Porsche’s radical shift towards electric mobility isn’t just changing the character of its cars. It’s also redefining the identify of its main opposition. Take the Panamera. Main opposition? Audi, BMW, Mercedes, maybe Bentley at a stretch. But for its all-electric four-door sibling, the Taycan? It’s all about Tesla.
So far, there’s no clear winner. In all candour, some of the Taycan’s core specs disappoint compared to the Tesla Model S. That the relatively elderly if oft-updated Model S has superior range and acceleration to the brand new Porsche makes for poor optics. But then the Taycan charges faster, looks and feels much higher quality and offers much more sophistication both in terms of the driving environment and the driving experience.
Of course, that’s a pretty nuanced argument. In marketing terms, numbers comparisons tend to have more impact. So it is that Porsche has set what it claims is a new record lap time for a four door car at ye olde Nürburgring- Nordschleife. As we reported last issue, test driver Lars Kern conquered the legendary track, famously known as the Green Hell, in seven minutes and 42 seconds.
Superiority at the ’Ring plays nicely into Porsche’s narrative of usable performance when it comes to the Taycan, which also includes claimed repeatability in terms of standing start acceleration. The implication is that the Tesla’s, er, ludicrous performance is really the stuff of spec sheet theory. Out in the real world, so the argument goes, the Tesla doesn’t deliver. Its battery overheats and the performance claims become moot. Indeed, some claim that the highest performing Model S can’t survive a full maximum attack lap at the ’Ring without performance degradation.
We can’t comment on that. But what we can say is that Tesla has been out pounding the ’Ring in a hotted-up Model S. The test cars sport a visibly wider track with huge wheels, wheel arch extensions and trackday rubber. Allegedly, the car also packs three electric motors. If so, it’ll be an absolute monster in performance terms, though that in turn raises even more questions about the car’s battery cooling.
Some observers claim this uber Tesla has already beaten the Taycan’s ’Ring time. But that almost doesn’t matter, especially given this particular Tesla isn’t a model you can buy. Not right now, at least. Whether it has or hasn’t beaten Porsche’s lap time, however, it’s clearly game on between Tesla and the Taycan. Intriguingly, the contest already resembles more traditional battles from Porsche’s past. Over the years, Porsches have often looked outgunned on paper in terms of metrics like pure power, only to make the difference up courtesy of quality of execution in areas like chassis dynamics. For Tesla, chucking a bigger battery or more motors at the problem of performance probably seems obvious. For Porsche, dare we say the approach is more holistic.