The battle for battery cars started here, with big saloons. First, in 2009, was Tesla’s model S. Based around the running gear of a Mercedes-Benz E-class, Model S changed the terms of trade for lithium-ion propulsion. For a start, it didn’t make any money, which left the rest of the motor industry somewhat nonplussed, but it drove well, had an amazing cabin and was backed up by a network of high-current superchargers, which were free to use. Perhaps that’s why it has taken so long for the smoke-stack motor industry to come up with a rival; ten years to be exact for Porsche with its Taycan.
Launched in 2019, Taycan was based on the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show concept, the Mission E. While it’s profit contribution will have been less than that from Porsche’s big SUVs, the company assured us that it wasn’t losing on the Taycan. Small wonder, then, that for the first 18 months of sale, the Taycan range has been exclusively at the top end of the range with cars like the Turbo and Turbo S (weird choice of name for a EV), with four-wheel drive, massive batteries and gosh-wobbling performance. Cheapest car (and arguably the best), is the £83,580 4s model, which with the Performance battery option, is still capable of 155mph, 0-62mph in four second and has 522bhp.
All the same, Taycan has been a phenomenon. Last year it was Porsche UK’s second best seller behind the Macan family SUV and that’s with cars costing up to £140,000. You might reasonably ask yourself whether the planet will be saved by rich folk driving around in battery-electric luxury saloons costing four and half times the average disposable household income. You might also wonder what environmental damage is done in manufacturing half-tonne 100kWh batteries of such enormity or what happens to them when they are exhausted, but for the moment at least the average cost of the Taycan is coming down as Porsche extends the model range downwards, to this, the rear drive model.
Taycan’s most basic model has a choice of two battery capacities and power outputs (79kWh and 402bhp, or 93kWh and 469bhp) with respective ranges of 268 or 301 miles and a starter price tag of £70,690. It’s worth noting, however, that our test car was fitted with such a litany of options, its price was over £90,000. While the most important thing is the price and the new constituency of buyers it will attract, it’s the rear-wheel drive which will attract most attention in the press. Motoring journalists get jolly excited about cars driven from the rear as in theory it offers a more rewarding driving experience, but mostly because they can show off their prowess with photographs of them swinging the tail out like an old-school rally star.
We’ll come back to this…
There’s not a lot of changes to the coachwork, just a set of ugly 19-inch wheels and Michelin tyres, which some owners will no doubt swap in the options list. It’s a big car, almost five metres long and two metres wide, which is a bit shorter than a Porsche Panamera and about the same size as a Tesla Model S. I’m not sure about the socketed headlamps which don’t look much better when they’re employed on the McLaren 720S. The size is in some ways, a solution to the problem of carrying such a large volume of batteries to give the requisite performance and range. A smaller car would have to have a thicker floor, which would mean an even higher seating position. It’s why most big battery cars have so far been SUVs.
So, you sit quite high in the beautifully finished cabin, which has a unique and lovely design. The seats are comfortable and supportive, with lots of adjustment to the steering column so a decent driving position should be available to all.
There are three main screens with a curved, floating digital instrument binnacle and a couple of oblong screens across the dashboard like the Mercedes-Benz twin-screen design, but with the second in front of the passenger. It’s like a Porsche from the future, except for the fact that the touch screens pick up greasy finger marks easily, so the future’s going to mean a lot of polishing. Oh, and the centre ventilators, while attractive, have open grilles, which will allow all manner of objects to fall down the ducting and rattle away down there. Rear seats are spacious, but the roof line means headroom is tight in the back. Despite its size, Taycan is really only a four-seater, with an occasional perch in the centre of the rear bench. The rear-seat backs fold flat onto their bases and the boot is shallow but large, displacing 407 litres, with an additional 80-litre space under the bonnet.
Our car came with the £4,049 Performance battery and with 469bhp/356Nm on overboost, a rear motor and a two-speed transmission. That two-speed gearbox is interesting since EVs produce so much torque they lunch transmissions like this; Tesla tried and failed to develop one for its first Roadster. The Taycan uses an epicyclic gear train with a dog clutch and a multi-plate oil-bath unit to ease changes (though you still hear and feel them) - it's basically a Laycock de Normanville overdrive unit with a clever engagement system. Performance is very brisk, but not as brain-frazzling as the Turbo models. Top speed is 143mph, with 0-62mph in 5.4sec. Range in the WLTP cycle is 301 miles and on a chilly day we estimate at least a realistic 250-mile range.
Recharging on a household wallbox takes about 13.5 hours and on an 11kW AC street charger it’s 9 hours. It’s direct current (DC) charging, however, which promises the most effective utilisation. Taycan’s standard battery is capable of being charged at 225kW and the Performance battery can charge at 270kW, which means for the latter model, on a suitable DC charger, you can get an 80 per cent charge in 22.5 minutes. More realistically, a 50kW DC charger will charge to 80 per cent in 93 minutes. With an efficiency of 3.6kW per mile this version isn’t disgraceful and using the Government’s latest greenhouse-gas equivalent figures for generating electricity, it emits 40g/km. It’s worth recalling that even battery cars are no environmental free lunch.
Press the on button and the dash bleeps and bongs as the systems are checked and readied. Pull away and this big car rolls gently forward without surging or bolting – Porsche’s throttle software has been carefully worked here. Vision out isn’t too bad and rear three-quarter views are clear, although our test car had £480’s worth of park-assist system and reversing camera, which you really want in a tight spot. While the standard car runs on steel springs, ours came with £1,527’s worth of adaptive three-chamber air suspension, which boosts the ride and handling on the more expensive models. The ride seems well judged and the Taycan hides its weight well, although larger sharp edge bumps and potholes with thud through the steel and aluminium frame.
The refinement, though, is remarkable, which isn’t easy to get right on a heavy EV, with low drivetrain noise and tough tyres with hard sidewalls, when every bump, ripple and even the windscreen wipers threaten to disturb the peace. At motorway speeds, there’s a slight puff of wind round the door mirrors, but otherwise it’s pretty much silent and it’s rather too easy to break the speed limit in this car.
Turn off onto smaller roads and the body control is subtle, although there are times when it appears you are pummelling the road surface with weight and the ground clearance is so low that a couple of times the flat bottom scuffed the top of a large bump. The steering is light, turns off the dead ahead with precision and, with the front wheels freed of driving duties, there’s more feedback to the wheel rim than with the 4x4 models.
Driving modes are: Normal; Sport; Sport Plus; Range; and Individual, which do pretty much what you’d expect, with Sport Plus adding a growling speed-dependant noise into the cabin. Best for just driving, was Range, where the low drivetrain inertia and slippery aerodynamics meant the car rolled on forever when you lifted the throttle – and its limited to 80mph, which help preserve your licence. The Sport settings weren’t completely convincing, though, adding a weird heaviness to the steering and making the throttle control less progressive.
Which brings us to the sideways stuff and, if you were so inclined, indeed the RWD Taycan will go sideways. What’s more impressive considering the battery energy delivery characteristics of maximum torque at zero revs and the complication of that extra gear in the transmission, is that the throttle is so progressive that you can ease it off the slide as you would a really well-set-up internal-combustion engined car.
What’s even more impressive, however, is just how much the Taycan doesn’t want to go sideways when you drive fast. It’s stable and docile and a pleasure to drive, which is just as it should be.
So, it’s a fast luxurious saloon, then, but not really one for English B roads, where its width makes it inhibiting. Our car came with £210’s worth of electrically retractable door mirrors, but there were still moments on country lanes where I sucked in my cheeks when I met on-coming traffic.
With front brakes slightly smaller than those on the 4x4 model, I’d expected a bit less stopping power, but that wasn’t really an issue, although it would have been nice to have a bit more grab on first pressing the pedal.
Taycan might be the first, but it certainly won’t be the last. There’s an SUV version on the way and the next generation of the Macan SUV will be all electric, perhaps even the 718 (Boxster/Cayman), although last year Oliver Blume Porsche’s chief executive, said that he hoped that those cars would keep an internal combustion presence.
And while it’s far from being a scary beast, the RWD Taycan feels like the driver’s version in the range; well balanced, with better control progression and feedback, and on the right (read wide) road, a lot of fun.
I’ve got a feeling that Porsche is going to sell a lot of these things.
Model tested: Porsche Taycan RWD Performance battery
Price: from £70,690, as tested £91,936.
Motor: single permanent-magnet synchronous AC motor on rear axle with two-speed epicyclic transmission
Battery: standard is 79kWh gross, as tested the optional Performance battery is93.4kWh gross lithium-ion
Power/torque: 469bhp/356Nm on launch control overboost, with 375bhp continuous power.
0-62mph: 5.4sec using launch control over boost
Top speed: limited to 143mph
Range in WLTP: 301 miles
Efficiency: 3.6 miles per kWh
CO2 emissions: 40.3g/km well-to-wheels, see text
VED Band: zero rated