Six months into the Porsche Taycan, it is time to review what I love and what frustrates about the car that many have dubbed the best EV available (controversial, I know, especially among fans of a certain US brand). I’m going to avoid that completely because to be honest “best” overall is just too subjective. What is best for one person may not even come close for another, and at this end of the market it is not just about the numbers.
It has been a little over six months since we took delivery of the white Taycan 4S, and we have done 3,676 miles in the car. Much of that has been on longer than average road trips, including a trip to southern California and back (over 1,000 miles round trip). We have documented those trips here on this site, including stats for the efficiency we achieved. What we have not yet captured are some of the problems we’ve had with the car (outside of problems charging it on long trips).
TL;DR The Taycan is a fantastic car spoiled by unbelievably poor software. Mainly the infotainment system, but there are problems in other parts of the software too.
What’s to Love
Driving it. This is one of those areas where personal choices might sway you toward or away from Tesla. Tesla fans rave about the auto-pilot features their cars have. Although my experiences a few years ago with it in the UK and the US on a Model X were less convincing, I’m willing to believe it has improved a lot over that time too. If I was commuting daily in the car, I might also like being driven, or even just having a helping hand, but I don’t commute. I wanted the car to actually drive it. I love driving – it is one of my happy places. The Taycan felt like a car I was driving, not just a means of getting from A to B.
The Taycan is a car I can drive 500 miles, or even just 0.5 miles, and get out with a smile on my face. It is a car I want to drive every time I look into the garage and see it. The precision of the steering, the raw acceleration, which does not get old (sorry, not sorry), the handling around curves, and surprisingly the way it handles rough roads and uneven surfaces. All of it makes for a big smile.
From a mechanical engineering viewpoint, it is clearly a masterpiece. A car this heavy should not feel as light and maneuverable as a two seater, but most of the time it does. Then there are its credentials as an EV. Sure, it doesn’t have the range of the Tesla, but it does have a lot more than the EPA numbers suggest. We have the Mission E wheels, claimed to cut range by as much as 10% (roughly 20-30 miles). The EPA numbers claim 227 miles, with aero wheels. We are getting around 260 miles of range with the big 21″ Mission E wheels.
More importantly, when you can find a 350KW charger, and the software gods are willing, it will charge from mid teens to over 80% in less time than it takes to buy a coffee. This is a game changer for long trips, or for those who don’t have access to home or office charging. After you’ve used the 350KW units a few times, dropping back to a mere 150KW unit seems painful, but those are still very fast chargers by current vehicle standards. The Taycan is just so far ahead of the pack, although they’re starting to catch up.
The Not So Good
As i alluded to earlier, there is one place the Taycan frustrates me. Not just occasionally, but pretty much every time I drive it. What makes it worse is that it should not be difficult to fix, especially in a car that sports over the air software update capabilities. Yet, here we are, not six months into the life of the Taycan, but coming up on two years since they were first delivered in the USA in December 2019, and still the same bugs persist.
As somebody who is more than familiar with software projects, bugs do not bother me as much as they might others. I understand that they will be there, especially in new software. That comes with two big caveats though:
- The serious ones should be caught during testing, and, if serious enough, be considered blockers that delay the release of the product they are in;
- After almost two years, we should not be seeing the same bugs.
There are numerous software bugs in the Taycan, covering the infotainment, the charging systems, the main driver dash, safety and driver assistance features, and more. Here are some of the more common or egregious that I have encountered in the last six months.
They say first impressions are the most important, and the Taycan’s PCM system certainly dropped the ball on this one. For the first three weeks I had the car I was forced to drive around in “guest” mode because the PCM login screen would not make the login button available to tap.
It took multiple calls to the Porsche Connect support team, as well as calls from my dealer, before this was resolved. I’m not blaming the US based team here – they escalated the issue, presumably to a dev team or an operations team, and nothing happened for three weeks.
I’m not alone experiencing this. It is a well known issue that has been occurring since the vehicle launched. That was almost 18 months before I experienced it, so this bug, which gives a really bad first impression to somebody who has just bought what is an expensive, luxury vehicle, should have been fixed long before my car was delivered.
Once that was working, there were other random and confusing problems, like these two affecting the setup of the Apple Music feature, something Porsche advertise a lot, but has proven to be one of the weakest parts of the infotainment in my experience, and the HomeLink garage door opener. The “Function not available” error shown there is one of its favourite errors, randomly appearing on the HomeLink function even after it is set up.
The Taycan’s PCM includes a media player with HD radio, Sirius XM (paid), streaming internet radio, Apple Music, Apple Podcasts and, of course, a bluetooth connection to my phone. At least, it is meant to include those. Some days some of those will be missing. The two Apple ones being by far the most common to disappear.
That’s if the media player services even appear. Sometimes it will sit “loading data” for 10+ minutes while you drive:
I have managed to drive several miles to a store, and most of the way back again before I even have a choice of media source. Then, if you happen to be on Apple Music, or select it, you get to watch another loading spinner. I cannot imagine what it could be loading that takes that long, every time I start the car. Did nobody tell them about caching data locally, and only downloading it if changes?
Event when it does get to the point you can interact with it, it may not actually play anything. Sometimes it does this thing where the volume is stuck at -1. Neither the steering wheel, nor the center screen volume controls will budge it, and the media player will not start playing anything, To get this back you need to switch the media source, and switch it back.
The integrated Apple Music capability is something they advertise a lot. When it works, it is really useful too, as is the podcasts option if you like listening to podcasts (and drive alone, or with others who also like your podcast selection – not my kids).
Unlike the podcast player though, the music service seems to be unable to remember where it was when it was switched off. If you’re really lucky, it will come back and play the last track it was playing from the start. Not terrible. Sometimes though it will jump back to the first track it played in the previous trip. Sometimes it will just display the incredibly annoying ‘select a track from the list’ message. That’s not just annoying, it is downright dangerous as you have to navigate to List, then Playlists, then your selected list (and since this sync’s with your Apple account, all your playlists are there, in seemingly random order), and finally tap on a track to start playback. Depending on how many playlists you have, opening that list may take a while too (did I mention caching before?).
If you’re really unlucky, when you get back in the car from that 10 minute stop to pick up a coffee, the Apple Music app will have simply disappeared. At some point on your drive it may reappear, and work, or it will reappear but want you to re-register. Which you cannot do while driving.
I hear you, it’s just an infotainment system, switch the “sport sound” on and enjoy that instead. Tell that to my kids when they’re in the car. Only, it is not just the infotainment system that has these bugs. Here are some more serious ones I’ve been presented with. Some of these sound like possible hardware problems, but in every case, restarting the car fixes them, strongly suggesting they are nothing more than software bugs.
This is the German way of saying automatic regenerative braking. The Taycan’s designers, eschewing the design of most other electric vehicles, chose not to have anything like one pedal driving. Lift your foot from the accelerator, and blessed with its large mass and low coefficient of drag, the Taycan rolls on with little loss of speed. There is a mode, sadly not one that can be made the default, that changes this behavior slightly: it will automatically use regenerative braking to slow the car if the vehicle in front is slowing. Sounds great, except that it will randomly disengage, showing a warning on the dash. In almost all cases, it can be immediately re-engaged without any problem, making me wonder why it even disengaged in the first place.
Easily the second most common system I have seen show random “failure” warnings, I have not been able to deduce any pattern as to what triggers it.
Typically, it will occur when reversing, but that could also be because that is the most common time when it turns on. When it fails, the camera system remains operational and shows on the screen, but the overlay of the vehicle on it disappears, leaving a ghostly blur in its place. The warning sounds for being close to objects also stop working.
The message is inaccurate since stopping and starting the car will fix it, and it will typically then remain fixed for a while (unlike the adaptive recuperation setting which fails repeatedly in a long drive, though that can at least be re-engaged without turning the car off).
Three At Once
The most recent set of random errors were these three, which continued to cycle from one to the next on the dash until I turned the car off and back on (luckily we were parked and I had only just started the car when they appeared). As with the others, turning the car off and back on fixed them all.
Not really a driver assistance, but another sign of buggy software, one of our trips started at the top of a pretty high, and steep hill. We had also been at the location long enough for our return drive to be considered a new trip.
In my previous EV, a trip like this would cause the miles per kWh number to jump up to unrealistically high values as we basically use little or no energy (or even push energy back into the battery reaching the bottom with more charge than we started with, which is, I suspect, what happened here).
That should not be an unexpected scenario for an EV, and yet it managed to display an efficiency number that makes no sense at all. If we really had managed to increase the state of charge coming down the hill, perhaps it should have masked the value or shown it as infinite. Calculating it with a negative value for the energy used results in a nonsense value.
On the whole, the navigation system in the Taycan is pretty good. That said, it has not been without its own issues over the last six months.
I know what it says, and even if I didn’t, the icon would probably be enough of a clue, but that is not the point. The car should know what language has been selected for its user interface, and it should use it. Again, I get the feeling it needs to pull the configuration from the cloud every time it starts, and if it doesn’t get it, then it is defaulting to German (which, for a German car, makes sense as a default). What doesn’t make sense is not having that setting stored locally.
A totally blank map. This was just after getting in the car to return home. On the way to where we were the map was showing up properly. When we get back it, it starts with a blank screen. Not far from home it magically restored all the streets. Once again, why was this not cached? If we’d driven “off” the visible map and it had trouble loading new tiles I might understand (although, I would expect an in-car navigation to have its own map data stored locally in case i don’t have a connection at all). Not showing the map information that had been on the screen maybe 10 minutes earlier when the car was turned off makes no sense.
Porsche Charging Service
One of the key features of an EV navigation system is the ability to locate chargers. Unlike gas stations, they are not routinely sign-posted on freeways or anywhere else. If you don’t know where they are, having them in a navigation system is essential,
A few months back, an update to the navigation system removed the data for the Porsche Charging Service, which is essentially the Electrify America locations. They were still in the larger list of all chargers, but somehow disappeared from the more filtered list. With its apparent dependency on data from the cloud, I assumed this would be a quick thing to fix from the server side, but no. It took months to get this data back.
I’m not going to rehash all the issues with compatibility between Electrify America’s chargers and the Taycan. When they work, they’re great, but when they don’t it is the most frustrating experience possible. This just should not happen. Charging needs to be 100% reliable. No exceptions, ever.
It doesn’t stop there though, there are other, less significant but still frustrating, issues with the charging experience.
Plug and Charge
One of the features that the 2021 Taycan was meant to support was Electrify America’s “plug and charge” feature where you no longer need to start the charging session with an app, or by tapping a payment card on the charger. Instead, in a Tesla-esque way, the charger will identify the car when it makes the initial connection and initiate the session automatically, charging your account as appropriate. That still doesn’t work on my Taycan, apparently because of an incompatibility with the onboard 19kW AC charger that the dealer spec’d. From what I am told, a software update (though not an over-the-air one) will fix that later this year (they are already delivering 2022 model year Taycans, so that means it will arrive over a year after the cars started being delivered).
In the mean time, we have the Porsche Charging app to start sessions. The best thing I can say about it is that it does usually allow me to start the session. It has its own collection of bugs to rival the in-car software.
The screen shot shows a series of messages stating that a charging session had started. The only time it sends this message is when a charging session has ended unexpectedly. In the case of the screenshot above however, it sent those messages almost 2 hours after the session had been ended by me, and we had driven almost 50 miles from the charger location. We were enjoying lunch outside a small sandwich shop when my phone starting this barrage of notifications, ended only by my removing its permission to send notifications.
Doesn’t stop there. The app also has a screen that shows information about a charging session. Only it is not accurate. The three images below are in the order they were taken. The first and third are from the Charging app, the middle one from the charging status screen in the car.
The state of charge is incorrect in both, but also notice the power being delivered. 120 kW reported in the first, 60 kW in the second, but the car, and the Electrify America charger, both reported a steady 108 kW over that time.
The app also includes status information about the chargers so while you browse on the map for them you can see how many are available, but it too is inaccurate. At any given time it will show different information about the available chargers compared to Electrify America’s own map (and both of them may be different to the reality when you arrive there, although the EA app seems closer).
Not of the car, but of the infotainment system (both screens) and the climate control/navigation panel. Not long after leaving home all of them suddenly shut off. No sign of them coming back on, so I pulled over, switched the car off and locked it, then unlocked and switched it back on. All the screens came back on.
So, not difficult to fix when on the streets in my home town where there are plenty of places to pull over safely. Would have been a different story on the freeway heading to southern California where we were relying on the navigation system, and where pulling over onto the shoulder is not really that safe.
It is also something that should be designed for. As I mentioned earlier, bugs in software are not uncommon, even ones serious enough to crash the entire system. An embedded system like a car should have a what is called a watchdog timer running. Put simply, the watchdog needs the software to reset it regularly. If it is not reset, then it reboots the system. That way, if the software fails catastrophically the system can reboot without human intervention. This is not new, nor is it unusual.