The electric performance revolution is underway, and the tables have turned. Despite its illustrious history, Porsche is the upstart with its Taycan all-electric sedan. Meanwhile Tesla‘s Model S is the icon of the space—an odd designation to bestow to a vehicle less than a decade old.
Tesla succeeded with the Model S’ styling. Without a lineage to conform to, it was granted liberal reign to make the car look however it liked. The result was sleek and elegant; its low-key looks only enhanced by the face-lift which retired the “grille”—no engine to cool, after all. However, otherwise aesthetically unchanged since its 2012 introduction, it’s beginning to seem dated. Perhaps spoiled by the cadence set by more established manufacturers, we’re eager to see a thorough redesign of Tesla‘s mainstay vehicle.
This stagnation only enhances the Porsche Taycan’s looks. As the camo peeled away leading up to its reveal, we were thrilled to see its resemblance to the Mission E concept. As a whole it’s extremely modern and ready for the next few years as the lineup proliferates. Unlike Tesla, Porsche has an aesthetic heritage and range-wide design language it must adhere to. The Taycan successfully aligns with it, while presenting its own fresh, distinct being.
That’s evident at the front, with the headlights in particular breaking from tradition. Porsche lamps have always been round or smooth-edged, but the Taycan’s are distinctly rectangular. Still, they carry the four-element LED signature seen in Porsche‘s modern road and race cars. The units are sunken into the fenders in a manner dissimilar from Porsches past, which are typically mounted flush with or protruding from the fascia. That said, the fenders’ rise over the hood is a design hallmark seen on Porsche vehicles without an engine ahead of the driver. Likewise, grille openings are kept to a minimum, although the distinct “teardrop” vents beside the headlights feed cooling air to the front brakes and smooth frontal airflow.
Pivoting to the profile, it’s classic Porsche from end to end—there’s no denying the Taycan’s sloping roofline is meant to resemble the 911. Its tapering daylight opening and vertical vents behind the front wheels are much like the Panamera. There’s almost nothing about the Taycan that projects its electric motivation, but the subtle fin on the charge port on each side tastefully draws attention to the Taycan Turbo S’ eco-friendly aspirations.
The side showcases the Taycan’s retro-modern wheel options. Motorsports-inspired multi-spoke designs have flat facing to smooth airflow. Taycan-exclusive five-spokes have broad blades which call to mind the timeless Fuchs design, but become contemporary with the addition of available carbon fiber. On the Mission E-inspired rollers, the body color outer lip is a love-it-or-hate-it detail. Regardless, it’s optional for either inclination.
Viewed from the rear, the Taycan continues its familial resemblance. The deck is extremely short to further evoke the 911, but leaves space for a pop-up spoiler and a bit of extra trunk lid. Set into the fascia is a width-spanning taillight, which has been seen previously on some earlier Porsche models and is a modish trait in the industry today. The rear bumper is a prominent element integrating a diffuser. Perhaps it’s intended to invite the viewer to find a tailpipe—which is, of course, conspicuously absent.
The Taycan’s interior will feel recognizable to any prior Porsche driver. A power button to the left of the steering column carries the decades-old tradition, while a stubby 992-esque drive selector is mounted on the right. Perhaps the biggest departure is the sheer number of digital displays across the dashboard and center stack. It’s not spartan to the extent of the Model S, but less decorated than other European luxury rivals. Like the exterior, as a whole the Taycan’s interior is clean, purposeful, and technical.
Even after several years on the market, the Tesla Model S remains a looker. We won’t assert that the Taycan is a resounding design defeat of the EV originator. It is, however, a refreshing addition to the segment; an equally attractive offering executed in typical Porsche fashion. Now only one test remains: to set them side by side on the starting line and let electrons fly.