As you likely know, Porsche is just about ready to officially announce their all-new, all-electric sports sedan, the Taycan. It looks to be extremely fast and impressive and is likely to be the first real Tesla-fighter out there. You may have also heard that the first version to make it to market will be the higher-spec, faster model, which Porsche has been calling the Taycan Turbo. This is a terrible, terrible name for the car, because if there’s one thing you can absolutely say about the Taycan, it’s that the car has nothing even remotely like a turbo in it.
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Before I go on, Porsche has not officially announced selling the Taycan Turbo, but the Taycan’s platform director called it as such in a pre-production drive, and we’ve seen it pop up in other non-public missives from Porsche. Publicly, the company has refused to comment on the record about it.
I don’t understand the perverse glee automakers seem to get from the destruction of words. The most obvious example of this sort of wanton word-destruction is the word “coupe,” which carmakers have been incorrectly using with such tenacity and vigor that the actual meaning of the word itself is likely now dead and gone.
We can’t let Porsche do this to the word “turbo.”
In the unlikely case you’re somehow not an automotive geek and reading this, let’s make clear what a turbo is and why it is absolutely absurd to apply the word to an electric vehicle.
A turbo, short for “turbocharger,” is a device that’s basically an air pump, spun on one side by an internal combustion engine’s exhaust gases, which drives a turbine on the other side that compresses the air/fuel mixture back into the engine. Packing more of the air/fuel mixture into the cylinder allows for greater power when the mixture combusts and forces the piston down, creating more exhaust, and keeping the whole thing going.
It’s a clever way of repurposing waste gases to get more power, and has proven extremely effective at increasing the power output of engines without increasing displacement.
Now, for a turbocharger to work, you need exhaust gases, intake manifolds, fuel/air mixtures, pistons and cylinders. The Taycan is powered by an electric motor. You know what electric motors don’t have?
Any of that shit.
You cannot have a “turbo” electric car because nothing about a turbo is compatible with how electric motors work. It’d be like if McDonalds started offering a McHDMI burger, suggesting that, somehow, that cheeseburger had an HDMI port on it, even though there is nothing inside a cheeseburger that would work in any way at all with an HDMI connection.
Porsche calling the Taycan a “Turbo” is just as idiotic.
Yes, I know that, for pretty much every one of you out there, the word “turbo” has become associated with the idea of speed or power, in some vague way.
Your blender with a “turbo” mode doesn’t actually have a little boost gauge or anything. Your TurboTax isn’t actually using an exhaust-driven compressor to cram a higher density fuel/air mixture into your computer’s CPU so that it can help you find the maximum possible refund that much faster.
I get all that. But that doesn’t make what Porsche is doing right. Other things that misuse “turbo” aren’t cars—they’re tax software or that old button on PCs that’d take you from 33 Mhz to 66 Mhz or they’re fragrances, for men.
But Porsche makes cars.
And if you say your car is a turbo or you slap a sticker on it that says TURBO, you better damn well have an exhaust-driven compressor under that hood, because words mean things.
If Porsche is okay with calling an EV “Turbo,” then why can’t Subaru call their next gas-powered, internal-combustion, flat-four-engined Outback the “Outback Electric?”
People would shit their pants if Subaru tried to call a non-EV “Electric,” and Subaru could claim they mean it’s electric in the same way the atmosphere at a dance club can be “electric,” but fundamentally nobody would care because the car is not fucking electric. (Carmakers know their limits here; look at how many non-EV hybrids are touted as “electrified.”)
Just like how the Porsche Taycan Turbo is not a fucking turbo.
Porsche, you still have time here. The car’s not on the market yet. Pick some other name, something that actually makes a lick of goddamn sense. Pull from electric-relating words, maybe, and find some that imply speed and power just like you feel “turbo” does.
Maybe Taycan Jolt or Taycan Strike or Taycan Lightning or Taycan Pulse or Amp or Shunt or Spark or Zap or Charge or Growler, or, really, anything but fucking turbo.
Don’t rip the meaning from this useful, honest word. You don’t have the right to do that. The word isn’t yours, it’s ours, all of ours, and I’m not going to let you play with it unless you can use it properly.
Don’t push me. I’m still pissed about “coupé.”
Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus, 2020 Changli EV • Not-so-running: 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!: https://rb.gy/udnqhh)