A new era of Porsche performance is upon us. What’s the mid-spec Taycan 4S like?
It seems that people interested in the 2021 Porsche Taycan first appear conflicted – and I don’t mean those knee-deep in Nürburgring paraphernalia.
I feel that way because during my time with it, many, from all walks of life, approached me in person to question whether an electric vehicle is both evocative and emotive enough for them.
I thoroughly enjoy gauging the reception a car receives, more so when there’s a diverse collective of people involved. It’s part of the fun, with the verbatim of random passers-by cataloguing in your mind as a whimsical archive of anecdotes on what makes a car special, good or even bad.
Why these random interactions stood out more wasn’t just because they flowed thick and fast, but more because of the backdrop against which they were received.
Our booking for a 2021 Porsche Taycan 4S had inadvertently fallen at the start of the Sydney lockdown. So, the vehicle was used sparingly: to get groceries, pick up kids from childcare, the odd loop, and somewhere for a few (quick) happy snaps to accompany these words.
Even when you try to avoid the public, a Porsche Taycan will still seemingly draw people out of thin air. The few times I stopped to grab a bottle of water, I had multiple walk-ups to quiz. It also transpired that some traffic light stops would involve dialogue: some haranguing, others more fascinated. It draws attention.
Between those, the multiple neighbours, the guy at the post office, a butcher, and someone walking casually past my home, I’d say I engaged in at least 15 conversations with people who, if I were in anything else, I would not have spoken to.
At least about cars anyway. The feedback was diverse, but unanimous in one sense. Nearly all debated whether it pulled enough on their heartstrings, with the expected “it’s no 911” heard more than once, usually after discussing how quiet the Taycan is.
Nothing earth-shattering since the majority viewed it parked and didn’t get a ride. I must admit, even I felt akin before driving it. Shared truths, to be satirical. More like shared assumptions, in reality.
Our car is a 2021 Porsche Taycan 4S, which is one step above the entry-level model (which is simply called the Porsche Taycan), and starts from $194,700 before on-roads. It’s fitted with a whole host of options, including the important Performance Battery Plus.
|Key data||2021 Porsche Taycan 4S Performance Plus|
|Motor count||Dual AC synchronous electric motors|
|Power||360kW, 420kW overboost|
|Drive type||All-wheel drive|
|Transmission||Single-speed front, two-speed rear – automatic|
|0–100km/h time (official)||4.0sec|
|0–100km/h time (as tested)||3.9sec|
|Power to weight ratio||162.1kW/t (189.2kW/t during overboost)|
|Price before on-roads||From $194,700|
|Price as tested before on-roads||$232,790|
Opting for it boosts charge-holding capacity from 79.2kWh to 93.4kWh, which both aids performance and range.
It’s worth looking carefully at the figures, as some are complex.
Torque is simple. A regular Taycan 4S makes 640Nm, whereas one equipped with the Performance Battery Plus – informally known as Taycan 4S PP in this review – produces 650Nm.
Power is not. A regular Taycan 4S generates 320kW all day, every day. In certain situations, like the odd throttle stamp in Sport Plus mode, or when primed for launch control, it’ll briefly deliver 390kW.
A Taycan 4S PP makes 360kW, however, some 40kW more than the regular car. When overboosting that figure hits a seriously high 420kW. It’ll also go 414km on a single charge, which is more than the regular car’s claimed range of 365km.
Charging times also improve too. Using an AC 11kW charger, like you would install at home, a Performance Battery Plus-equipped car will go from flat to full in eight hours. Using powerful and fast DC charging, you’ll be able to restore 310km of range in just 22-and-a-half minutes.
That’s not all. As the ‘Plus’ name suggests, the package introduces more than just a battery. On the front axle, the Taycan 4S PP’s e-motor now produces 175kW, up from 150kW, and now in line with the higher-spec and more expensive Taycan Turbo. A similar story applies at the back axle, where power is boosted from 270kW to 320kW.
Consider cars equipped with the Performance Battery Plus option almost a separate model sitting somewhere between the regular 4S and the brutally fast Turbo.
Other options on our test car included leather-free interior in Graphite Blue ($7540), Glacier Blue LED Matrix headlights ($4610), and an awesome fixed panoramic roof ($3370).
More dubious selections were exterior LED projecting courtesy lights ($600) and Porsche Electric Sport Sound, or fake noises, for $1050.
The total options list – worth $38,090 – creates a Taycan 4S PP worth $232,790 before on-roads. If you’re wondering, the colour is Frozen Blue Metallic, and is from the complimentary part of the menu.
After initially seeing the car in isolation, the colour didn’t quite tickle my fancy. It’s an awfully deceptive finish, with light greatly affecting its delicately sparkly grain. Under service station illumination it appears shallow and bright, but in natural twilight, deep and lustrous.
After some time, you notice that the colour dresses the Taycan’s physically large body and rather dramatic proportions quite beautifully. The ruler marks say 4.96m long by 1.96m wide, yet just 1.37m high. Compare that to a brand-new Toyota Corolla, which is 4.37m, 1.79m and 1.43m respectively.
Or something more comparable, like a 2021 Tesla Model S. It’s similar being 4.97m long by 1.96m wide, but a whole heap higher at 1.44m. It’s this last dimension that gives the Taycan its more exotic form.
There are also plenty of body curves, non-fussy junctions and shut-line uniformity to make any designer, or appreciator of the arts, weak at the knees. When asked, nearly all loved the colour, in contrast to my initial feelings.
As they say, the more good times you share, the fonder you become. Interesting, as the performance on offer here lends to nothing but good times.
In normal mode, playing with a more friendly 360kW/650Nm offering, it feels borderline regular. The calibration of the pedals, steering, and even how the unique two-speed rear gearbox reacts, channels a sense of familiarity.
A quick note on that two-speed transmission, as it’s a unique thing to the Taycan (but will soon spread to the Audi E-Tron GT). As electric vehicles, and their electric motors, have a wide breadth of operating speeds, they very rarely feature any form of gearing. That’s unlike an internal combustion car, which has a comparatively narrow spectrum of operating performance, thus requiring some form of effort multiplication.
An EV’s operating band is not endless, but there’s enough for engineers to get away with a single-speed unit logically tuned to suit fast acceleration over high top speeds. What Porsche has done is also logical, which is to introduce a two-speed rear transmission complete with e-limited-slip differential.
The first gear is designed to enable even faster acceleration, and the second to inspire more range via effort reduction. It can also decouple the rear axle if needed.
With the Taycan 4S set in its normal drive mode, the system sticks to the taller, second gear, and reserving the other for big events. You can clearly feel it ‘downshift’, too, with this contemporary form of kickdown taking a second or two to occur after you absolutely bury the throttle pedal.
It doesn’t ramp up either, with the experience feeling like flicking a switch, albeit delayed. The changeover itself occurs instantly, however, going from fast to manic with brutal acceleration – and we haven’t even entered hyperdrive yet.
When toggled into Sport Plus mode, the systems pivot toward serving mega acceleration over outright range. First gear on the rear axle is always picked when taking off from a standard start, so jabs of the throttle are not met with delayed sensation from normal mode.
Instead, you’re violently slapped into your seat by G-force and what feels like endless amounts of grip. I never once felt the Taycan begin to bowl over the tyres, with its power distribution getting to the best places at the right times.
It can make passengers genuinely feel ill, as it did my wife, who can sometimes suffer from motion sickness. Getting from zero to 100km/h takes 4.0 seconds according to the spec sheet, but it feels much faster in reality. This inspired some testing, which saw the Taycan 4S dish out three back-to-back runs at 3.9 seconds, on a less than ideal surface also littered with debris and moisture.
Provoking gestures of throttle on a corner exit see power transition to the outside wheels naturally, as you’d expect in something with mechanical limited-slip differentials. You don’t have to be driving recklessly to experience the sensation either. It’s set up incredibly well, and unlike any other electric vehicle I’ve experienced.
Even the switchable energy regeneration is designed to complement a good time, which is unlike any other electric vehicle on sale. Not only does the brake pedal feel remain consistent and Porsche-like with regen either on or off, but you almost feel inclined to work with the regeneration system, as a sort of make-good for being a back-road bandit.
Recycling is good for the environment, so why not harvest otherwise lost energy from your antics to further power more? It’s this valorous attitude and approach to powertrain calibration that sees Porsche excel as a leader in the craft of performance vehicles, agnostic of propulsion type.
Efficiency figures hovered around the 26kWh per 100 kilometre mark and enabling a theoretical range of 360km. After toning things down, there’s a high chance you’ll come close to the claimed range.
The ride quality is excellent, too, with air suspension coming as standard. In its most comfortable setting, it’ll cross most roads with little fuss and a nice sense of underlying tautness. This sports car levels of stiffness do become more evident with the road surfaces becoming utterly dire, but not enough to warrant concern.
The set-up does a fantastic job considering a Taycan 4S weighs 2.2 tonnes. It’s beyond tolerable in its most stiff setting, too, with the ride never feeling uncomfortable for the car or the driver.
A key enabler of this duality is the Porsche’s ‘active balance’ system, which uses electromechanically assisted swaybars to prevent roll only when needed.
You see the same system in only the most expensive petrol cars, usually brandished as part of a 48-volt electrical architecture from the future. With electric cars, they all have the hardware needed to run such systems. Even the cheapest ones, in theory.
One element that stands out quite literally is its low front nose. It’s easy to catch it on driveways and undulations, especially if the car’s suspension is set too low. A subtle acknowledgement by Porsche can be seen in the factory-fitted nose-lift system, which pops the front up at locations you mark on the car’s map.
The steering feels brilliant, too, but that was never going to be an issue for Porsche. The brand got cracking with electric power-steering development in the late 2000s with the 991-generation 911, which launched in 2011 with the brand’s first fully electric set-up.
The changeover was a controversial talking point of the time, which like water-versus-air cooling can feel jejune in retrospect. Many Porsches since, even some not blessed with the holy 911 badge, feature engaging digital steering and radiators.
Unlike the drive, the cabin experience does not feel as natural. The edges of the gauge cluster are frameless, its buttons digitised, and screen hyper-extending, as our car is equipped with the passenger display option ($2150).
Its air vents are needlessly digital, too, so they cannot be moved around the good old-fashioned way. Instead, you have to tap ‘AC menu’ on the lower screen to bring up the blower outlets’ position controls.
There’s a setting called diffused, which according to the picture shown on the infotainment screen depicts air being dispersed out of the air vents evenly.
There’s also a ‘focussed’ mode that allows for a linear path of air, like regular vents. There’s no prompt to touch the screen, but if you’re brave enough, you can then move the direction of air around remotely in a vague manner.
Tough luck if you’re the sort than warms their hands up over air vents. Like Audi’s digital side mirrors, it’s a bizarre manifestation of technology that feels counterintuitive compared to the original – which didn’t need changing.
Still, diffused mode works well if you’re parking one-up with pre-heating or cooling dialled in. If there’s any climate-control system that could actually be set and forget, it’s likely to be this one with some careful planning.
Other than those fussy interaction points, the front cabin area looks wonderfully simple. The only ornamentation comes from pretty things, like a Porsche steering wheel.
Our example also featured an optional leather-free interior, which combined Alcantara with a cloth mesh trim. It’s a thoughtful choice, but some materials do feel cheap, especially as an interior that you pay $7540 extra for on a car that costs nearly $200,000 before on-roads.
The second row is not the biggest, but there were satisfactory amounts of head, knee and foot room behind my own driving position, or one set for someone 183cm tall. It’s also worth considering that our car was optioned with the 4+1 seating configuration option ($1000).
While it creates two comfortable bucket seats for adults in the back, their shaping is not conducive to supporting the apparatus needed to holster children. It works by all accounts, but some extra persuasion is needed to get child seats installed correctly.
The 4+1 configuration also makes the middle seat useless, despite the token gesture of a middle seatbelt. Ironically, despite being high-tech, our Taycan 4S features zero USB ports for the second row. You’ll find more device charging capability in a petrol-powered, garden-variety family car worth a fifth of the Taycan’s value.
At least there are regular manual air vents, though. The optional, fixed glass roof ($3370) is a wicked addition, as it’s always on display. If you’re wondering why there’s no internal blind, it’s because the complex type of glass Porsche uses is said to be heat-reflecting.
Like similar stuff used on top of a Tesla Model 3, the Porsche’s material comes with the same, interesting stylistic trade-off. In certain conditions, usually involving water, say, early morning dew, the roof turns orange. It’s quite striking, like the car is overall.
The main storage areas are divided, with a rear boot offering 366L, and a front storage pit 84L, totalling 450L. Not stacks, but enough. Some will revel in the division, as it creates homes for certain things.
The areas are not generously proportioned, though, despite measuring up soundly. For example, you won’t get a set of clubs in the front storage area. You will fit two slabs, though.
The rear cargo area is plenty useable, however, with compact strollers fitting with relative ease alongside a quick shop for the basics.
Porsche’s execution of its first electric car is exemplary. If you’re genuinely interested in the craft of making sports cars, this is one of the most exciting propositions from the world’s best.
It’s fantastic enough to override any acceptable and understandable suspicions about it lacking verve. Many talented minds chipped away at this significant milestone for the brand – ones that clearly love cars as much as we do.
Even agnostic of propulsion, Porsche’s Taycan currently sits near the pinnacle of motoring. More personally, the experience was enough to overcome my Neanderthal complaints of a car needing to go bang to be truly lovable.