Why The Top-of-the-Line Porsche Taycan EV Will Be Called “Turbo” (UPDATED)
What’s the best way to sell a performance EV? Use ICE terminology.
I just signed up on the Porsche website to place a deposit on the Taycan EV — their alleged Tesla Killer — and got the most entertaining response. According to an e-mail from their local brand ambassador, the base Taycan will be called a Taycan, the all-wheel drive version will be called the 4S, and the performance model will be called the Turbo.
A. Porsche. Taycan. Turbo. Wait. What?
I think the likelihood of a Taycan hybrid is near zero, which means Porsche has decided that internal combustion engine (ICE) nomenclature is the best way to sell the most profitable version of their hotly anticipated Taycan EV.
At first I hated the idea. Does Tesla call the performance version of the S, X or 3 a Turbo? Of course not. They add a "P" prefix, because adding "Turbo" to a model from a pure EV brand would make no sense.
But Porsche isn't a pure EV brand.
Of all the brands that could possibly use the word "Turbo" for the top-of-the-line EV, Porsche may be the only one that could get away with it. Take a look at Porsche's history. Many auto makers have offered turbocharged cars, but Porsche is pretty much the only brand where "Turbo" supplanted the model designation, at least in popular usage, and deservedly so.
Just take a look at this old 930 decklid:
Or how about this one?
Yes, I know it seems super cynical to use a word traditionally associated with ICE engines to brand a performance EV, but Porsche has some pretty decent excuses:
1) Actual turbochargers are pretty much standard across Porsche engines now, yet Porsche only uses "Turbo" decklid badging on the halo edition of any given model.
2) If you want to sell the most profitable/expensive version of something, use a word that is associated with the "best". When it comes to Porsches, Turbo = best. Or at least most expensive.
I really wanted to hate Porsche's decision here, but it's actually brilliant. Whether or not we like it, EVs are inevitable, and we should all be excited that one of the world's coolest sports car brands is diving in, not only with what appears to be a terrific car, but with nomenclature that has real history.
Decoupling "Turbo" from ICE such that it is associated with speed vs. technology is the best way to market EVs to first time buyers. I'm confident Porsche will deliver something spectacular. Will I be placing a deposit on a Taycan Turbo? Unlikely. I'm less interested in EV speed than I am in range, and if Tesla is any example, a stripper Taycan will offer more range per dollar than the Turbo.
I'll keep you updated as I learn more from my local dealer. They've been very responsive on every question except where those super fast charging stations are supposed to be. Any "Tesla-Killer" isn't unless it can charge somewhere as fast as (or faster) than a Tesla Supercharger. I do a lot of long distance driving. If I don't like what I hear, you may see me in a Tesla 100D. Soon.
Let's just hope that the Taycan Turbo just says "Turbo" on the back, rather than "Porsche Taycan Turbo" in three different fonts. Let's also hope Porsche educates their dealers well enough that they don't let any customers drive out thinking they've got a performance hybrid. If so, someone's car is gonna get bricked.
But Porsche is better than that, right?
(UPDATE: Porsche North America replied to my inquiry with the following statement: "No official pricing or information on the Taycan has been announced, and as a matter of policy we don’t participate in speculation about future product before a production vehicle has been officially unveiled/introduced.")
Alex Roy is founder of Geotegic Consulting and the Human Driving Association; editor-at-large at The Drive; host of The Autonocast; co-host of /DRIVE on NBC Sports; and author of The Driver. He has set numerous endurance driving records, including the infamous Cannonball Run record. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.