The louder Porsche and Tesla squabble about drag race figures and lap times, the more important it is to remember how meaningless all that stuff is.
When the Taycan Turbo S arrived on the scene earlier this year as the new kid on the block and the first real challenger to Tesla’s all-conquering Model S Performance, the two manufacturers engaged in an increasingly tedious to-and-fro. It culminated in the Californian firm sending a heavily modified car with a third electric motor, non-standard track day tyres and even aerodynamic enhancements to the Nurburgring.
Besting the Taycan’s lap time around that place became so important to Tesla that the normal rules of engagement – namely setting a time with a car that’s actually representative of the showroom model – were forgotten entirely.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s tweets, fanatics of either brand writing ill-tempered blog posts… it’s all a smokescreen. Nurburgring and quarter-mile times are utterly meaningless in the real world, while the cars in question are fearsomely expensive and well out of reach of mere mortals. The range-topping Porsche, for instance, costs £139,000 before any extras have been added.
No, the real conflict between Tesla and Taycan will be waged on the much less rarified battleground of the entry-level models; in the £80,000 price bracket where the best selling versions exist. Forget Taycan Turbo S versus Model S Performance. What really matters is Taycan 4S versus Model S Long Range. Question is, which one should be top of your list?
While the Tesla starts at £77,700, the Porsche is somewhat more expensive at £83,367. Wherever you look the numbers fall in favour of the Tesla: it manages the 0-60mph dash in 3.7 seconds compared to 3.8, its 100kWh battery is far bigger than the Porsche’s 79.2kWh pack, which means it has a range of up to 379 miles compared with the Porsche’s 253. Both cars top out at 155mph.
By specifying the optional Performance Battery Plus you can swell the Taycan’s figures a little: 93.4kWh and 288 miles compare much more favourably. But the Model S still has a very comfortable advantage in terms of range, if not straight line performance.
Beneath their very different exteriors, the Taycan and Model S actually look broadly the same. Both sit on ‘skateboard’ platforms, their lithium-ion batteries spread across the floor to keep weight as close to the road as possible. Both have two electric motors, one on each axle, with air suspension at each corner.
But there are important differences. The Porsche uses three-chamber air springs, which means the volume of air within them is enormous. That improves not only ride quality but also the spread between the car’s comfort and sports modes, so it can better combine the cosseting ride of a luxury car with the handling precision of a sports car.
The Taycan also has a two-speed transmission on the rear axle where the Model S has only a single ratio, meaning the Porsche accelerates harder at lower speeds but continues pulling at greater velocities.
The enormous Supercharger network is perhaps the Tesla’s trump card. They crop up at shopping centres, motorway service stations and transport hubs seemingly on a weekly basis, so that keeping your Model S juiced up is as straightforward as can be. The 120-150kW Superchargers replenish a near-flat battery to 80 per cent charge in around 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, Taycan drivers will have access to the IONITY network, which isn’t anything like as extensive as the Tesla network, although it is expanding rapidly.
Porsche is also installing its own Turbo Chargers across its dealerships. These 270kW charge stations take full advantage of the Taycan’s unusual 800-volt electric architecture to charge very quickly indeed, from five to 80 per cent in 22.5 minutes. They’ll add 62 miles of range in only five minutes.
When charging times drop to only 20 minutes or so, range becomes a secondary factor and the availability of charging points far more important. Whether you’re considering a Taycan or a Tesla, keeping your EV stuffed with electrons will be less complicated tomorrow than it is today.
STYLING AND INTERIORS
Whereas the Model S has a fairly derivative exterior form, the Taycan is more distinctive with its tightly-wrapped, sculptural bodywork. Neither one is exactly a showstopper to look at, but finely executed details like the pin-sharp rear light strip do give the Porsche a more prestigious appearance.
While the Porsche majors on material quality and fit and finish within its cabin, the Tesla concerns itself far more with space. Which is actually best depends entirely on where your own priorities lie. The Taycan’s interior quality is better than the Model S’s by an order of magnitude, but only by the same amount the Tesla’s cabin is more spacious. To illustrate that latter point, consider the load space each offers across their front and rear boots: the Tesla’s 894 litres comfortably betters the Porsche’s 488 litres.
Although they’re the bitterest of rivals, in character the Taycan and Model S are actually quite different. Both are among the fastest-accelerating cars you can buy today, but only the Porsche behaves like a sports car in corners. Its clever suspension and trick torque vectoring, plus brilliantly accurate steering that gives a good sense of connection to the front axle, afford it the sort of dynamic response you’d expect of a car wearing the Porsche crest.
The Tesla, meanwhile, is more like a very quick executive saloon. Its steering is synthetic and devoid of any sort of feel. With strong mechanical grip and decent body control the Model S will cling gamely to a winding B-road, but it’ll never engage the way the far more athletic Taycan will. Over longer distances, meanwhile, both cars are ultra-refined, comfortable and effortless to drive.
The Porsche Taycan is far sportier than the Tesla Model S and its build quality belongs to a different league altogether. But with a significantly better range, a more comprehensive charging network and a keener price, there is much to admire about the Tesla. The one to have? That depends entirely on which set of characteristics you value most.
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