Our intrepid car correspondent Jonathan Schley pits one Porsche against the other - the 911 Turbo S and the Taycan Turbo S - to see which comes out on top.
Porsche means something (usually all really good things). So when the company enters a whole new realm, like electric mobility, the bar has to be set higher, tolerances tighter, dynamics more holistic. They couldn’t get away with being a stoplight one hit wonder just so that customers can call out multimillion dollar hypercars in comments sections across the Internet. Porsche has to create something that appeals to their loyal customers who adhere to one of the most evangelical brand loyalties in the car world. It has to feel like a Porsche. Porsche owners know what this means, and it’s more than just a familiar set of buttons. But it also has to appeal to the mass market — who, frankly, will be quicker to adopt new technologies than Porsche’s purist community. Enter: Taycan Turbo S.
It’s quick. Really (insert every expletive) quick, albeit lacking any theater, introducing an entirely new sensation of speed that doesn’t require a special license. The problem herein lies that the Taycan, for many buyers, represents their first foray into this level of power and performance. This means a higher operating learning curve for the average driver. If you accidentally hit the accelerator instead of the brake pedal, well, you can Google that one. Don’t get me wrong… in regular, leisurely daily driving, the Taycan is a utopia to be in; comfortable and virtually silent. It can be as dull as vacuuming your home when you want it to be. And when you don’t want it to be: hold on... very (insert every expletive, again) tightly.
I wanted to explore this new Porsche identity and all its distinctions more closely, and there is no better candidate for comparison than its closest gas powered peer, the newest 911 Turbo S. These two cars couldn’t be more different, and somehow perform virtually identically. And the best way to do a comparison, of course, is in the same conditions, on the same day. So Porsche invited me to their Porsche Experience Center in Los Angeles (PECLA) to compare the two.
Acceleration: Thrust or acceleration?
Since 0-60 times are the “boom headshot” of armchair racers, we can devolve there purely for referential purposes: 2.6 seconds for both the Taycan Turbo S and 911 Turbo S, according to Porsche. Sounds like convenient marketing, but the brand is widely known to underrate their cars’ performance, so it’s really just the law of averages in this case. PECLA offers a nearly ¾ mile straight with a replica of the Nürburgring’s Carousel at the end, and this is where I tested the Launch Control systems of both cars.
With the Taycan Turbo S, people always talk about the instant torque. To prepare me for this when using Launch Control in the Taycan, no less than three people, including my personal instructor for the day, told me to make sure my head was properly against the headrest before launching the car. It’s not that the Taycan will automatically send you to the chiropractor, but the silence and total lack of, well, anything really, until you lift your foot off the brake lulls you into a false sense of calm and control. After you lift your foot off the brake, unless you are intensely focused on what is to come, it’s very easy to understand how the average driver might overreact and disaster can ensue. The Taycan doesn’t really accelerate so much as it thrusts. Acceleration as most of us know it is a progressive process with spark, firing cylinders, gears, and exhaust noise; a firestorm of high-stress mechanical intensity that produces forward motion and collectively offers a set of individual reference points for what a car is doing. The Taycan feels like a video game, and that sense of detachment and lack of intuitive references is what can get you in trouble. You know the saying, “It’s the journey, not the destination”? In the Taycan there is no journey, only a destination. You’re just teleported there without any communication of how. It’s quite a non-event, yet also physically breathtaking. Short and easy lesson: respect the Taycan Turbo S.
So how does the 911 Turbo S compare? Put simply, as you would expect, just wickedly quick. Plentiful are all the normal mechanical references you’re used to: revs building, gears shift with a hearty mechanical punch to your lower back, and the engine and exhaust shouting behind you. It doesn’t really sing as much as it grumbles loudly at you, but this cacophony of noises and the subsequent emotions it elicits is part of said journey. The journey, or process, is the event, and that is the fun part. It’s what makes the experience of driving an experience, instead of a series of button-pushing. It is the part that provokes a stupid smile on your face over and over again. These familiar reference points also provide a greater sense of control, real or imagined.
As far as acceleration goes, the Taycan Turbo S is fun in the context of comparison, because it has so few worthy adversaries. But it is a statistic, not an experience, whereas launching the 911 Turbo S will make you smile every time in isolation just doing what it does. The 911 Turbo S wins this one.
Handling Dynamics: Weight is the enemy of fun — or is it?
I’ll admit it. I wasn’t that excited to drive the Taycan Turbo S on PECLA’s 1.3-mile handling circuit. As one of the aforementioned evangelical Porsche people, and as someone who regularly drives on racetracks as a hobby, I was prepared to be underwhelmed and snobbish. Afterall, weight is the enemy of performance, and the Taycan has more than 2.5 tons of it. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t expect it to be a miserable experience; Porsche doesn’t do anything badly. But I was completely wrong in my preconceptions.
That’s not to say it’s perfect. You’re still very much fighting the weight when you’re pushing it hard on the circuit. Furthermore, the Taycan’s regenerative braking, while technically impressive in its purpose, is extremely annoying on the track. But when you take a step back and acknowledge virtually no Taycans will be driven on racetracks, these amount to minor complaints, and the performance threshold is unbelievable. Changes in direction are pronounced as expected, but what Porsche has managed to achieve dynamically with this much weight in tow is witchcraft. The most interesting distinction though was the particular sensation of weight you experience in the Taycan: gravity. Yes, gravity. Comparatively, in normal performance cars (if they’re good), you feel mechanical grip laterally. In the Taycan, the grip feels a function of weight pulling you downward. This means that the point at which you approach the limit between momentum and grip is also very pronounced. So, with this in mind, does it still feel “Porsche”? Definitively. I may have even smiled.
Back to our gasoline opponent. How does it compare? The 911 Turbo S is just so capable and does everything so effortlessly, it’s almost underwhelming. That’s not to say it was disappointing per se, but it has set the bar so high in everything it does and is engineered in a way that allows its owners to achieve all of those things safely that it’s almost (deep breath) boring. It’s not lost on me how blasphemous it sounds to suggest a car, a Porsche no less, with this level of performance is anything less than thrilling, but here we are. The simple truth is that since the water-cooled era began, the Turbo hasn’t been the most exciting 911 that Porsche produces. It went from being the “widowmaker,” a car for people who get their thrills from regular near death experiences, to being the 911 for the person who wants the Porsche that does the most on paper, while doing the least when driving it. And it feels like it’s designed for that buyer. Safe, and a bit understeer-y. Its capabilities are phenomenal. And it’s an incredible performance car, it’s just not that engaging as far as 911s go. As a result, even for people who complain about electric cars being boring, I am not so sure that the 911 Turbo S is that much more exciting than the Taycan Turbo S. It may even be less exciting, simply due to the fact that the 911 Turbo S does exactly what you would expect it to, in the exact way you would expect it to. Whereas the Taycan Turbo S blows away your expectations — at least, it blew away my expectations. A slight edge to the Taycan Turbo S on this one.
Gas or electric, who won?
The short answer is both. A cop out? Maybe. But hear me out: In both the 911 Turbo S and the Taycan Turbo S, Porsche has produced cars that offer performance at the pinnacle of two different technologies that can play in the same space, which is to say, nearly peerless performance save for one another. Even my conclusions about my own preferences turned out to be the exact opposite of what I anticipated, which proves that right now, as drivers, we’re very much still in the realm of preference and choice. We should appreciate that as a finite luxury. It’s an incredibly rare thing to experience completely new sensory stimuli and re-learn things we think we know. Don’t pick a side. Appreciate the past and accept that the more we embrace the future, the past will remain present a little bit longer. Porsche is the only manufacturer offering this level of performance from two completely divergent experiences, and isn’t choice the ultimate luxury? Everytime Porsche releases a new 911, everyone asks: “Where do we go from here?” And like it or not, the answer surely is, “Whatever evolves from the Taycan.”