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Porsche Taycan vs. Tesla Model S: Luxury EVs compared

If you have a healthy budget and want a serious EV sedan, you have a difficult decision ahead of you. Let's break it down.

Porsche Taycan vs. Tesla Model S

Both of these EVs are very compelling.

Porsche, Tim Stevens/Roadshow

If you want a big, fast, beautiful, luxurious EV, you have two choices. There's the ubiquitous, ever-evolving Tesla Model S and the fresh new Porsche Taycan. I've been lucky enough to spend a lot of time in both of these cars, so you know what question comes next: Which is better? Let's see if we can't find ourselves a winner.

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Range and charging

I'll start with the topic that, for many EV followers, will be the beginning and the end of this discussion. That's a shame, because if you're only buying an EV based on range you're kind of missing out, and as someone who's driven dozens of EVs, and who actually owns one, as far as I'm concerned, 200 miles is plenty. 

And that's good news for Porsche, because that's almost exactly what the Taycan 4S can deliver: 203 miles according to the EPA's official rating. The quicker Taycan Turbo does 201 miles, and the quickest, the Turbo S, does 192 miles. But by all accounts, those ratings are very, very conservative. Our own range test showed 253 miles from a Taycan Turbo, and the folks over at Autoblog easily got over 300 miles from a Taycan 4S. 

Why the massive discrepancy between the EPA rating and the real world? That's been a topic of much speculation and I look forward to reading your best conspiracy theories down in the comments (seriously, get out those tinfoil hats and have at it), but it's all a bit academic because, regardless of how optimistic you are with the Taycan, the Tesla Model S Long Range Plus's EPA range of 391 miles blows it away. That is a truly remarkable figure. 

The Tesla also wins out when it comes to charging. Porsche installed high-speed chargers at all its dealerships, and has partnered with Electrify America to provide easy access to the approximately 1,700 chargers at 350 stations in the US. While those chargers are almost all significantly faster than Tesla's Superchargers, Tesla has numbers on its side, with over 16,000 Superchargers at nearly 1,900 locations in North America. 

There's one final caveat: If you're buying either of these cars you probably own your own home, which means the vast, vast majority of the time you'll be charging at that home. So public charger availability isn't as big a deal as most people make it out to be. 

However, that doesn't stop this category from being a big win for the Tesla. 

2020 Porsche Taycan Turbo

The Taycan Turbo S is no slouch, but neither is it the quicker of these two cars.

Tim Stevens/Roadshow

Acceleration

Suffice to say that these are two of the quickest cars on the road. Quicker than most supercars, quicker than most race cars, quicker than just about anything else I've ever had the privilege of driving -- and I've been lucky enough to drive a lot of stuff. The beautiful thing about these cars is that they do it completely silently and without requiring any complex entering of launch codes or enabling hidden modes. Just put your foot down and they absolutely rocket forward. 

The top-shelf Porsche Taycan Turbo S will officially sprint to 60 mph in 2.6 seconds, but Motor Trend and plenty of others have clocked it at 2.4 seconds. That, for the record, is the same as a $3 million Bugatti Chiron

When the Taycan launched, that figure made it one-tenth quicker than the Tesla Model S Performance trim. However, with the new Cheetah Stance update, the Model S Performance now gets to 60 mph in just 2.3 seconds. Take that, Porsche. 

Either of these cars will embarrass just about anything else on the road while doing a very fine job of terrifying your passengers and ensuring that trunkful of groceries is in a proper state by the time you get home. Still, since I have to pick a winner, point to the Model S... by a hair. 

Handling

For the revision of the Model S released in 2019, Tesla made a host of subtle changes that were minor in isolation. But, combined with a hefty batch of new control software, the result was a car that not only offered significantly more range and acceleration than before, but also better handling. And better ride quality. And lower rolling resistance. 

To be frank, I was blown away by how big a difference those little tweaks made when I first drove the new Tesla last summer. To improve handling and ride quality in one shot is no mean feat. 

So, an impressive update for sure, but still not enough to outpace the Porsche. The Tesla may be quicker by a hair, but the Porsche is far and away the more rewarding drive on a good road. The Taycan just responds that much better, hiding its prodigious weight with more skill and doing a much better job of staying settled when the asphalt gets a bit rough. 

That's doubly impressive because the Porsche actually weighs more: 5,100 pounds compared with the roughly 4,900 poundsof a dual-motor Model S. When pushed, the Model S just seems to wallow a bit in the corners, while the rear-steering on the Taycan works wonders. It dives so aggressively into the turns that you'll probably find yourself unwinding the wheel before you get to your first few apexes. 

Point to Porsche here. 

2020 Porsche Taycan 4S

The Taycan's interior is on another level compared with the Tesla. 

Porsche

Interior and exterior design

As I said in my review of the most recent Long Range Model S, it's a good thing the original car was so pretty, because it's basically still here. Sure, a 2016 nip-and-tuck made the Tesla a lot sharper, but this thing just plain looks old at this point, both inside and out. That's a real problem in the luxury performance sedan segment, where freshness is key. 

No problem there with the Taycan. Sure, we've been looking at some flavor of this since it was the Mission E concept back in 2015, but damn, that car made everyone's jaw drop and the production car isn't far off. It's a clean and fresh design, borrowing a few cues from the Panamera -- itself quite a looker these days -- but adding a lot more edge. The only shame? There's no wagonlike Sport Turismo trim, at least not yet. 

And what about interiors? Here the Taycan is miles better than what Tesla's offering. Sure, I give Tesla credit for including a lot of extra features, like Dog Mode and Sentry Mode, but when it comes to the fundamentals, like quality materials and compelling design, the Porsche wins by a mile. 

Price and value

It's all tied up, two points for each car -- though that was a narrow win in the acceleration category for Tesla. So, it's price that will crown our winner, and conclusively so. 

The cheapest Porsche Taycan you can buy right now is the 4S, with an MSRP of $103,800 plus delivery. For that you get an official (though oddly conservative) EPA rating of 203 miles and a 0-to-60-mph time of 3.8 seconds. However, that price is if you don't tick any boxes. Being a Porsche, that's going to be awfully hard to do. The InnoDrive active safety suite costs a sweet $3,600, while the Performance Package, including rear-steering and torque vectoring, is a further $6,400. 

A base Model S Long Range Plus, which'll do 391 miles per the EPA and 0-to-60 in 3.7 seconds, starts at $80,000. Other than some premium paint, interior and wheel choices, and $8,000 for the still hopelessly optimistically named Full Self-Driving upgrade (which gives you auto lane changing and summoning), there's not a lot to add. Tick all the most expensive boxes and you're looking at $96,490 plus delivery -- about $7,000 less than the base Porsche, which at that price doesn't even have adaptive cruise. 

I won't compare the Model S Performance with the Taycan Turbo or Turbo S because the financial rift just gets way, way wider. Suffice to say the Porsche is the more premium-looking, -feeling and -handling car and it's priced accordingly. 

So which is the winner? Well, were price not a factor, I'd have a Taycan in my garage right now. 

But of course price is always a factor, and when it comes to speed, range and features, the Model S wins this fight. Eight years on, this Tesla still has legs.