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Up close with the Taycan, Porsche’s first electric car

It’s unsurprisingly a stunner

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Porsche’s first electric car was no secret. The Taycan was teased, spied, advertised, and promoted for four years. But after the official reveal on Wednesday, Porsche’s first electric car is now out in the open.

There now exists a clarity that had eluded most anyone outside of the company’s headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany. And after seeing it up close, I’m excited that it’s almost time for it to quite literally hit the road — despite the fact that I’ll never in my life come close to being able to afford the gaudy $150,900 starting price.

The fuller picture Porsche painted about the Taycan on Wednesday is one of an electric sports car that will hang with the fastest vehicles on the market, all without sacrificing practicality. It’s an EV imbued with characteristics that were forged in the automaker’s storied motorsports program, and a vehicle that marks the beginning of a new era in the company’s long history.

an electric sports car that will hang with the fastest vehicles on the market

The Taycan feels like a car that can inspire people to switch to electric propulsion in a way that only Tesla has really achieved so far. It’s got the kind of verve that the Audi E-Tron, Mercedes-Benz EQC, and Jaguar I-Pace completely lack.

Numbers-wise, it’s a beast. It’s not quite as quick as Tesla’s fastest cars, nor does it have as much range. But it will best basically every other luxury electric car coming out of Germany (or the US and China, for that matter), and even most internal-combustion and hybrid ones, too.

The thing Porsche wants people to focus on more than the 2.6-second 0–60mph time (3.0 seconds for the base Taycan Turbo) is the car’s ability to repeat that performance without overheating the battery pack or restricting the power output. That will likely be an advantage the Taycan holds onto for a few years, and for people who care about putting this car through the ringer, it’s going to make the price tag a bit more palatable.

Looks-wise, there’s almost nothing that distinguishes the Taycan as an electric car. Maybe that hinders the car’s ability to help promote the technology on which it’s built. But I’m cautiously optimistic. It’s a sign that we’re finally leaving the initial phase of mass-market electric vehicles, and entering one where they’re taken more seriously.

Automakers have spent years differentiating full electric and hybrid cars with bright blue accents and far-out designs. It’s arguably had a chilling effect on prospective buyers, who may have wanted to give a cleaner car the time of day, but couldn’t swallow a bug-eyed hatchback or a four-wheeled spaceship.

The Taycan follows in the footsteps of Tesla, which has helped inspire automakers to just design beautiful cars that happen to be electric. It has all the beautiful curves and details one expects from a modern Porsche, with a few — like the vegan interior option — that are less typical.

One thing that surprised me about the Taycan is the interior: it felt less obnoxious than it looked in the photos Porsche released a few weeks ago. Granted, the optional passenger side screen is a bit much. But the two main screens that come standard on the car are big and clear enough to offer a lot of information at once, and they blend into the car well. The center screen especially feels well-integrated; since it’s not surrounded by gauche plastic buttons, you have to hunt for the seams where it disappears into the dashboard.

I didn’t have much time to rifle through the menus and settings (plus, the operating systems on display in Niagara Falls were all in German), but the animations were snappy, and there wasn’t any lag between my taps and the system’s responses. That’s no small feat when it comes to infotainment systems built by automakers. Since there’s basically zero chance Porsche is going to turn over control of its in-cabin experience to one of the big tech companies, it’s reassuring that it seems to have gotten this Linux-based system right.

It looks really nice, but I’d prefer a few buttons

The touch panel on the center console is where drivers and passengers will interact with the climate controls, though it can also show other things like battery information. It looks really nice, but I’d prefer a few buttons, like the ones found on the console Porsche uses in the Panamera series. Those buttons are easy to find without taking your eyes off the road, and so I can imagine Taycan drivers will have to hunt and peck a bit more (unless they want to use voice control) if they’re feeling a bit hot or cold.

You could call the Porsche Taycan a lot of things. It’s the tip of the spear for parent company Volkswagen’s larger, multibillion-dollar push into electric vehicles. It, perhaps, is a sort of penance for the automaker’s role in the larger Volkswagen emissions cheating scandal, Dieselgate. Some will call it a worthy Tesla competitor, while others might improperly call it a Tesla killer. In Canada this week, Porsche called the Taycan “daring,” and said the company’s goal was to build the “greatest electric car the world has ever seen.”

The Taycan isn’t wholly any of those things. But it appears to be a little bit of all of them. It will serve as a halo EV for both Porsche and Volkswagen, and will be the car people wish they were buying when they go to purchase, say, an all-electric Golf. It’s probably going to help some people forget or forgive Dieselgate (if they haven’t already). It will become a status symbol for the well-off who are maybe a bit sick of only having one option when it comes to luxury performance electric vehicles. It surely won’t dethrone Tesla’s status as the leader in EVs and in-car technology, but it helps close the gap.

It will become a status symbol for the well-off who are maybe a bit sick of only having one option

Electric vehicles are a crucial component in the fight to reduce pollution in the transportation sector, and so it’s always nice to see more inspirational and aspirational ones hit the market. It won’t solve the congestion that plagues our cities, or be a real option for the majority of consumers.

But like so many Porsches before it, the Taycan could be the next car that gets plastered on a kid’s wall, or saved onto their smartphone’s lock screen. Next to the tens of thousands of Taycans Porsche aims to eventually sell per year, that would be an accomplishment in itself.

Photography by Sean O’Kane / The Verge

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