Road Tests

Drive Review: Porsche Taycan 4S sets a high base point

A Taycan without the Turbo

Yes, not the other versions have one… you are aware? For the meantime this is the entry-level Taycan 4S and despite living in the shadow of its sibling’s stopwatch is equally important to Porsche’s EV assault by bridging value, brand cachet, range and performance in one zero-emission footprint. And little-known secret, with the right guidance and deep breathing through the online configurator you can spec your Porsche Taycan 4S within a few technological whiskers of the Taycan Turbo and Taycan Turbo S.

Quick recap on the Taycan, please

Porsche’s highly desirable and first EV is an aerodynamically efficient low-slung, shallow-nosed four-door sportscar and while competition in South Africa is currently lean, in the coming months it will go head to head with Audi’s e-tron GT. In other markets it’s Porsche’s block and counter to Tesla’s Model S but distinguishes itself from the current campaigners by toting an 800v architecture – that’s double the industry norm and results in thinner cabling, less weight, infallible launch control and a wide band of charging options up to 270kW. The Porsche Taycan is also the first mainstream EV to pack a 2speed gearbox, thereby giving it a 250kph top speed without hampering acceleration.

You mentioned the Taycan 4S is very spec sensitive?

Not to say the base car is pared too far back, but it does come with a smaller 79.2kWh battery which reasonably amounts to less overall range, less performance and a slower 225kW charge rate. You can option the Turbo’s larger 93.4kWh Performance Plus battery which upgrades power from 390kW to 420kW and range from 407 kilometres to 463 kilometres. However, because the rear motor on the Taycan 4S is smaller than the Turbo’s, there’s no way of reconciling that power deficit. Still a healthy 0-100kph time of 4.0 seconds gives it a 0.4s advantage over the equivalent Panamera.

The cars we drove also came with optional four-wheel steering, Torque Vectoring Plus and Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control – we’d leapfrog the former and go with the latter two to mitigate the two-tonne kerb weight.

How does it drive?

If one’s prejudice towards EVs stems from the notion that they are only fun in a straightline, Porsche was keen to demonstrate otherwise with a trip out to Finland at Porsche Experience Centre. In the dense fresh air that paired extremely well with Taycan’s zero carbon emissions, the car’s on-board thermal management began to pre-condition the batteries to peak efficiency (about 37 deg). In this unforgiving alien landscape the only respite for these Taycans was when they snuck off for a quick 20min charge somewhere in the woods.  Now’s not the time to ask questions about charging infrastructure…

Holding big satisfying slides is mostly the flattering work of the Taycan’s interminable driving modes but at its core this is predominantly a rear-wheel drive car, inheriting a similar torque distribution profile to the 919 Le Mans winning car of 2017. I don’t find it as predictable or configurable as say a BMW M5, but there’s an agility here that is very appealing to the niche EV market that still stoically define themselves as driving enthusiasts. Furthermore to Taycan’s performance repertoire is how it ameliorates that tricky balance between regenerative braking and pedal feel, even bettering Porsche’s owns own hybrid models by some margin. On-road sensations, under civilised conditions, are slightly sterilised so don’t expect the hairs on your forearms to stand up on edge but I defy you not to enjoy the suddenness with which it teleports down the road with the artificial sports sound cancelling out the road noise.

Is it still a Porsche?

Fact is, raising a Panamera, sawing the wheelbase and sliding in a row of batteries would probably still have fulfilled that objective (as early prototypes soon confirmed). But this is not a Panamera EV, instead it’s a fully resolved product that has been progressively refined for over four years. One of the engineers said to me this is the most exciting project he’s ever worked on because without knowing the limitations, they couldn’t set any.

In normal thinking, limitations like achieving a sporty driving position on top of lithium-ion batteries. To Taycan’s credit, the chemistry between driver and machine is still spot on highlighted by those raised front wings which still serve as the perfect, reassuring apex-placement pointers. It’s an environment well suited to long stretches of autobahn or attacking a series of corners – why anyone would prefer an SUV to this, outside of off-road use, still perplexes me.

Porsche Taycan 4S ice

A technological leap inside?

Porsche has done well to desist a potential flooding of gadgets off this blank sheet of paper. To our relief there’s no fiddling with digital wing mirrors like in the Audi e-tron or highly stimulated graphics pertaining to range – unless of course you need them. Nope, the genius of the Taycan 4S is how well it sorts and distills all this overwhelming information into the background, allowing you to drive the Taycan like a traditional Porsche sportscar rather than an EV.

There are two screens (three if you include the driver’s instrument cluster) which all function off the same interface, sometimes leading to a repetitive flow of information. The one ahead of the passenger is new to Porsche but after thumbing it for a few minutes it felt barely more convenient than the centre screen and until you can access services like Netflix, or other potentially distracting things to the driver, is quite bland… for now.

But Porsche’s systems have caught up with its peers in the last twelve months and in a new interior design chapter, sans buttons, the haptic feedback responds precisely and rewardingly although it doesn’t have the slick animations or colour palette of a Mercedes-Benz or BMW. I also can’t finish without mentioning the impeccable build quality of the Taycan 4S which stands out as the best of any Porsche product on sale and will help justify that premium price.

Verdict

If the measure of a car is to be taken by its base model, the Taycan 4S sets the Taycan Turbo and Taycan Turbo S up for class honours. While we couldn’t answer questions about range on this launch, it’s unlikely that Porsche’s estimates will be far off given that this is a brand that famously underquotes its figures. More telling for us is that the Taycan’s touchpoints are very deliberate and well thought out while introducing innovative technologies bespoke to Porsche. Understatedly fashionable and cool but not intimidating to use every day. It’s a recipe used by the 911 and that worked out pretty well… Andrew Leopold

Specification

  • Price to be confirmed
  • Two permanent magnetic synchronous motors
  • 420kW
  • 650Nm
  • 0-100kph in 4.0 secs, 250kph
  • Range: 463 kilometres
Show More

Related Articles

Back to top button