One of the best things about Tesla ownership is that it's like a shield. When you drive a Tesla as I do, you need protection. Not from the Tesla haters. You need it from Tesla fans—the biggest snowflakes on Earth—who go absolutely nuts at the suggestion another car maker might bring a great electric vehicle to market.
That car is here, and my fellow Tesla owners aren't going to like what I have to say.
When the Porsche Taycan Turbo and Turbo S were launched in late 2019, Tesla fans rushed to criticize Porsche for premium pricing — $150,900 for the Turbo, $185,000 for the Turbo S—and seemingly suboptimal range. The pricing question? Please. I've owned three Porsches, but my last two new cars were Teslas. I loved them all, but let me tell you, Teslas ain't Porsches. If quality, comfort, touch points, road noise, personalization, reliability and resale didn't matter, Porsche would be out of business. But they do matter, which is why P-cars command a premium.
But what about the Porsche Taycan's range?
EPA regulators in America rated the Taycan Turbo at 201 miles, which isn't a good number for an electric vehicle at any price, seems a lot worse at $150,900, and is just terrible at $175,000+, because no one drives a Porsche off the lot without a stack of options. With Porsche, personalization is the point.
I didn't believe the EPA's 201 mile figure for the Taycan. I've driven almost every EV on the planet, including $1M Rimac Concept One — one of only eight in the world — which had 217 miles of range seven years ago. There was no universe in which Porsche would deliver an EV in 2020 with only 201 miles of range. I know the folks at Porsche. These are smart people. They know Tesla is out there. When Porsche held their big Taycan press event last September at Niagara Falls, they knew a Tesla Model S Long Range had an EPA rating of 370. The S Performance? 345 miles. The latest versions of the Model S have EPA ratings of 391 and 348 miles, respectively.
But Tesla's numbers have never really made sense to me either.
I've driven a lot of Teslas. I set the electric cross-country record three times: twice in a Model S, once in a Model 3. These are great cars, but I can tell you that there's no universe in which a Tesla can approach its EPA ratings in real-world driving. Every Tesla I've ever driven displayed wildly optimistic range projections. If my Model 3 — which sits on 18" aero wheels — indicates 100% battery and 311 miles of range, I might get 230 miles out of it on the highway, which is most of what I do.
I had a hunch. If Tesla's EPA and indicated range figures are optimistic, then could Porsche's figures be wrong in the other direction? Porsche has a long history of conservatism when it comes to specs. I was curious to find out what the Taycan could do under real world conditions, so I was thrilled when Porsche agreed to let me borrow two different Taycan Turbos, one to familiarize myself with the car in LA, and the other for an 800 mile round trip from Los Angeles to Phoenix and back.
But let's get to the BIG test, which I did in a brand new "Gentian Blue Metallic" Taycan with a grey interior sitting on 20" Turbo Aero wheels, the smallest Porsche offers on the Turbo. If you want optimal range and ride comfort, smaller wheels = better. Here's my steed for the LA-Phoenix-LA run:
How much better than 201 could I really do? Early Taycan owners claimed they had greatly surpassed 201, but that was anecdotal. In late January InsideEVs published a pretty granular review claiming 240 miles range was possible in a Turbo. In early February, a Car & Driver comparo of the Taycan Turbo S and Tesla Model S Performance confirmed my observation of Tesla's optimistic range estimates and the absurd pessimism of the EPA's Porsche ratings. Just so there is no confusion: the EPA rated the Turbo S at 194 miles vs. 348 for the Model S Performance. That's a 154 mile difference, yet by the end of Car & Driver's test, the two cars were only 13 miles apart in real-world range: 209 miles for the Taycan Turbo S, 222 for the Model S Performance.
If the EPA said the Taycan Turbo could only do 201 miles, my plan was to do 300.
The plan was simple. Drive east from Santa Monica, CA to Phoenix, Arizona and back—a distance of 800 miles round trip. I would stop twice going each way, at the Electrify America charging stations in Indio, CA and Buckeye, AZ. I would test the Taycan's Normal, Sport and Sport Plus modes eastbound, then drive back west the following day in RANGE mode. I would observe the accuracy of the Taycan's range estimator, and record GoPro video of the dashboard for posterity.
The drive east went exactly as you'd expect. Normal mode combines the Taycan's wonderful air suspension with acceleration better than most internal combustion cars ever made. Sport mode is just as wasteful as a Tesla in Ludicrous mode. Sport Plus exists only for masochists. There is absolutely no reason to use either Sport mode unless one is on a track. The big takeaway? How the Taycan's range estimator instantly adjusted to mode changes. The big question was how accurate it might be.
For the return trip, I drove from Phoenix to Buckeye, AZ and charged the Taycan to 100 percent...
...and then took pictures to document the Taycan's range estimations in each mode on this 72-degree day:
Range mode indicated the highest (obviously) at 270 miles, only 30 miles shy of my 300 mile target. Could I do it? I wasn't interested in hypermiling at 55 mph in the right lane. I was on the highway so a lowered suspension setting was comfortable. RANGE mode limits the Taycan to 70mph, a perfectly reasonable real world cruising speed. It also kicks the A/C down into one of two different ECO modes, which is also sufficient even with exterior temperatures in the 70s.
You won't believe what happened next. Watch the video for yourself. Pay close attention not only to the range estimate at the bottom center of the display, but to the elapsed distance ("Dist.") in the center of the circle on the right side of the dashboard:
That's right. Set the radar cruise control system to 70mph and start driving. The range estimate starts counting down, the elapsed distance begins counting up, and their sum begins increasing well beyond 270 miles.
Fast forward to 3:46 and look at what you get:
I actually saw a 297 mile combined estimate once we pulled over, but I thought we should round it down to 295 since that was the best number I achieved while in motion. Could I have run the Taycan down to zero to get a final figure? Sure, but then I would have been stuck on the side of the road, and I don't have access to a vehicle mounted electric car charger.
So the EPA is wrong, the Tesla fans are wrong, and I was right. Score one for the Germans and the Porsche software guys for their skill and honesty. Conservative? Porsche seems to have shot itself in the foot by lowballing the Taycan's range performance. Live in a state with highway speed limits are above 70, or the temperatures go above 80 degrees? Normal mode will get you at least real-world 240 miles, and I saw estimates as high as 270.
Drive a Taycan like a normal person in any mode and it's totally usable as a daily driver. Even in Range mode, the Taycan's acceleration is better than most internal combustion vehicles. Unless you're driving cross-country, very few people are driving more than 100 miles a day. If you can afford a Taycan, you can afford a home charger. Get one and you'll be very happy.
Now I just need to get into a Taycan 4S, which is what Porsche calls the base model. A German magazine just took one out with the optional extended range battery, and claimed 341 miles of real-world range. Hey Porsche, lend me a Taycan 4S. I bet you I can get 375 miles out of it.
Alex Roy is Director of Special Operations at Argo.AI, editor-at-large at The Drive, host of the No Parking and Autonocast podcasts, co-host of /DRIVE on NBC Sports, founder of the Human Driving Association, author of The Driver, and Producer of APEX: The Secret Race Across America. He has set numerous endurance driving records, including the infamous Cannonball Run record, and believes in mobility as a fundamental human right. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.