The 2020 Porsche Taycan: The Empire Strikes Back
The stunning Taycan isn’t a Tesla Killer. It’s something else entirely.
The Porsche Taycan has finally arrived, and it is a triumph. Not because of the specs or the speeches or the stunning Niagara Falls backdrop in front of which one is rotating as I write this. It’s a triumph because it makes me feel something I rarely feel about any new car, at any price.
I want one.
Why? Because it's not boring. Most new cars — especially electric vehicles — are boring. Everyone talks about cutting edge technology, but almost everyone buys the same modular components from the same suppliers to build the same sausage with a different badge on it. Even supercars are boring. They're so boring the word "hypercar" was invented to solve the boredom. But, as Hannah Elliot pointed out, hypercars themselves are mostly meant to sit and depreciate until their "owners" can't make their payments, or they're kicked off YouTube. Which makes hypercars boring too.
Just look at it. It looks exactly like the first all-electric Porsche should. Wait until you feel the way the doors shut. It's built like a f*cking tank. The paint is incredible. The touchpoints are perfect. The materials are gorgeous. The seats fit one like a cliched glove. Its specs are incredible in every way that matters: 0-60mph in a repeatable 2.6 seconds. It's capable of a sustained 161 mph. It corners like a track car, because it's built for the track.
These are the reasons one buys a Porsche.
Yes, a Tesla Model S P100D will 0-60 faster, but only an idiot will brag about that. Driving is the art of turning, and the Taycan is designed for that first. I love my Tesla as much as any other Tesla fan, but in no universe can you track a Model S the way you can a Taycan.
If trackability, reliability, solidity, touchpoints and feel don't matter to you, there's a company based in Fremont with the perfect alternative. I bought my Model 3 for very different reasons. Emotion was one, Autopilot was the other. I wanted the future, and for years only Tesla sold it. Now, clickbait-writers, idiots and shills will want to debate whether or not the Taycan is a Tesla Killer, but it's obviously not. Does the Taycan compete directly with a Model 3? An X? An S? No. No. And no.
The Taycan is another facet of the future, and it is in a different class than any Tesla.
The Model S is a family sedan with twice as much cargo capacity than the Taycan's <15 cubic feet. Its rear seat is more spacious. Tesla offers Autopilot — the state-of-the-art in lane keeping technology — which is an enormous convenience for long drives. The P100D is slightly faster off the line, but does that matter? Any Model S — like any Taycan — will accelerate off the line faster than most internal combustion cars ever made since the dawn of the automobile era. (FYI: Tesla's sweet spot is the 100D. Trust me.)
By comparison, the Taycan is the first true electric sports car, built to be used like one, and built to last. That it has two extra doors and a usable rear seat is simply a bonus, as is the fact that all four seats are more comfortable than anything in a Tesla. It's the opposite of mobility appliances like the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Bolt. It's utterly emotional. Like obscenity, you know it when you see it. The specs almost don't matter. It's designed to be driven. That the Taycan comes from Porsche makes perfect sense.
Yes, the Taycan's 280 miles of WLTP-rated range is obviously inferior to the Model S 100D's EPA-certified 370, but the Electrify America network will charge at a much faster rate than the Tesla Supercharger's current spec, a step up the Taycan's 800-volt battery is primed to accept.
Tesla fans will bitch and moan about the Taycan's lack of "Full Self-Driving" capability, but I've got bad news for them. As a happy Tesla owner who works in the self-driving industry, the likelihood that your Tesla will reach Level 5 autonomy anytime soon is zero. Level 4? That's another article, but they're probably not going to like that one either.
Newsflash: The Taycan is for people who want to drive, and continue doing so. That's why Porsche exists as a company. If you don't understand that, no Porsche ever made was made for you, and the company might as well not exist.
But it does exist — and continues to grow — because it fulfills deeply human needs no one company can ever resolve. The need for change. To be different. To own the future. Those needs are resolved when people save up to move from a Honda Accord to a Tesla Model 3. Those needs are resolved when five friends of mine say they would never buy a Tesla, but they are trading in their Porsche 911s for Taycans.
Questions remain. When will Porsche release the lower priced model with more range that was hinted at? Porsche mentioned over-the-air (OTA) updates at an earlier workshop, but didn't talk about them at the reveal. What functionalities will be upgradeable? Will they OTA update/unlock more range from the current batteries? What will Porsche lane-keeping be capable of? Will Innodrive 2 be anything like Tesla Autopilot? Porsche mentioned C.A.S.E (Connectivity, Autonomy, Sharing, Electrification) a lot at the pre-reveal event. What is the driver assistance path for the Taycan?
As a Tesla owner, I'm thrilled that Porsche has finally released an alternative electric vehicle that is beautiful, emotional and sufficiently different from Tesla that the EV sector can expand rather than cannibalize itself. Porsche should be very proud. Many other automakers had the time and money to deliver an emotional electric vehicle. They failed, and Tesla ran away with the sector for years.
Those days are over. The Taycan is what happens when companies let their best concepts come to life. I would own one in a heartbeart, but I've got two years left on a Model 3 I absolutely love, and I just had a baby, which means that however much I have wants, needs must come first. Maybe those needs will be met by that Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo instead.
Coming soon: my Tesla vs Taycan head-to-head comparison. Guaranteed to anger many.
Alex Roy is Director of Special Operations at Argo.AI, founder of the Human Driving Association, editor-at-large at The Drive, host of The Autonocast, co-host of /DRIVE on NBC Sports, 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.