Taycan: The Thorn in Tesla's Side?
A commentary on the apparent Model S versus Taycan rivalry.
It's hard to believe the Tesla Model S has been with us for eight years now. It was a big deal when it was new, and it's still a big deal today. As much as some car enthusiasts might not like to admit it, it's possibly the most important car of the 21st century to date, having singlehandedly kickstarted an entire revolution in the way that the car industry operates. Not only in electrification but in other ways both good and bad. On one hand you have over-the-air updates, and on the other we're now stuck with unnecessarily massive screens in just about every new car.
However, given that the battery technology it uses has been around since the late 1990's, it's surprising to me that its reign has lasted so long, and it has taken till now for us to see any serious rivals. Sure, there have been a flurry of other electric family cars released in recent years - the Nissan Leaf, the Chevrolet Volt, and so on, but none of them have really been an in-class rival to the Model S. Nor have they captured the excitement surrounding it. So, having dominated the market for big electric executive cars for so long, is there any room for the Porsche Taycan in the market, which on paper is a very similar car?
Well, yes. You see, as similar as the two cars might be on paper, (and they are very similar on paper) they are completely different, and appeal to according markets. The Tesla is an electric car for anybody who wants an electric car in general. The Porsche on the other hand, is aimed at people who want a car that is on the technological forefront of the industry in the same way the Tesla is, but value an involved driving experience over the bragging rights that come with saying you own a Tesla. There is also a huge chance that a given Taycan buyer will have owned a Porsche in the past too. So while Model S 'supporters' can quote things that might show the Model S in a stronger light, nobody who will actually buy a Taycan cares.
Of course, their differences stretch much further than just the clientele they attract. The Tesla is unquestionably the more usable car by a big margin; more interior space, more seats, more storage, and a vast network of supercharger make it a very easy tool to live with. The Porsche's ownership experience is much more a labour of commitment than convenience. It's nowhere near as practical, being a much smaller car inside. The maximum range of 258 miles is significantly less than its rival's 367 mile range, and the absence of DC chargers relative to Tesla's Superchargers mean that you'll mostly be charging it from home, which will take an absolute age at a time.
Tesla Press Release Photo
So then if the Porsche is so much less convenient to live with, at what point does the Taycan begin to claw back some credit over the Model S? The answer to that is in describing the Porsche as the more finished product. If you’ve ever been in a Tesla, you’ll note the quality of the interior fittings and materials are on par with a car below the calibre Tesla have taken aim at. In the Taycan this is not the case. Porsche have always made cars that feel well put together and the Taycan is no exception to that. There are no squeaks, no rattles, no buzzing noises or anything of that nature. It feels the price it is.
Moving on from the feel of durability, to actual durability brings me to performance as it is the best way to illustrate this. To be exact, Nürburgring times. Yes, I know that there is a lot more to a car than how fast it can lap the circuit but stay with me here. The 670hp Porsche Taycan Turbo set a lap record for a production electric car of 7:42. As impressive as that feat is, (especially considering it wasn’t even the full fat 750hp Turbo S variant) it’s not the time that peaks interest here but rather the fact an electric production car lapped the circuit at all. As things stand at the current moment in time, you can’t buy a road going Tesla that will complete one lap of the Nürburgring without overheating and going into limp mode a couple of minutes into the lap. (Yes, I know there was a unofficial time circulating the internet a while back however the specific car in question was a completely different car to any road going Tesla. It was for all intents and purposes, a time attack car.) This means that enthusiastic driving in the Tesla is more or less out of the question.
Now I’m not saying that Tesla owners are likely to take their car on a track day, but it would be nice to know that if you should ever come across a country road on your travels and drive in a mildly enthused manner, you’re not doing so at the risk of seriously damaging your car. That is where the Taycan shines as it was engineered to continuously lap circuits without any damage to the drive train or limp modes being engaged. The result of this is an incredibly durable drivetrain that can take harsh circumstances without being damaged.
Sure, there are a multitude of other reasons a person might buy a Taycan, however the focus on putting the driver at the centre of the motion experience is the Porsche’s main selling point in practice. One that's quite different to Tesla's approach of building a car that removes the driver from the perceived task of driving entirely.
For nine out of ten people, a Tesla would fit into their daily lives just fine - and there is nothing wrong with that. As discussed though, the Taycan is aimed at much more focused demographic. On that basis, it makes sense to say that these two cars aren’t actually rivals. Nor is it unreasonable to suggest that Porsche will cost Tesla very few sales.