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Taycan Turbo at the Porsche Experience Center

Taycan it to the limit: Doing the electric slide at the Porsche Experience Center

A day at the Porsche Experience Center shows off this EV's performance chops and the unique driving approach needed to maximize its abilities.

The best thing about the Taycan EV is that it genuinely feels like a Porsche. From its perfectly balanced chassis to its super-communicative steering to the fact that it's quick as hell, the Taycan is proof positive that electric vehicles and sports cars are not mutually exclusive.

To drive that point home, Porsche now offers a range of Taycan programs at its Experience Center locations in Atlanta, Georgia and Los Angeles, California. Owners and enthusiasts can sign up for individual high-performance driving classes with the Taycan 4S, Turbo or Turbo S, and Porsche even offers two back-to-back experiences, where you can drive a Taycan Turbo alongside gas-powered 911 Turbo or Panamera Turbo models. (A Taycan vs. 911 track day sounds interesting, doesn't it?)

Taycan Turbo EV charging station at the Porsche Experience Center
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Taycan Turbo EV charging station at the Porsche Experience Center

The PEC has 15 electric charging stations to keep all of its Taycans full of juice.

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The Porsche Experience Center in Southern California opened in late 2016, located in the not-exactly scenic city of Carson, just south of Los Angeles. (You can see it off the side of the 405 Freeway.) The 53-acre complex has everything from different track setups to dedicated off-road courses (Cayennes only, natch), as well as a motorsports workshop, customer delivery center, design consultation studio, driving simulator lab, meeting rooms and a full-service restaurant. It's a cool place, and you don't have to sign up for a driving course to come hang out. The PEC is currently open with special COVID-19 precautions in place, so feel free to browse the cars in the atrium, grab a bite, sit on the patio and enjoy the view of schmucks like me getting schooled.

Most of the courses last about 2 hours (check out the PEC website to see the full course roster). Social distancing requirements are in full effect, so you meet your instructor briefly in the atrium before heading outside. Normally, the instructor would ride shotgun in the car with you, but the programs are done in a lead-follow style with walkie talkies now, so you and your teacher are in separate cars -- freshly sanitized, of course.

The Turbo S is the top-dog Taycan, powered by a 93.4-kilowatt-hour battery that can produce as much as 750 horsepower and 774 pound-feet of torque on overboost while using lunch control. In that setting, the 5,100-pound, all-wheel-drive Taycan Turbo S can accelerate to 60 mph in 2.6 seconds, and with all that electric torque hitting the wheels instantaneously, flooring the Taycan is like getting rear-ended by a semi truck doing 100 mph. It's intense. In fact, before you attempt any acceleration runs, the instructor will make sure your seat's headrest is pulled forward to properly support your skull and neck during a hard launch.

Taycan Turbo side profile at the Porsche Experience Center
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Taycan Turbo side profile at the Porsche Experience Center

The Taycan's thermal management engineering ensures it can do hard launches over and over again without loss of battery performance.

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There are six different modules. That may sound like a lot given the whole thing only takes about 2 hours, but the program can be tailored to focus on specific activities as requested. If you finish early, you can go back and spend more time doing the bits you loved, or keep trying to master the harder parts. It's also important to note that none of the modules are Taycan-specific -- you're doing the same on-track exercises as you would in a 911 Carrera or 718 Cayman -- but the instructors are trained to help you get the most out of Porsche's EV the whole time.

First up, the autocross section sharpens your reflexes and gives you a crash course (thankfully not literally) on keeping your head up and your eyes focused on where you want the car to go. With the Taycan, an autocross setting also teaches you about weight transfer and how and when to best use the immediate torque of the electric motors. You'll sample the Taycan's different drive modes and can explore the various traction-control settings. The real takeaway here is car control: It's a good way to get a feel for the steering, braking, power and grip levels before moving on to other segments.

Acceleration runs are self-explanatory. The instructor will teach you how to activate launch control and let you experience the thrill of shooting an EV forward, reaching well into triple-digit speeds before slowing for a banked corner modeled after the Karrusell on the Nurburgring Nordschleife. Rocketing forward in the Taycan Turbo S is an intoxicating feeling; 2.6 seconds to 60 mph is exactly as hilarious as it sounds.

Taycan Turbo drifting in the wet at the Porsche Experience Center
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Taycan Turbo drifting in the wet at the Porsche Experience Center

Wheels straight: That's how you drift a Taycan.

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Half of the exercises are done on wet courses. On a large skid pad, the instructor teaches you how to modulate the Taycan's accelerator and steering to execute controlled drifts. It's not all that easy, either -- everything I know about how to kick out the tail on a rear-wheel-drive sports car and countersteer into a slide has to be thrown out. Here, I'm reminded of my time testing the Taycan 4S in Finland on a snowy course carved out on a frozen lake. With motors at each axle for through-the-road all-wheel drive, the trick is to get the Taycan sideways and then make small steering and throttle inputs constantly in order to hold the drift. Rather than point the front wheels in the direction of the skid, you keep them straight ahead and manage the slide with the accelerator. It's a little frustrating to retrain your brain at first, but once you get a perfect drift around the entire circle, the feeling of success is super rewarding.

From there, the instructor takes you over to what's called the kick plate -- a weight-sensitive block of wet pavement in the track that throws the car into a skid without warning. You go slow for this one, maybe 20 mph at first, and when you hit the wet plate, the ground shifts and throws the car into a skid. From there, it's up to you to react with steering and point the nose of the Taycan toward a marker cone at the other end of the course. The first time through can feel jarring, but if you've ever hit a patch of black ice in winter, the experience is familiar. Eventually, the instructor has you dial in more and more speed, which not only increases the intensity and angle of the skid, it ups the fun factor, as well.

Taycan Turbo kick-plate exercise at the Porsche Experience Center
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Taycan Turbo kick-plate exercise at the Porsche Experience Center

The kick plate puts you into an immediate skid.

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The final wet course is arguably the most beneficial lesson for real-world driving. You start at the top of a wet hill, accelerating to 20 mph or so before braking in a straight line and entering a tight, right-hand turn. This experience teaches you to rely on the surefootedness of antilock brakes, and demonstrates why slowing a car down in a straight line is better than trying to brake during a slick turn. Get it right and you'll have scrubbed off enough speed to confidently manage the right-hander without stepping off-course. Hit the brakes too late or lay into them while turning, and the car may spin. The big thing to remember is that you should never panic brake midcorner. This behavior is unique to the Taycan, and this realization makes for a beneficial lesson, especially if you regularly drive in wet, cold, snowy conditions.

My last course takes place on the handling circuit -- a nicely designed road course that slinks along the PEC's border. It's your typical lapping exercise, teaching you where to brake, when to turn, when to add power, where to look and so forth. But in the Taycan, there's an extra element: How to do all of this in an EV. Unlike in, say, a 911, the electric Taycan adds small amounts of regenerative braking and more immediate power delivery. You're also dealing with a propulsion system that doesn't benefit from cooling the way a traditional engine does, and it soon becomes clear that Porsche has really worked on the Taycan's thermal management capabilities in order to ensure its EV can keep running strong lap after lap.

Taycan Turbo on track at the Porsche Experience Center
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Taycan Turbo on track at the Porsche Experience Center

Classes are available with the full range of Taycan models.

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To that last point, the instructors will have you run the handling course two ways. First, the way you're used to: Hit it hard off the line, stay on the power until a corner, brake, turn in, power on; lather, rinse, repeat. The second time around, you'll take lessons learned from the Taycan's development, where engineers found it's more effective to let the Taycan coast for short periods of time after hard acceleration, because it can better maintain speed and use small amounts of regenerative braking to recuperate energy before you actually dig into the brakes, while also lessening the load on the battery. The benefit of this is not only better energy usage, it also allows for smoother driving, which is vital on a track. It's a style of driving that's unique to how a Taycan operates in this environment, and it shows how much Porsche's thought about how to get the most out of its EV in a high-performance setting.

That's my overall takeaway from the Taycan experience, too. Porsche clearly designed and engineered the Taycan to be a sports car, and the company's PEC instructors do a great job of bringing this into the lessons. They don't just tell you how to master an exercise, they teach you how to best approach each task as it relates to the Taycan. You grow to understand a lot about how this EV operates, all in the context of high-performance driving. 

Why can't all learning be this fun?

The Taycan Turbo S hits the track at Porsche's Experience Center

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Editors' note: The Taycan Turbo S experience's entry fee was covered by the manufacturer for this feature.