pattern did not really reflect day-to-day use and basically I only used the sport+ mode of the car. When driving the car more naturally, I ended up with an energy consumption of 30 kWh per 100 km, which I consider the real-life value for the Taycan. In Germany this means a cost of €9–12 per 100 km, depending on the tariff of your electricity provider. With that consumption, a real-life range of 300 km (185 miles) on one charge is possible.
While the charging speed at a supercharger is impressive, the range is not. Because I would always keep a buffer of 50 km (30 miles) of range, the Taycan can only go 250 km (155 miles) on one leg of a journey. In my view, the sweet spot of range is around 500 km (310 miles). Considering value for money and the environment, electric cars should target that sweet spot. Lower range is not sufficient for longer journeys, but significantly higher range means unnecessary weight and cost of the battery. With 500 km of real-world range and enough superchargers (>250 kW), the discussion on long-distance travel is resolved.
In these areas, Tesla has an edge. The battery capacity of a Tesla Model S is slightly higher vs. the Taycan, while at the same time the energy consumption is lower. In my test drives with a Tesla, the energy consumption was around 25 kWh per 100 km. With the larger battery and lower energy consumption, the real-life range of a Tesla Model S Performance gets to just above 500 km. Hopefully Porsche will increase the range of the next-generation Porsche Taycan to get into the range sweet spot. Tesla should not increase range further, but rather utilize the foreseen advancements in battery performance and cost reductions to lower weight and price of its cars.
Talking range and energy consumption, Tesla is the clear winner: 0:1 (now 3:3 in total)
Electronics and driver assistance systems
If you follow the news, this area is where people expect Tesla to be in the prime spot. Surprisingly, the Porsche Taycan impressed me in this area. The cockpit with a curved display is perfectly aligned to the driver’s vision and can be customized to show different views. In the middle, the Taycan shows multiple large touchscreens. The assistant systems are on par with what you get in a Tesla. Two examples: when parking, one can fly around the car 360 degrees to show the view from all angles in computer-rendered perspectives, impressive even if 90% of the time you will only use the back camera. Or you can put a geotag where your Taycan should lift the suspension system, so every time you come to your garage, it will automatically lift the car. (The Tesla Model S also does this.) The Taycan also comes with a smartphone app where you can access all kinds of car data or change settings, like schedule a time to heat the car.
While I love watching YouTube videos of the latest beta versions of Tesla full self-driving (FSD), the functionality that is available today is like what the Porsche Taycan also offers. [Editor’s note: I don’t think the Taycan offers high-quality automatic lane change, and it doesn’t provide Navigate on Autopilot, but I have not driven a Taycan, so cannot say what I think of its driver-assist system overall.]
The electronics in the Taycan are more driver centric and user-friendly, while Tesla is probably 2-3 years ahead in the development of features to come. With “to come” as a keyword.
While intuitively I want to score Tesla the winner in this category, with the experience I had, I rate them on the same level: 1:1 (total score: 4:4)
Overall, I had a fantastic test drive experience in the Porsche Taycan. The car shows the full potential of electric cars and assistant systems. As a technology enthusiast, it was an exciting journey.
Counting my scoring in the different categories, the overall result between the Porsche Taycan and Tesla Model S Performance is a draw. Still, in my summary, there is a clear winner. After all, one buys a performance car for the driving experience, and in this category, Porsche is clearly the winner. The Porsche Taycan is the best electric performance car on the market.
Images and videos courtesy of Markus Wiemann