Electric vs Gas: Porsche Taycan vs 718 Spyder at Toronto’s Porsche Track Experience

If you’re looking to clear your head and get away from it all for a day – and who isn’t these days – we’ve found something better than a day at the spa or any yoga retreat. The recently re-opened Porsche Track Experience near Toronto is a day (or two) of non-stop flat-out tire-shredding action in a wide selection of brand new machines from Porsche. They cater to everyone from beginners to experienced weekend-warriors, offering a range of programs to suit all skill levels.

It all takes place at the historic Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (formerly Mosport) which is about an hour from Toronto. Built in the 1950s, it played host to the Formula One Canadian Grand Prix through the ‘60s, as well as Can-Am, Indy Car and World Superbike races. The whole facility was revamped and modernized several years ago. It’s a world-class track, right in Toronto’s backyard – but most people don’t even know it’s there.

On this day in August, the pit lane is a sight to behold: a couple well-used Porsche 911 GT3 RSs, some 718 Spyders and GT4s, a few 911s, and Porsche’s first all-electric sedan: the Taycan. It’s a who’s who of great sports cars, and they’re all ours for the taking.

A professional racecar driver – our tutor for the day – leads us out onto the Driver Development Track (which is shorter and twistier than the daunting Grand Prix circuit.) There’s three of us, each in our own car, following the instructor. His voice crackles over the radio with some pointers: green cones mark corner apexes, red for the turn-in points, be patient on the throttle here, go flat-out there.

We’re in the 718 Spyder first. It’s as pure and old-school as sports cars come these days: manual gearbox, a high-revving naturally-aspired flat-six, rear drive, mid-engine. It handles like a go-kart, except so much better. Power builds gradually, in a perfectly linear fashion; you hear what the car is doing as much as feel it. A glorious cacophony fills the cabin as the motor hits its 8,000 rpm redline in second gear. Shifting up and over into third gear (a rare treat these days) the action is buttery smooth and feels precise and solid like an old Nikon.

It’s not the quickest thing around with “only” 414 horsepower (0-100 km/h takes 4.4 seconds) but the car is a featherweight. There’s enough power to break the rear tires free, but it’s so progressive a driver can easily dance the line between grip and slip.

The more pressure you put into the brake pedal, the better the car turns as you release it. The weight transfer is easily felt. You can use the throttle to balance the car mid-corner, easing the burden on the front tires, then flatten the accelerator and listen to the motor sing. Push it harder with the electronic stability and traction control off, and it’s even more impressively grippy and predictable. If that all sounds like a description of exactly how a sports car should behave, it is. The 718 Spyder is a textbook analog machine, brimming with feel, which actually makes it an endangered species these days.

Jumping out of it and into the all-electric Taycan Turbo is like stepping from the past into the future.

The Taycan rolls almost-silently out of the pit lane; it makes a feint electronic hum, something like the sound of a flying saucer in a sci-fi flick. With overboost, its two-electric motors – one at each axle – put out a combined 670 hp and 626 lb-ft of torque.

Bumps on the track that jostled the 718, are steamrolled over in the Taycan. The air suspension soaks them up so you can’t even feel them. The power is instant, and shocking. Instead of building in a linear progressive way, it hits all at once, as soon as you touch the throttle, no matter the speed. It takes time to recalibrate your brain.

On a fast left with a dip and rise just before the apex, you can feel the immense weight of the Taycan. (Lithium-ion batteries are very heavy.) As the suspension compresses then unloads you get a sense of the sheer mass at play as the car skates to the far side of the track. It never feels out of control though, which is a testament to Porsche’s engineering skill. There’s never been an electric car this capable on a racetrack before. The wizardry going on between the motors, chassis and electronics is deeply impressive and slightly mysterious.

The brakes are mind-boggling too. They’re famously massive 10-piston carbon-ceramic items and can be grab-y but require less pedal pressure than the 718’s. When they really clamp down it’s like you’ve driven into a tar pit. Even more so than in the 718, you can use that weight transfer to turn the car in. (There’s more weight here, so more transfer.) The front whips around, and impressively the rear follows without breaking loose.

No matter the speed, there’s a familiar solidity and precision to the two cars, traits that mark every Porsche. Don’t forget: these are daily-drivable road-going machines, but each handles being hustled flat-out on a track like it was meant to do it. However, that is where the similarities between the two cars end. The 718 is the pinnacle of old-school sports cars, a machine for purists. The Taycan is the future, new technology delivering new sensations for those looking for what’s next. At the end of the day, the 718 is the one we took out for one last blast around the track. But it’s the Taycan Turbo we’d want for the drive home in rush-hour traffic. Actually, this pair would make a pretty unbeatable two-car garage.

Whatever may have been on your mind before the Track Experience will be gone by the time you finish your last lap of the day. You’ll be tired, coursing with adrenaline, and leaving with your need for speed well and truly satiated. We recommend monthly trackdays.