He spends fifteen weeks a year north of the Arctic Circle – and you can tell. Anticipating every turn in the pitch-dark forest, Christian Wolfsried manoeuvres the Taycan 4S with pinpoint precision, using the car’s instant acceleration to create ever more unlikely drift angles out of every bend.
Wolfsried’s official title at Porsche is a bit of a mouthful: Development Engineer Chassis Driving Dynamics – All-Wheel Development and Torque Vectoring. But it gives you an idea of just how technical and involved his skill set really is. Wolfsried sits in total silence, absolutely focused, his relaxed hands gently heated by the Ice Blue Taycan’s GT steering wheel. It’s not that there's nothing to talk about: he simply knows that the experience is even more impressive this way – because you can’t hear a thing.
Here in Levi, Finland, the silence is absolute, towering banks of snow absorbing every sound. The fleeting sunlight from very short days – together with the bracing night time temperatures – have turned the trees and bushes in the forest into extraordinary natural ice sculptures. And the Taycan dances now behind the gigantic cone of light from its LED matrix headlights, piercing through the fairy tale Finnish woods, with only a distant rumble penetrating the double-glazed windows as the wide performance tyres bite into sheet ice.
“The completely different vehicle acoustics is certainly one of the most striking differences,” says Wolfsried, “which is why the idea for the Porsche Electric Sport Sound also arose out of the m-low tests. For the driver, intuition is closely linked to acoustic sensor technology. This is because we have always been accustomed to it in conventional vehicles. So the PESS is more than just an emotional gimmick: it offers a real benefit in demanding driving situations.”
But it’s not just acoustic feedback that is unique to the Taycan’s driving characteristics. Whereas previously developers were only able to distribute drive torque between the axles, the all-new electric architecture and its twin motors now enable them to actively control the torque for the first time. “The advantage offered by the two completely independently controllable motors on the axles is absolutely priceless. It’s like having four accelerator pedals,” says Wolfsried enthusiastically. “With the Taycan, you can drive at extreme drift angles without any problem because you can apply torque to the front axle when you need it without having the rear axle spinning due to a locked centre differential at the same time.”
The fact that the entire powertrain can be controlled more precisely than in a combustion engine is due to the immediate and instantaneous response of the electric motors.
“Nonetheless, the advantages of a mechanical connection – which in conventional all-wheel drive systems ensures maximum traction between the two axles via a multi-disc clutch – have to be achieved via software,” explains Ingo Albers, Project Manager Chassis for the Taycan. “For this purpose, the functionality was completely redeveloped and distributed among several control units in order to do justice to the very high dynamics of the motors.”
Pulse inverters with a response time of two milliseconds enable a control speed which is up to five times as high as previous systems. This means that in comparison with a 911 or Panamera on the ice, the Taycan does not require any acclimatisation time. The control strategies of the drive stayed the same as in the familiar PTM system.
And the same applies to slip control, but here the advantages of direct speed and torque control are even greater: “By directly integrating the PSM into the control loop of the pulse inverters, the drive slip control can not only be implemented 10 times faster than before but also more harmoniously than in conventional drives,” says Albers.
Porsche’s engineers have also developed winter tyres for the Taycan. “During development we paid particular attention to improving lateral guidance and vehicle balance on snow-covered roads,” explains Albers. “Optimisation of braking and traction response was also a focal point of our work.”
There were new strategies to thermal management, too, so as to ensure optimum adaptation to all weather conditions. “With more than 300 different wiring states in the entire vehicle, the range here is significantly broader than in conventional vehicles,” explains Bernd Propfe, who is involved in the series as project manager for the platforms. “The Taycan reacts intelligently to the driving style of the past 600 km and conditions the battery and interior based on the planned route, outside temperature, humidity and solar radiation.”
Electrical battery systems perform less well at low temperatures due to the higher viscosity of the electrolyte inside them. The Taycan therefore not only preconditions the high-voltage battery when it comes into contact with the mains, it also overheats the cells to up to 28 degrees Celsius, depending on the outside temperature.
“This not only enables the Taycan to draw on its full performance at any time,” says Propfe. “In conjunction with the optional heat pump, the vehicle is also able to heat the interior while driving without having to use electricity from the HV battery for the purpose of electrical heating.”
As night falls on Levi, the temperature plummets once again. But inside the Taycan, Wolfsried is warming up for another lap on the lockstops.