Henry Ford once noted, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said, ‘Faster horses.’” A quote that no doubt would resonate in the upper halls of the Porsche kingdom right now. Porsche, like all automakers, is heading for an electric future, but are Porsche-philes going to put up the biggest fight?
Porsche has built its legend on making better, faster horses. For those who worship at the altar of equines with four wheels, flat-six engines aft of the saddle and divine mechanical interaction, the thought of a horse that doesn’t fart, belch, or require constant care and feeding simply doesn’t compute.
Porsche fanatics embrace change like woodpeckers welcome a headache. The 1997 switch from air-cooled to water-cooled in the 911? Might as well have painted Ray-Bans on the Mona Lisa, or slid a lime-green Borat sling on Michelangelo’s David. The adoption of electric steering in the 911 was nearly as traumatic, and we won’t even mention the Cayenne SUV. What else? Oh, the growly four-pot turbo engines in the latest-gen 718 Boxster and Cayman caused such a furor (and sales decline) that Porsche bowed to pressure and now offers naturally aspirated 4.0L flat-sixes in its mid-engine sportscars. And we say, thank you.
But the thought of purely electric Porsches could be the last straw for some. I know of a few folks who are still rocking in the fetal position under their kitchen tables after hearing the next-generation Boxster and Cayman will suck not dino juice but electrons.
Shall the twain ever meet? Well, I hear the twain coming now. I’ve invited two Porsche sports car owners to ponder the future of their sacred marque in the form of a 2020 Taycan Turbo press car, here with an as-tested price of $191,740. Dave Johannesson pulls up in his 2008 Boxster S and Steve Heathcote at the wheel of his 2014 Cayman S. Being purists (and a couple of Canada’s finest drummers), their cars have three pedals and a wobbly stick between the seats. The Taycan is white and the Boxster/Cayman duo sinister black. Some symbolism here?
Full disclosure. I am a Porsche geek, having driven just about every car Porsche has made over the last couple of decades and I own a 2001 Boxster S. I was ready to dislike the Taycan Turbo. I was not ready for how fast Porsche’s deep-dive into the EV world would turn my blinkered wariness on its head. Both literally and figuratively.
Speed is pretty much a given with top-shelf electric cars, and the Taycan Turbo with its 670 horsepower and 626 lb-ft of instant torque does not disappoint – and this isn’t even the fastest one. The Taycan Turbo S lays down 750 hp and 774 lb-ft. Nonetheless, the Taycan Turbo is shockingly fast no matter which way you slice it, and while that acceleratory party trick never gets old, it’s what Porsche has managed to bake into this weighty all-wheel-drive four-door sedan that really impresses.
The Taycan drives like a true Porsche. Within the first few metres of humming away from a stop, this sedan speaks volumes. You sit sports-car-low in the fabulously supportive seats, the steering is alert and tactile, and there’s an immediate, intrinsic connection to car and road surface that speaks as much to Porsche’s history as it does to the future. Bend into your first corner and the Taycan’s agility, body control and compliance make you wonder how Porsche did it. On top of that, the Taycan is stunningly beautiful.
Ah, but I wasn’t going to give away my feelings to Dave and Steve just yet. After all, we are brothers in our devotion to engines with six opposing holes that suck, squeeze, bang, and blow. Humming is more ho-hum, right fellas?
After a brief country-road blast with the mid-engine pair in tow (on a few occasions I teleported into the future, such is the speed in which I leave them in my silent wake) we assembled at Springridge Farm from where I would take them for a spin.
Both Dave and Steve commented on the Taycan’s gorgeous lines, and expressed some shock in how I had disappeared up the road like a shot from a Howitzer. But I sensed judgement and resistance. They circled like a couple of wary coyotes. Is this beast too big to take down?
Since I couldn’t allow either of my friends drive this press car, theirs was going to be more of a Taycan introduction as opposed to an intimate encounter. Yet you gotta start somewhere, and as far I knew, neither Dave nor Steve had ever been in any fully electric car.
The Taycan’s cabin is spectacular, such is its design and overarching sense of solidity. There’s no flash or frivolity, yet merely sitting here seems a guarantee no buyer will ever feel they overpaid. We strap in and I prepare the apprehensive lads for a blazing EV experience.
What’s this on the dash? An orange warning says the adaptive suspension is not working and service is required! Well this is embarrassing. All of a sudden, the Taycan Turbo has the ride of an ox cart and neither Sport nor Sport Plus mode is available. My “analogue” friends are quietly diplomatic, but I just know inside they are rubbing their gas-soaked hands in glee. We glide to a stop and I shut down in hopes a reboot will fix the issue. Success. I’m pretty sure I heard “Yeah, I used to do that with my Commodore 64” coming from the back seat.
Enough of that. Sport Plus mode, launch control, and a straight stretch of road shuts down the derision and fills the cabin with a synthesized Star Wars-esque whine along with whelps of glee, punctuated by a few unprintables. A snaking road is then unraveled with poise and absolute fluency.
I wish my friends could have experienced the Taycan from behind the wheel. For anyone who has driven a Porsche, this EV sedan will feel immediately familiar, confidence inspiring and indeed comforting in that it sends a clear signal Zuffenhausen has no intention of diluting its core values in the move to electrification.
Was this brief encounter enough to bring my ICE-y friends onside?
Dave Johannesson: “The Taycan certainly has astonishing performance, and the fit and finish is all Porsche. I was actually surprised by how cool it sounded, certainly nothing like my combustion car, but quite cool in its own right.
“However, when I got back in my S, well, it just reminded me how significant a contribution sound makes to the overall driving thrill. Interestingly, young guys like my son are really excited about electric, they don’t share our motor love, so who knows?
“I suppose, like manual transmissions, eventually the choice will be made for us. We should be happy that performance surely will not be left behind. But I’m very glad my time on earth was during the pinnacle of internal combustion. Now, I think I’ll go fire up my flat-six!”
Steve Heathcote: “Easily recognized as a Porsche. Design and execution both inside and out are of the highest level – world-class.
“The launch from a standstill reminded me of my experience riding ‘Top Thrill Dragster’ at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio! The absence of an ICE soundtrack was replaced with a high-tech turbine whoosh; certainly not something I’m willing to give up as a driver in my lifetime – my favourite option in my 981 Cayman S is the factory sport exhaust.
“The Taycan is an incredible car, but I prefer to dance to a different drummer!”
So what’s the takeaway here? While my friends aren’t complete converts, their brief encounter has turned the Taycan, in their minds, from pariah to respected newcomer. On a personal note, a week in this Taycan Turbo has shown me it’s possible to love both gas-powered and electric Porsches. In fact, the perfect garage for me would be the upcoming Taycan Cross Turismo (it will fit my upright bass) and the 718 Spyder – Carrera White Metallic over red, please.
Granted, winning over the mid-engine faithful with the eventual all-electric Boxster and Cayman will be a mighty hurdle, but as Porsche R&D boss Michael Steiner recently told the European press, “while we don’t currently plan to develop another combustion engine architecture, that doesn’t mean we cannot maintain and improve models using the existing ones.” The Porsche universe appears to be unfolding as it should.