It’s time to stop talking about electric cars like they’re odd and radically different, a new kind of transportation. They’re cars, each developed to meet price and performance goals, each with inevitable trade-offs dictated by those factors.
The 2021 Porsche Taycan, a more affordable rear-drive version of the sports car specialist’s first electric car, makes that clear. I drove a Euro-spec model on a frigid February day, and liked nearly everything about it. The rear-drive Taycan goes on sale this spring.
With a base price of $79,900, the Taycan’s not for everybody, by any stretch of the imagination, but it gives the lie to the claim that electric cars must inevitably cost more than comparable gasoline-powered vehicles. A look at a pair of Porsche’s traditional models — and how the Taycan’s size, price and performance nest nicely between them — shows that.
With a 5.1-second 0-60 mph time and length of 195.4 inches, the four-door Taycan fills a new niche in Porsche’s lineup: bigger, roomier and slower than the iconic 911 sports car; about 4 inches shorter than the limo-like Panamera, 0.2 seconds quicker to 60 than a base model.
The Taycan stands out in two criteria: gasoline consumption/greenhouse emissions — zero — and weight, where the base model’s 4,566 pounds includes 1,221 pounds of battery.
That’s where the trade-offs come into play, in the form of performance, charging time and range between charges.
Taycan prices aren’t for everybody, but $79,900 isn’t bad for a sporty and luxurious Porsche.
The auto industry has a way to go before this comparable pricing makes it to high-volume vehicle segments, like compact cars and SUVs, but the vehicles like the Taycan and recently repriced Chevrolet Bolt and Bolt EUV show the way. Chevy just knocked thousands off the 2022 Bolt, which will start at $31,000. Prices for the SUV-ish Bolt EUV begin at $33,000. All prices exclude destination charges.
The cost, technology and charging network for EVs are all improving. Not as fast as I’d like, but enough for one to see a path to widespread, attainable, practical vehicles.
None of that would matter if the Taycan isn’t good, a fit stablemate for the 911, Panamera, etc., but it is.
It’s unmistakably a Porsche, from LED headlights to profile to the Le Mans-inspired start button located outboard of the steering wheel.
To a greater or lesser extent, all Porsches are measured against the brand-icon 911. The Taycan measures up not just in on-switch location, but weight distribution. The rear-drive Taycan has about 52% to 53% of its weight in the rear half of the car, in line with the original Dr. Porsche’s preference for weight over the driving wheels. All-wheel drive Taycans have about 51% of their weight in the rear.
The RWD Taycan’s throttle response is immediate, as we’ll all soon learn to expect from EVs. Zero to 60 in 5.1 seconds is no slouch, but the electric motor’s quiet operation saps some of the drama from fast starts.
While many EVs have a single-speed transmission, the Taycan comes with a two-speed. You can expect multispeed transmissions to become more common in EVs as the technology matures.
The steering is sharp and nicely weighted, particularly for such a heavy car. My car’s adaptive air suspension held the Taycan level in quick maneuvers, with nearly no body roll in turns or squat and dive under acceleration and braking.
Short range, but fast charging
The EPA hasn’t rated the RWD Taycan’s range on a charge yet, but mine probably began the day around 230 miles and had 211 when I started driving. The decline in range matched miles driven nearly perfectly in a mix of highway and surface streets, despite cold ambient temperatures around 29 degrees. However, 230 miles or so is not impressive among the latest wave of EVs, where 300-plus is becoming common. The Taycan makes up for that slightly with the ability to charge at up to 800 volts. It also accommodates 120/240V AC charging and 400V DC.
Wider availability of 800V fast-chargers will make the Taycan more flexible, and boost general acceptance of EVs. For instance, Porsche says a Taycan can charge from 5% to 80% in 22.5 minutes at 800V. That’s still slower than pumping gas, but it’s approaching the speed at which drivers won’t consider charging time a trade-off.
The front seat is roomy, with big clear gauges. A touch screen handles navigation, audio and climate control. There are no conventional dials or buttons for volume, temperature, etc.