Amps to Amelia: The all-electric Taycan road-trips to meet Porsche heritage
As we rolled our three whispering Porsche Taycans onto the field at the Werks Reunion, the big Porsche show before the Amelia Island Concours, some guy waved his hand at us in the universal signal to rev the engine. Then he laughed to himself at his own little joke. Yeah, you can’t do that with an electric car, zing its engine for the crowd. Not yet, anyway, not until you can buy custom car sounds from the iTunes store. In the future, there will be Porsche Taycans that sound like Ferrari F1 cars and P-51 Mustangs, mark my words. Just not yet. So we whispered on, trying not to accidentally run anyone over by stealth.
It had been an exceedingly wet passage to Florida’s north coast from Atlanta, where Porsche’s North American headquarters now sit in a somewhat new building next to the test track of the equally new Porsche Experience Center. There, in sheeting rain the day before, a small group of auto media types (plus retired Porsche racing star Hurley Haywood) had each been issued a Porsche Taycan Turbo S for a 375-mile hydrocarbon-free blast to the concours weekend at Amelia Island, just north of Jacksonville, Florida.
Porsche being Porsche, with its deep sense of its own history—as well as the commercial possibilities it offers—wrapped three of the Taycans in historic racing liveries. The local Brumos team, for which Haywood drove for years, was represented by a white Taycon splashed with sweeps of red and blue and the iconic Brumos number of 59. Another red Taycan was emblazoned with white streaks, evoking the Salzburg Porsche 917K that won Le Mans in 1970. The third car recalled the famous Pink Pig racers that turned heads back in the day with their flesh-colored schemes marked up with butcher’s cuts labeled auf Deutsche. Judging from the number of phones flashed at the piggy Taycan, it was the Instagram star of the trio. We jumped in and hummed away into the deluge, aiming for our first recharging stop at a Walmart Supercenter in Cordele, Georgia.
Porsche’s new Tesla fighter is a curvy limpet, the Turbo S being the fastest and, at $185,000 to start, most expensive version. But it won’t go far without a conjugal visit from the charger. It can do 192 miles on the EPA test cycle, far less than a significantly cheaper Tesla Model S can run on a charge. Porsche says its customers want performance wrapped in Porsche dynamics and heritage, and they aren’t as obsessed with range as the Tesla tifosi. Mm, maybe.
Out on the waterlogged highway, we tried a few acceleration warps from 70 mph. Neighboring cars went from being passive freeway companions to tracer bullets coming at us. The 5200-pound Turbo S is silly fast, and performs as such in the instant way of electric cars. Electrics don’t gradually build steam as internal-combustion cars do, but instead just blow like grenades. There’s no associated rise in engine noise to warn your passengers, either, so you have to first announce your intention to mat it or you’ll get complaints as unwitting bodies slam into the seats.
The Taycan is nearly silent but there is some tractor-beam noise made by the sound system. Turn the mode selector through from its most efficient Range mode to Normal, Sport, and Sport Chrono, and the car will not only hunker down for speed, it will make an unearthly flying-saucer hum inside. It’s cute, but the iTunes store will someday offer better options.
No, the Taycan Turbo S has no actual turbocharger. What it has is a hulking, liquid-cooled, 16,000-rpm electric motor on each axle with a peak combined output of 750 horsepower and 774 pound-feet of torque. The amount of torque they apply to the wheels varies, as when in Range mode, when the car unhooks its rear motor and runs as a front-driver. Slung between these in the car’s basement is a 93.4 kWh battery (that’s the 40-gallon-tank option of batteries, in case you don’t speak Kilowattese) plus a novel two-speed automatic transmission. The transmission shifts entirely by computer and is there to supply both low- and high-speed acceleration, the latter being harder for electric vehicles in general.
The Taycan is heavy at around 5200 pounds, yet blindingly quick, with a tested 60-mph time of 2.4 seconds. But it is not efficient. An electron hog, it scores the worst miles-per-gallon-equivalent (68 MPGe) of any electric on the market. The next worse is the Audi e-Tron (74 MPGe) followed by the Jaguar I-Pace (76 MPGe). Tesla’s Model S mostly scores 100 and above. Part of the Taycan’s poor rating is due to that two-speed transmission, which supplies super-sedan acceleration at all speeds at the expense of parasitic loss. It is the best example of Porsche choosing driving performance over efficiency in the Taycan’s design.
Thus, just 135 miles down the road, we skimmed into the Walmart parking lot where a brace of Electrify America chargers stood ready to blast juice into our cars with the force of 800 volts. Fast freeway driving drains batteries the quickest, but it would take only about 20 minutes to go from about a 20 percent charge to almost full. We wandered the Walmart looking for coffee, observing that a Taycan is probably a typical Porsche owner’s best chance to be introduced to more of real America. When we unplugged, the bill from Electrify America was about $22. If you drove the same 135 miles in a car getting 20 mpg and refilled at the current national average for regular unleaded of $2.40, the cost would be $16.20. Undoubtedly, it would be cheaper to charge at home, especially overnight when the rates are lowest.
Juiced up, we carried on. The Taycan doesn’t do heavy regeneration like most electric cars, so if you lift off for a slower car, the slippery aerodynamics and lower rolling resistance of the special Pirelli P-Zero PZ4 ELE-T tires means this e-Porsche does not coast down very quickly. Owners of other electrics may be disappointed that so-called “one-pedal” driving, in which the brakes are rarely touched because the motor’s regeneration mode slows the car enough, is difficult. You can push a button to up the Taycan’s regen, and also have it adjust automatically based on the proximity of the car in front of you. And you can set the speed threshold at which the system engages down to as low as 20 mph, meaning one-pedal-ish driving in city traffic is possible if you know the car’s tricks. But a thorough knowledge of the owner’s manual is required.
Our next charging point was 145 miles down I-75, at a Shell station just off I-10 in Lake City, Florida. Were we in gasoline cars, we could have taken a more direct route to Amelia and done it non-stop in most cars, but the dictates of fast-charging meant we had to stick to the major interstates where Electrify America and others have built quick-chargers for the pioneers transiting long distances by battery. Again, there was no wait at the chargers, though one of the units was down and we could only charge two cars at a time. Even though you know charging doesn’t begin until the hand-held charge pistol is inserted into the car’s port and the computer does some communication checks with the charging station, it’s still a little daunting plugging in an 800-volt charger in pouring rain.
Another 20 or so minutes passed while electrons fired into the Taycan’s batteries at light speed. Hurley commented on how cemented the car felt to the road even while punching through torrential rain. Another driver noted, as the old car ads used to say, an abundance of “road-hugging weight.” The Taycan steers and stops with Porsche athleticism, but its highway demeanor is more Bentley than Butzi. The power is right there when you summon it, and the long wheelbase makes for a beautiful touring ride (if not, for some reason, a hugely generous back seat and trunk). You can key up firmer shock settings with a dash button, but why? It’s just so lovely in the base setting.
At Werks Reunion we parked with other new Porsches at the factory stand and surrounded by acres of cars representing 70 years of Porsche history. The Taycan stands entirely apart from them, even apart from the Porsche SUVs that were once thought to be the apocalypse, and which now have their own class at the Reunion. Porsche is painfully aware of the precarious line it is crossing with its electric sedan, but the company feels it has to move forward or die. Its first attempt is beautifully flawed, being short on range and interior space while long on looks and performance.
Porsche is still redefining itself in this new era, and it’s obvious that it didn’t want to build just another electric car, it wanted to build an electric Porsche—or, basically, an electrified version of its existing sedan, the Panamera. As such, these three Taycans carried us to Amelia Island in comfort. It remains to be seen where the Taycan takes Porsche next.