Comparing the giants of the high-performance EV market

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After years of promises, teasers, and concept cars, Porsche finally unveiled the Taycan. A major turning point in the company’s history, the Taycan is the first Porsche with an all-electric drivetrain. What’s more, the Taycan is an EV of the high performance variety, so it goes against one of the most popular electric vehicles on the market, the Tesla Model S. A strong seller in the United States and a market leader in some European countries, the Model S is tough to beat. The big question is whether the Taycan has what it takes to give the Model S a run for its money and that’s exactly what we will find out in the comparison below.

Porsche Taycan vs. Tesla Model S Exterior Design

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Although it borrows features from the Mission E concept, the Taycan essentially a sportier Panamera with a sleeker roof

The Porsche Taycan may be brand-new for 2020, but it’s not exactly unique in the Porsche lineup design-wise. Although it borrows features from the Mission E concept, it’s essentially a sportier Panamera with a sleeker roof, slightly more aggressive fascias, and cues taken from the 911.

The headlamps are indeed unique to this car, as they’re based on the Mission E’s, but the bumper, the clean nose, and the front hood all remind us of the Porsche 911. Move to the sides and it’s hard not to notice that the German firm basically crafted a sleeker version of the Panamera. Notable changes include a coupe-like roof that sits lower, sportier side skirts, and more muscular rear haunches.

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Unlike the Taycan, the Model S is the car that started it all for Tesla in terms of design

For the rear end, Porsche returned to the 911 for inspiration. While it kept some of the detailing seen on the Mission E, the thin taillights with the LED lightbar in the center, the smooth dent underneath, and the clean bumper are all reminiscent of the 911. But overall the Taycan is a modern-looking four-door coupe that fits nicely in the Porsche lineup.

Unlike the Taycan, the Model S is the car that started it all for Tesla in terms of design. Sure, the Roadster came before the Model S, but the latter is the vehicle that inspired the Model X and Model 3 that came a few years later. However, this comes with a drawback: the Model S is rather old and it’s getting a bit long in the tooth. Introduced in 2012, the Model S went through a facelift in 2016, but the update didn’t change much design-wise. Tesla removed the black nose cone and added a body-colored fascia, but everything else remained mostly the same.

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In the back, the Model S is a very basic American sedan

All told, the Model S has a rather mundane appearance compared to the Taycan. It features swept-back headlamps that are rather common on modern cars and a simple bumper with a wide grille at the bottom. The trademark, T-shaped grille on the nose is a nice touch though.

The profile is actually very similar to the Taycan. Tesla went with a coupe-shaped roof that adopts a notchback design towards the rear and a low beltline that runs through the door handles. It even has muscular rear haunches just like the Taycan, while the side windows are also very similar. However, the Model S’ front fenders are not as muscular as the Taycan’s, while the side skirts are also much simpler.

In the back, the Model S is a very basic American sedan. Granted, the deck lid is shorter than the usual four-door, but other than that, we can see a bunch of familiar styling cues. It has horizontal, two-piece taillights with sharp edges and a chrome strip between them, a license plate recess integrated into the trunk lid, and a featureless bumper with black insert that’s supposed to mimic a diffuser.

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So when it comes to design, there’s quite a big difference between these EVs. The Taycan boasts that sporty vibe you can also find in the 911, while the Model S is a pretty basic sedan with a handful of features that catch the eye. Fortunately, the Model S holds its own very well given its age.

When it comes to size, the two electric cars are very similar. The Porsche Taycan is 195.4 inches long, only a half-inch shorter than the Model S (195.9 inches). At 77.4 inches wide, the Taycan is only a tenth-of-an-inch wider than the Model S (77.3 inches). When it comes to height, the Taycan stands a bit lower at 54.3 inches. The Model S is 56.5 inches tall. On the other hand, the Model S has the bigger wheelbase at 116.5 inches. That’s 2.3 inches more than the Taycan.

Porsche Taycan vs. Tesla Model S Interior Design

2020 Porsche Taycan Interior
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The infotainment screen in the Taycan's center dashboard measures 10.9 inches, an industry standard

The interior of the Taycan is both sporty and modern. The wide and angled center console looks like what you’d expect to find in a sports car and the big number of digital screens makes the cockpit look high-tech, despite the fact that the overall layout is similar to the Panamera.

The instrument cluster, for instance, features five digital gauges and it’s wider than usual. The infotainment screen in the center dashboard measures 10.9 inches, an industry standard, and Porsche offers a similar display for the passenger’s-side dashboard. A third screen placed on the center console rounds off the high-tech look. This display incorporates controls for the climate system and eliminates the need for physical knobs on the dash.

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The massive 17-inch, portrait-style touchscreen on the center console sets the Model S apart from everything else on the market

Porsche has yet to release information on technology, but it should come equipped with all the modern convenience features available in modern premium cars. It should have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, Wi-Fi, wireless charging, access to a wide range of apps for music, weather, and so on.

What we do know is that the Taycan is the first Porsche available with a sustainable leather-free interior that replaces leather with recycled materials.

The Model S’ cabin looks a bit more mundane. The dashboard has a somewhat old design, while the instrument cluster is notably smaller. However, the massive 17-inch, portrait-style touchscreen on the center console sets this sedan apart from everything else on the market. This massive display replaces nearly all buttons necessary to operate vital functions, so the Model S looks just as clean as the Taycan inside the cabin.

Porsche Taycan vs. Tesla Model S Interior
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When it comes to trunk space, the Taycan offers 12.9 cubic feet of luggage room in the rear trunk

The Tesla is well-equipped when it comes to technology and it should be on par with the Taycan (something we’ll find out when Porsche releases more info). When it comes to materials, you can spec your Model S with leather and Alcantara, but you have to be careful when it comes to fit and finish as Tesla is known to have issues with build quality.

When it comes to trunk space, the Taycan offers 12.9 cubic feet of luggage room in the rear trunk and an additional 2.8 cubic feet in the front trunk. This translates to a total capacity of 15.7 cubic feet. While this isn’t very bad, it’s less that you get with most sedans of this size. Making matters worse, the Model S offers notably more room. Specifically, it can hold 26.2 cubic feet of luggage in the rear trunk and 5.3 cubic feet in the front section. What’s more, the Model S had folding rear seats, which help increase luggage space to a whopping 63.4 cubic feet. That’s more than some midsize wagons and about four times more than the Taycan. Talk about a humiliating defeat.

Porsche Taycan vs. Tesla Model S Powertrain and Performance

Porsche Taycan vs. Tesla Model S Exterior
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The Porsche Taycan generates up to 750 horsepower

When it comes to powertrains, the Taycan and the Model S have two main things in common. Both are completely electric and both feature dual-motor layouts. Back in the day, the Model S was also offered with a single motor, but Tesla dropped that configuration and kept AWD variants only. Both cars also come with high performance versions. But you have more options to choose from with the Taycan. Porsche offers four drivetrains, while Tesla recently reduced the lineup to just two.

The Taycan range begins with the 4S Performance. Fitted with a single-deck battery stack with a capacity of 79.2 kWh, this model hits the street with 530 horsepower on tap. It hits 60 mph in four seconds and keeps running up to a top speed of 155 mph. Next up is the 4S Performance Plus. This model features a larger, two-deck stack battery with a total capacity of 93.4 kWh. Naturally, it cranks out more oomph than the base model. Specifically, it comes with 571 horsepower tap. But despite the extra oomph, it also needs four seconds to hit 60 mph and it’s rated at the same top speed of 155 mph.

Porsche Taycan vs. Tesla Model S Exterior
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Next on the list is the Taycan Turbo. Powered by the same motors and battery as the 4S Performance Plus, the Turbo model cranks out 616 horsepower in the regular setup and 670 with the overboost function. With maximum power engaged, it hits 60 mph in an impressive three seconds. Top speed also increases to 161 mph for this model. Finally, we have the Taycan Turbo S, which generates 750 horsepower with overboost. The Turbo S is obviously the quickest Taycan you can buy. It needs only 2.6 seconds to reach 60 mph, to go with a top speed of 161 mph.

2020 Porsche Taycan specifications
2020 Porsche Taycan Turbo 2020 Porsche Taycan Turbo S Porsche Taycan 4S Porsche Taycan 4S Performance Plus
Electric motors power 616 horsepower (670 horsepower with overboost) 616 horsepower (750 horsepower with overboost) 530 horsepower 571 horsepower
Battery 93 kWh 93 kWh 79.2 kWh 93.4 kWh
0-60 mph 3 seconds 2.6 seconds 4.0 seconds 4.0 seconds
Top Speed 161 mph 161 mph 155 mph 155 mph

Moving over to the Tesla Model S, you can pick between two versions. The base model is called the 100D Long Range and it’s powered by a pair of electric motors that deliver 417 horsepower. The American sedan charges to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds and tops out at 155 mph. The other Model S available is the 100D Performance. Equipped with the already infamous Ludicrous mode, it hits the pavement with a whopping 762 horsepower. That’s enough to push the sedan to 60 mph in just 2.4 seconds and up to a top speed of 163 mph.

Tesla Model S 100D Long Range Tesla Model S 100D Performance
Horsepower 417 762
0 to 60 mph 3.7 2.4
Top Speed 155 mph 163 mph
Porsche Taycan vs. Tesla Model S Exterior
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A quick look at the figures above and it’s pretty obvious that the base Taycan delivers more oomph than the entry-level Model S. Specifically, the Taycan 4S Performance generates an extra 113 horsepower when compared to the Model S 100D Long Range. But despite the extra oomph, the Tesla is three tenths quicker to 60 mph and hits the same 155-mph top speed. The 100D Long Range is also three tenths quicker than the Taycan 4S Performance Plus, despite a deficit of 154 horses.

Moving into the performance realm, the Taycan Turbo models go against the 100D Performance model. Rated at 670 horsepower, the Taycan Turbo falls behind the 100D Performance by 92 horsepower. This is more than visible in the performance department, as the Turbo is more than a half-second slower to 60 mph. Specifically, while the Tesla Model S hits the benchmark in an insane 2.4 seconds, the Taycan Turbo needs three seconds flat. The Tesla also has a slightly superior top speed at 163 mph, two mph more than the German sedan. While you’d be tempted to think that the Turbo S trumps the 100D Performance, Tesla wins this battle as well. Although it has just an extra 12 horses over the Turbo S (rated at 750 horsepower), it’s two tenths quicker to 60 mph (2.4 vs 2.6 seconds) and hits a two-mph higher top speed (163 vs 161 mph).

Porsche Taycan vs. Tesla Model S
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While fast EVs are really cool, it’s the range that matters here. Unfortunately, Porsche has yet to release efficiency numbers for the U.S., so we can’t do a proper comparison just yet. But the Germans took the Taycan out for a demonstration trip from Niagara Falls to New York City and published the results. The Taycan was driven for 250 miles before being stopped for a recharge. When this happened, the computer indicated 39 miles of remaining charge. This means that the Taycan has a total range of around 290 miles.

While this is a solid figure for a brand-new EV, it’s notably below what the Tesla Model S can offer. The 100D Performance is rated at up to 345 miles, while the 100D Long Range is rated at up to 370 miles. Unless Porsche’s estimate doesn’t improve, the Taycan will fall behind by at least 50 miles, or more than 20 percent. The non-Turbo models should have a longer range, so there’s a big chance that the Taycan will surpass the 300-mile mark. We’ll be back to update this information as soon as the EPA releases official numbers.

We do know a bit more about the Euro-spec Taycan. In Europe, the 4S Performance is rated at 407 km per charge, while the 4S Performance Plus returns up to 463 km per charge. Porsche says that the latter is the most efficient model from the lineup. Again, these are solid numbers, but way behind the Tesla Model S. In Europe, the 100D Performance returns up to 590 km, while the 100D Long Range is rated at up to 610 km. This means that the least efficient Tesla delivers an extra 127 km over the most efficient Taycan, and that’s a lot!

Porsche Taycan vs. Tesla Model S
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While Tesla uses the popular 400-volt plug-in system, Porsche created an 800-volt system for the Taycan

With all the performance figures behind us, we can look at other drivetrain components that set these two EVs apart. For starters, the Model S features a single-speed transmission with a fixed ratio, while the Taycan comes with a two-speed gearbox. Installed on the rear axle with one of the electric motors, it features a first gear that prioritizes acceleration from a standing start. The second gear, which features a long gear ratio, ensures high efficiency and high power reserves while traveling at high speeds.

Another big difference lies in the plug-in charging system. While Tesla uses the popular 400-volt system, Porsche created an 800-volt system for the Taycan. This means that the battery charges way faster, with the charging time from five to 80 percent reduced to only 22 and a half minutes. Tesla’s Supercharger, for instance, needs about an hour to charge a nearly empty battery. In 20 minutes, the Supercharger will add up to 125 miles of range or less than half the Model S’ total capacity.

Is the Porsche Taycan Better Than the Tesla Model S?

Porsche Taycan vs. Tesla Model S Exterior
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This is a tough question, because it depends on what you’re looking for in a car. Design-wise, the Taycan is by far the better car inside and out. It looks sportier and more modern on the outside thanks to design cues borrowed from the Mission E concept and 911 and it boasts an aggressiveness that the current Model S can’t even dream of. The same goes for the cabin. Although Tesla offers that massive display, Porsche makes up for it through the three separate screens that adorn the dashboard and the center stack. Sure, the one on the passenger-side dashboard is an extra option, but the cabin looks just as good without it.

Drivetrain-wise, the Taycan comes with two advantages. You can pick from four different models — Tesla offers just two — and the 800-volt plug-in system provides faster charging times. However, the Model S is the quicker car, even when it’s not as powerful as the Taycan’s competing trims, and provides significantly better range. It also wins when it comes to trunk space. Thanks to its folding rear seats, the Model S can be as spacious as a big wagon. The Taycan, on the other hand, can barely compete with sports cars and falls behind small hatchbacks and compact sedans.

Porsche Taycan vs. Tesla Model S
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Porsche also has an issue with the pricing, as the Taycan is notably more expensive. In the U.S., the base 4S model starts from $103,800. That’s a whopping $23,810 over the base Model S 100D Long Range, priced from $79,990 before incentives. The Taycan 4S is also more expensive than the Model S 100D Performance, which comes in at $99,990. If you want the Turbo model, the sticker increases by at least 50 percent. The Turbo comes in at $150,900, while the Turbo S fetches $185,000 before options.

Overall, the Tesla Model S is the better offer, mostly because it comes with a longer range and better performance for a much smaller price.

Final Thoughts

Porsche Taycan vs. Tesla Model S Exterior
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Although the Tesla Model S wins in a practical driver’s book, the Taycan isn’t an option you should ignore. That’s because it’s not significantly slower and its range isn’t bad either. But it’s a solid option only as you don’t need a big trunk. Simply put, it’s the perfect option if you’re in the market for a four-door sedan that isn’t a Tesla or an electric, four-door and four-seat version of the Porsche 911. The really big news here is that Tesla is finally getting some competition in this segment.

Ciprian Florea
Ciprian Florea
Senior Editor and Supercar Expert -
Ciprian's passion for everything with four wheels (and more) started back when he was just a little boy, and the Lamborghini Countach was still the coolest car poster you could hang on your wall. Ciprian's career as a journalist began long before earning a Bachelor's degree, but it was only after graduating that his love for cars became a profession.  Read full bio
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