For the better part of a decade, the Tesla Model S has been living a blissful, competition-free existence as the only premium electric vehicle on the market. That’s about to change—fast.
Earlier this month, Porsche debuted its new entrant in the premium EV battle—the 2020 Porsche Taycan. Loosely based on the company’s Mission E Concept, the Taycan is a cross between Porsche’s Panamera and legendary 911. In other words, it’s a true luxury sedan that’s electric.
The Taycan is currently available in two variants (the Turbo and Turbo S). Neither is actually a turbo, of course—the concept doesn’t work in the electrified realm. So why use the moniker? Probably to appeal to the classic Porsche customer, who expects performance from the iconic German automaker. Either way, the car has a comfortable ride, plenty of high-tech bells and whistles, and power for days. All the features you’d expect from a Porsche.
Both the Turbo and Turbo S are powered by a pair electric motors—one on the front axle and one on the rear—that can propel them from zero to 60 mph in 3.0 and 2.6 seconds, respectively. The top speed for both vehicles is just north of 160 mph.
While the Taycan represents a different way to design and build a battery-powered automobile, there are undeniable similarities between the Turbo S and Tesla’s Model S Performance. Both cars feature similarly sized batteries mounted under the floor to keep the center of gravity low. The Taycan Turbo S uses two permanent-magnet synchronous motors, while the Model S Performance has a permanent-magnet synchronous motor in the front and induction-type motor in the rear.
But the most telling comparison is that Tesla has had seven years to perfect its machine, while Porsche has not logged a single after-sale mile.
So, how do these posh EVs stack up against each other?
The Model S and the Taycan are practically the same size. The only real difference is cargo capacity. Thanks to its hatchback design, the Model S has 26.3 cubic feet of rear cargo space compared to the Taycan’s 12.9 cubic feet. The Porsche does have a bigger front trunk, though, with 2.8 cubic feet of space compared to 2.1 cubic feet for the Model S, enough for two large golf bags.
Granted, beauty is in the eye of the key holder. But you’d have to be blind to think the Model S is better looking than the Taycan. The longer you look at the vehicle—the side glass, the low roofline that drops on a very wide body with even wider fenders—the more it seems like a 911 sedan. It’s aggressive yet elegantly sporty. Beautiful and bold.
While the Model S is appealing, it is also bland, as it hasn’t changed much, physically speaking, since its introduction 2012.
Here’s where the comparison gets interesting. The Taycan Turbo S is capable of over boosting for short periods to produce about 751 horsepower and 774 pound-feet of torque, which is enough to propel the car to 60 mph in 2.6 seconds, continuing to a top speed of about 160 mph. Without the over-boost function, the motors produce 617 horsepower and an unspecified amount of torque.
The Model S Performance, on the other hand, produces approximately 762 horsepower and 723 pound-feet of torque from its motors. And it gets to 60 mph in a slightly quicker 2.4 seconds, with a top speed that’s a smidge higher at 163 mph. (In true competitive fashion, Porsche claims that Tesla can’t sustain these results, whereas it can repeat them all day long with the Taycan.)
While the difference in battery capacity is quite close, 93.4 kWh for the Taycan versus Tesla’s 100 kWh, the range of the two vehicles is not.
Porsche was not able to verify the Taycan’s range following the more stringent EPA standard used in the United States. It has been confirmed in Europe using its WLTP standard. As such, Porsche is touting a range of 256 WLTP-estimated miles for the Taycan Turbo S. That’s more than 100 miles shy of Tesla’s WLTP-estimated 365-mile range for the Model S Performance.
Anyone who familiar with Tesla knows that over-the-air (OTA) software updates are among the company’s biggest strengths. While the current Model S and its variants are almost physically identical to the vehicles they were seven years ago, it’s offers a much different driving experience. Software updates have re-made the car and improved the driving experience.
Though several other automakers offer OTA updates, none have done so with the frequency and effectiveness of Tesla. Porsche claims it, too, will offer OTA updates on the Taycan. Will the updates be as meaningful? We’ll just have to wait and see.
The ability to refuel on-the-go is another area of the e-mobility equation in which Tesla excels. In fact, the company’s Supercharger Network is one of the largest fast-charge ecosystems on the planet. As soon as your Tesla’s battery runs low, a navigation app redirects the car to the nearest station for a quick refill. If one is not near, it directs you to the nearest in-network charger. Unfortunately, not all non-Tesla chargers are not listed in the app. You’ll have to find them another way.
Porsche’s answer to Tesla Superchargers is Electrify America, a new third-party charging network (a subsidiary of the Volkswagen Group of America) capable of charging Taycans faster than Superchargers can charge Teslas. EA’s current infrastructure is not quite as large as Tesla’s, but it is growing quickly. Is it as good? It’s too soon to say.
But Porsche claims it will aggregate multiple third-party charging apps under a single log-in via smartphone. This would be the first time anyone has surpassed Tesla for overall charging convenience.
Tesla is a master of the big-screen dashboard game, being the first to debut a positively large 17-inch portrait-style infotainment touchscreen in its vehicles, in addition to a 12-ish-inch screen replacing the gauge cluster. Tesla’s infotainment system lacks Apple Car Play and Android Auto, but it does allow for Bluetooth music streaming, in addition to built-in Slacker Radio capability and over-the-air updates.
The Taycan, on the other hand, splits its screens up a bit more. The gauge cluster is a 16.8-inch screen capable of displaying multiple features at once. There’s also a centrally located 10.9-inch infotainment screen, with a second 8.4-incher for climate controls and handwriting recognition. Apple CarPlay is standard, as is a new digital assistant that answers to “Hey, Porsche.” If that’s not enough, there’s also an optionally available infotainment screen just for the front passenger.
And then there’s Autopilot. Porsche lacks a self-driving system with such capability, but then again, who really wants to let their Porsche do the driving?
This is where things get very one-sided. The Porsche Taycan Turbo S is considerably more expensive than the Tesla Model S. A fully loaded Model S Performance tops out at $114,900. While a loaded Taycan Turbo S runs about $187,000.
The Porsche Taycan is better made, has better touchpoints, more repeatable performance, and its battery will last longer, by design. However, on paper at least, the Tesla delivers better numbers at a much lower price. So, until the Taycan has more time on the streets, the advantage must go to experience over beauty—the Tesla Model S is the winner. But my guess is not for long.
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