What do Bill Nye, Travis Barker, A’ja Wilson, and Keanu Reeves have in common? If your guess is that they’re all blood type O-, you’d be…well, weird, maybe correct, and distressingly in sync with the corny misdirection that I’ve imposed on this opening. If, however, your guess is that each of them has driven a borrowed Porsche Taycan for promotional content, then you’re absolutely right, and you’ve probably already seen the videos that I’m going to talk about in this blog!
The research for this piece brought me to a place that I love to go––deep down a rabbit hole of background, world-building content. My favorite artists and most beloved bodies of work are those that weave a story into every facet of every piece, where there’s significance in every detail and continuity throughout, something best demonstrated by J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Lord of the Rings and related writings. I’ve found this type of world-building in fantasy novels, movie sagas, and music, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen it happen with a car.
Don’t get me wrong, there are entire cultures developed around cars of various styles, sometimes around individual models, but the way that Porsche has gone about promoting the Taycan via the No Small Dreams campaign surprised me. They certainly achieved their mission––I have, after all, now spent hours researching the Porsche Taycan as a direct result of those efforts, and when I win the lottery one day, you can bet I’ll be booking a visit to the Porsche Experience Center pronto. Seeing them reach out into the worlds of millennial nostalgia, cutting edge punk rock, and women’s sports superstars to do it was just too unexpected to ignore!
Easier to Pronounce (and Spell) than Touareg
“Taycan” (tie-cahn) is far from the worst offender in VW Autogroup’s history of challenging names, although I’m now going to question myself about a dozen times whenever I think of the word, thanks to Throttle House. The Turkish descriptor for “lively young horse,” the name self-references the Stuttgart stallion on the Porsche badge––essentially identifying the Taycan as an integral part of Porsche positioned at the heart of the organization, an apt connection to make for their first fully-electric model in this era of paradigm shifts.
The Taycan is no one-trick pony, pun intended, with trims from the base RWD sedan at around $83,000 up to the Turbo S Cross Turismo station wagon/shooting brake/5-door thing over $187,000, but the model is most strongly defined by the Porsche DNA woven through them all. The Taycan is targeting the Tesla Model S’s slice of the premium market pie by emphasizing all-around sportiness in a way that no other mainstream EV is doing, range be damned.
Straight-line acceleration is good, starting at 5.1 s 0-60 mph and pulling as hard as 2.6 s in peak performance trims, but enormous brakes and chassis tuning like only Porsche knows how make it handle as confidently as anything half its roughly 5,000 lb curb weight. The Model S Plaid and Lucid Air can’t claim the same, which isn’t their fault––they haven’t been the best in the business for nearly the entirety of the automobile’s existence like Porsche has! Range isn’t great by today’s standard, peaking at 227 miles in EPA testing (although it seems to do much better in the real world), but Porsche makes up for that with 800 V battery architecture to enable substantially faster charging.
How much faster? Well, the current Guinness World Record for “shortest charging time to cross the United States in an electric vehicle” is 2:26:48. During this trip, driver Wayne Gerdes observed his Taycan charge from 6% to 82% in 22 minutes on a 350 kW charger. This broke the previous record, set in December 2021 by the Kia EV6’s 7:10:01––nearly 3 times longer! The record before that had taken even longer, being set by a Model S in 2015 at 12:48:19. So sure, you’ll stop more often in a Taycan, but whether the car or driver is ready to hit the road first becomes a genuine question.
Combine that with the practicality of the Taycan’s spacious interior––especially in Cross Turismo form––and Porsche might just have the world’s premier electric grand tourer on their hands. In fact, the practicality of Cross Turismo goes a step further than raw cargo space, with this body style offering an extra inch of ground clearance, a “Gravel” drive mode, and an off-road package. This was good enough to gain the Cross Turismo permission to enter the Eagle Mine in northern Michigan. The significance of being able to drive into this mine, the lowest drivable point in the country at 1,774 ft below sea level, is that a team of drivers then drove 1,400 miles––stopping only to charge the vehicle and change drivers––to the top of Pikes Peak at 14,115 ft, a total altitude change of just over 3 miles, setting the record for altitude change by an EV in a single trip.
On paper, the Taycan looks like it offers everything––insane speed, nimble handling, and peak road-tripping capabilities. But Porsche, while changing their lineup to include electric and hybrid supercars, isn’t satisfied with just putting their work out there. They are determined to use the Taycan as a key piece of a broader effort to shift the world’s perception of their entire brand.
The Hype Machine
It’s called an “attitude campaign.” Grounded in Porsche’s origins is Ferdinand Porsche’s dream to own his ideal sports car, the No Small Dreams campaign is focused on surrounding the brand name with the sense that Porsche is made by dreamers, for dreamers, and that every dream is deserving of being realized. In it, Porsche reaches out to target audiences that are likely to be new to the brand and uses familiar faces to inspire these audiences to pursue their own dreams and ensure that a Porsche plays a supporting role in said dreams. Think of Nike’s “Just Do It” or Apple’s entire image––they promote a lifestyle, an attitude that their product supports or embodies, as Porsche vehicles embody the achievement of dreams.
I have personally only scratched the surface of the content created for No Small Dreams, but a common theme in the content that pulled me in and brought us to this point together was, of course, the Taycan. So, how exactly did Porsche weave the Taycan into this web of culture that is unified by the achievement of big dreams?
Let’s go in chronological order. The first of these shorts was also the one most focused on the Taycan itself, including demos of the ludicrous acceleration and adrenaline-pumping handling capabilities tied into a promo of Taycan’s range and the Porsche Experience Center’s drift pad. Who did Porsche choose to send on this excellent adventure? Why, Bill and Ted themselves, of course!
Clearly targeting a Gen X and older Millennial audience that might finally have the cash to afford one of these near-supercars, Porsche sent Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves on a journey down the California coast from Santa Barbara to LA. They reminisce about Porsches they’ve owned in the past, experience launch control in a detour hosted by legendary stunt driver Tanner Foust––where, in my opinion, Keanu misses a clutch opportunity to deliver a Neo cameo––and then take on a hill climb following the Le Mans, Daytona, and Sebring-winning Porsche factory driver, Patrick Long, in a 918 Spyder. It’s clear that the Taycan is more than a sports car to the drivers––it feels like an everyday car that turns into a rocket ship on command. They wrap up their journey with around 40% of their battery left––after all that spirited driving!––on the drift pad of the Porsche Experience Center to close out this 8-minute Porsche commercial.
So that was cool. But it only took Porsche a hot minute to recharge and launch yet again with another special, this time hooking viewers into their breakdown of how the Taycan works with one of the most familiar and credible scientific voices known to Millenial-kind: William Sanford Nye, aka Bill Nye the Science Guy.
Bill! Bill! Bill! Bill! Bill! Bill! Bill!
Can’t help myself; that theme is a force of nature. So naturally, I clicked on the link and was (eventually, when I tracked it all the way over to Porsche’s YouTube channel) treated to a series of minute-long explainers of everything that makes the Taycan special from an engineering perspective. The unique two-speed transmission that delivers that extra oomph for launches and the aerodynamic features that achieve the industry-best 0.22 drag coefficient (until the Mercedes EQS and Lucid Air hit the market) are covered, of course. But Bill also breaks down the science of voltage and current to demonstrate the significance of the 800 V architecture in classic Science Guy style, and gives a solid refresher on how regenerative braking happens, all following a demonstration of the Taycan’s ability to hit that 2.6 s 0-60 time again…and again…and again…and again!
Man, I loved that show. You bet I always eat my crust!
Breaking New Ground
It took until the autumn of 2021 for these next specials to come out, and by now, Porsche was really reaching for more of a product placement than to put the Taycan front-and-center. They start with a collaboration called Sound and Driven with punk rock publication MARVIN, intended to be a series of videos documenting the collaboration process between music legends and up-and-comers who’ve caught their eye. This is what really pulled me into No Small Dreams––what was “the Car Test,” what does it have to do with Porsche, and what is this documentary going to look like?
When the image fades in, and I realize that it’s Travis Barker tuning his drum kit on camera, I instantly make the connection to the recent SURVIVORS GUILT: THE MIXTAPE// collaboration with kennyhoopla, and my wife tells me to get a hold of myself because the baby’s sleeping. MARVIN skillfully demonstrates to viewers what the studio recording process looks and sounds like while interviewing both punk rock all-stars about their relationship with each other and their dreams.
Barker, one of the greatest drummers of all time, shows such admiration and respect for the young Kenneth La’ron’s authenticity and honesty. He remarks on the way songs that would have been easy hit singles were left off the album or reconstructed so that a great hook of a chorus would only be heard once, to take the listener on a journey that doesn’t go where they expect and where no one track outshines the others. La’ron reflects that he sees Barker as a kindred spirit, someone who understands him naturally and so intrinsically that they could make music without even speaking.
Then together, they take a drive to put their album through the Car Test––the final approval process for the music, which is always traditionally performed in a car. The car used to be the best place to listen to the finished piece; now, it remains the perfect place for an intimate, personal review of their finished work of art with a handful of close friends. Naturally, this Car Test goes down in a borrowed Porsche Taycan.
Barker and La’ron talk about how tragic it is when people let go of their dreams without trying to achieve them or don’t even dare to dream in the first place. “I feel like you owe it to yourself, you owe it to your dreams to try, at least try,” La’ron says before reflecting on THE MIXTAPE and how they did things that a lot of other artists wouldn’t do, just for the sake of being at the forefront of the genre. They were taking a risk but were also proud of what they put forth into the world and clearly sought to inspire others to reach for the same thing in their own lives. The short film wraps with Barker admitting that it took him three minutes to figure out how to put the cutting-edge Taycan into gear, which makes my night every time I hear it said out loud.
The final series we’ll visit today was produced by Togethxr, a platform created by Alex Morgan, Chloe Kim, Sue Bird, and Simone Manuel – ever heard of ’em? – to provide a place “where culture, activism, lifestyle, and sports converge.” Dreams Keep Driving, hosted by Candace Parker and featuring A’ja Wilson, Sydney Leroux, and April Ross––that’s now 8 names with more Olympic medals between them than most countries––is a series of interviews where these incredible athletes share the story of how their dreams of stardom formed, how they achieved those dreams, and what they aspire to now that they’ve reached the absolute peak of their professions.
It’s fascinating to see how these three apex performers saw their dreams come into focus in different ways. Wilson, already one of the WNBA’s most iconic athletes, only realized in her senior year of high school that she could make basketball work for her. On the other hand, Leroux immigrated to the US on her own at 14 to manufacture a chance to play for the US Women’s National Soccer Team, where she’d have a greater shot at glory than in her native Canada. Almost balancing the two, Ross tried to be realistic with herself and didn’t see Olympic volleyball as a real possibility until late in her collegiate career––adding up to a collection of stories that says it’s never too late to go all-in on your dreams.
Now that each of them has achieved every professional goal they could dare to, Parker asked what they dream of now, and each said (essentially) the same thing: they want to inspire the next generation of superstars and use their platforms to show girls all over the world that no matter where you’re from or what color skin you’ve got, it absolutely can be you on the podium one day. Then once that’s cleared up, it is, of course, time for a drive, with each of the guests taking a Taycan on the Porsche Experience Center’s course, including a drag strip, drift pad, and twisty road track. It looks like fun, and Wilson’s reaction to Launch Mode is absolutely worth writing home about!
It Came to Me in a Dream
I have to say that I genuinely enjoyed this journey through the No Small Dreams campaign, which caught my attention with names like Keanu Reeves and Bill Nye and hooked me with THE MIXTAPE Car Test on Sound and Driven. Seeing Porsche elevate the voices of platforms like Togethxr is a feel-good moment, too, and the undercurrent tying all of this together was the electric Taycan. As I sit here writing this, reflecting on what I’ve learned and questioning my choice of day job, I’m struck by the realization that it’s because of Porsche that I feel this way. While the Taycan plays its part to change the sports car industry, No Small Dreams is changing the world’s perception of the brand––and perhaps changing its viewers’ perceptions of themselves in the process.