The Porsche Taycan 4S Hits the Sports Car Sweet Spot
Don't think "electric car." Think "the perfect all-around Porsche."
To say there were great expectations heaped upon the Porsche Taycan would be putting it mildly. As Porsche's first electric vehicle, it faced more haters and doubters than any Porker since the Cayenne.
Perhaps that's why, in contrast with Zuffenhausen's usual modus operandi of rolling out a new vehicle in base-model form first then working up to the more exciting versions, Porsche launched the Taycan in Turbo and Turbo S forms. Clearly, no one could argue with specs like 750 horsepower, 774 lb-ft or torque and a 0-60-mph time of 2.6 seconds (especially when, in typical Porsche fashion, it proved quicker than its maker claimed).
The flipside of this was that when Porsche then announced the Taycan 4S several months later, it seemed like, well, kind of a letdown. Only 562 horsepower? 0-60 takes 3.8 whole seconds? Yeah, I know: first world problems, as the kids say. A week with the Taycan 4S (clad in its launch shade of Frozen "Let It Go" Blue) was enough to prove just how silly those initial thoughts were.
Unlike, say, the 911, where spending more bucks on a Turbo or GT3 buys visual differentiation on top of added booyah, every Taycan looks effectively identical. Strip off the badges and spec the same wheels, and an $81,390 base model is effectively identical twins with a loaded $220,000 Turbo S. In other words: nobody needs to know you bought the 4S.
Which is great, because that means every trim of Taycan is an equally damn fine-looking automobile. Porsche did a great job carrying over the concept car looks of the Mission E to the real world; the Taycan looks futuristic without being outlandish or over-the-top, from its gecko-like headlights to its broad, sculpted butt. And thanks to its EV powertrain, neither end needs to be designed around the bulk of an internal combustion engine.
The Taycan's roots can be traced back to the Vision Turismo Concept, a project colloquially known as the "Pajun" — a smaller sibling to the Panamera. But while this Porsche may have the same number of portals on each side as a Toyota Camry, it's much more like a sports car than a traditional family car in terms of design, ride height and performance.
In practice, that makes it a far more practical daily driver than even a 911. Those rear seats aren't huge, and the angle of the roof means entry and exit seems best suited to hobbits, but the aft row makes for excellent, easily-accessible storage. Think of it as the 911's +2 rear jump seats taken to the next level of usability. Or in other words: don’t think of the Taycan as a smaller electric Panamera; think of it as a bigger electric 911.
I'll admit that I was a tad disappointed that my first experience with the Taycan would be in the 4S, rather than the reality-distorting Turbo S. But it didn't take long behind the wheel to realize just how foolish a thought that was. It'd be like being disappointed you're driving a 911 Carrera 4S instead of a Turbo; sure, maybe it's not the ultimate, but it's hardly grounds for complaint.
Then I started driving. After a few minutes, it seemed insane that there are not one but two Taycans quicker and more powerful than the 4S.
Fire up the launch control and it feels quick, but not obscenely so; it feels more or less in line with the likes of an Audi RS 6 Avant. (That said, one unexpected launch start did give my girlfriend a bout of motion sickness the likes of which she’s never felt in any of the cars she’s ridden in.)
But no super-sedan, no sports car, feels quite as quick as the Taycan in the real world. It’s a matter of the powerband: the Porsche’s electric motors are always primed to give their all the instant you ask for it, no matter how fast they’re turning. To accomplish something similar in an internal combustion car, you’d have to drive around with the engine close to the power peak at all times — and given gasoline engines make max power high in the rev range, that means you’d be constantly driving around at high rpm, a noisy and inefficient proposition.
Accelerate from a roll — be it at 5 mph or 50 — and the Taycan seems to go to warp speed, rocketing forward with far more thrust (and far less noise) than conventional wisdom learned over years of driving would have you believe possible. It’s addictive fun, sure, but also handy; you need never worry about merging onto a busy highway, or getting out of the way of a looming semi, or ducking into the opposite travel lane to pass cars on a two-lane road.
The two-speed gearbox on the rear axle adds a little bit of drama to hard acceleration, as well. Floor the
gas accelerator when going slow, and it kicks down with a distinct punch, as though the afterburners have been lit; accelerate long enough to get back to top gear, and it thumps again, like Chuck Yeager's X-1 passing through the sound barrier.
The steering may not have the feedback of those 911s of yore, but then again, no modern Porsche (or any modern car) does. It’s not quite as lively as a new 911 or Ferrari, either, but by the standards of pretty much every other modern-day car, it’s excellent. Direct, responsive, and communicative enough to please all but the snobbiest of steering connoisseurs.
More importantly, the Taycan turns like a good Porsche should. It’s drastically, delightfully flat through the turns — courtesy in part of all that battery mass mounted ever-so-low. The limits are sports-car high, even with the performance winter tires mounted to my tester. Don’t be afraid to toss it around; it is, very much, a Porsche first and an electric car second. Or rather, proof that the two can very happily coexist in one car.
Most of the time, Porsche’s trim level hierarchy follows a simple trajectory: the more you spend, the better the performance — and, in turn, the better the car. Carrera S is better than Carrera, Turbo better than Carrera S, Turbo S better than Turbo.
The Taycan, however, throws a particular brand of monkey wrench into that equation. With the 93.4-kWh Performance Battery Plus extended range battery pack (which I assume the vast majority of buyers will choose), the 4S’s lack of power versus the Turbo and Turbo S comes with a corresponding increase in range. At least, that's according to the EPA's current estimates; go to fueleconomy.gov, and you'll find the 4S with the larger optional battery is rated for 227 miles of range, versus 201 for the Turbo and 192 for the Turbo S.
As anyone who's been paying attention to the Taycan saga likely knows by now, those are extremely conservative estimates. Independent tests have found the Taycan can beat those EPA estimates with one hand tied behind its back; indeed, Porsche itself cites AMCI third-party testing that shows the 4S can do 271 miles on a charge, the Turbo 275 and the Turbo S 278.
Practically speaking, that means that you can depend on at least 250 miles of usable real-world range from the Taycan 4S. That's not as much as a gas-powered car, but it's still enough for several hours of spirited driving, a week's worth of average commutes or several hours of road tripping. Even assuming you don't drive the car down to empty — which presumably few people would — that's well over 200 miles of driving without worry.
And when it comes time to charge, the car's 800-volt electrical architecture means it can slurp up electrons like crazy; it can charge at up to 270 kW, which makes it the only car on sale now that can truly make use of Electrify America's 350-kW "pumps." (Every new Taycan scores three years of free 30-minute charges at EA's stations...not that I'd expect the cost of electricity to hold back anyone buying a car with a six-figure pricetag.)
I didn't have a chance to test that super-speed charge firsthand, but I did try out one of Electrify America's other fast chargers (in part to see if my Mustang Mach-E experience had been a fluke). I plugged into a 150-kW charger with the battery in the low 60-percent range, and was up to 95% in about 20 minutes. And that wasn't even with it taking on power as fast as physically possible; t started at around 70 kW, and was still taking power at around 50 kW. even with the battery at 90-plus percent. The Taycan marks the beginning of the era when EVs are less burdened by a lack of range as a lack of chargers — something much easier to address than the chemical alchemy of battery tech.
Do you like screens? Hope so, because the Taycan's interior is replete with them. The instrument panel is a screen, the infotainment system has two screens, and there's even an available touchscreen display just for the passenger to control the stereo and freak out at how fast you're going. Apart from the ones on the wheel and the shifter, even the dedicated "hard buttons" are actually capacitive glass.
Luckily, the touchscreens are all quick-acting and intuitive, apart from the grayed-out lower section of the center console one that sits ahead of the cupholder. (I looked it up afterwards; it's for handwriting inputs for the nav system, which seems like a waste of space to anyone who uses Apple or Google Maps.) It's certainly better than the layout found in the Cayenne and Panamera — though, like in those cars, physical volume and tuning knobs wouldn't hurt.
Just ask Dwayne Johnson: the Porsche Taycan's cabin isn't exactly expansive. Still, unless you're up at the gym at 3am for two hours every day and eating 5,000 calories to maintain your mass, odds are good you'll be able to wedge yourself in and find a decent fit — at least, in the front row. With two six-foot-plus folks occupying the front chairs, their seat backs are close to flush with the front edges of the back row.
Excellent ergonomics mean those front seats stay comfortable even over hours of driving, however. And while the Taycan also suffers from the same instrument panel blockage issue that plagues the 992-generation 911 (as you can see above), it's less of an issue here because the Taycan doesn't need a traditional Porsche tachometer. Instead, power output and regen are displayed on the outer ring of the center circle, while the speedo sits within. That frees up the peripheral gauges for all sorts of other configurations.
Indeed, the gauges almost work as metaphor for the Taycan's overall relationship with its famous relative. Delightful and remarkable as the 911 is — and I do love it so — it always by definition has to have one foot in the past. Its engine placement, its design, a thousand other things — they all can only stray so far from the archetype laid down close to 60 years ago.
The Taycan, in contrast, represents a clean-sheet approach to what a sports car can be. Freed of an internal-combustion engine, it can be quicker and look distinctive, all while still being better for the world.
And this is just the beginning. Considering how far the 911 has come since 1964...well, just imagine what the 2076 Taycan will be like.
Base Price: $110,720
Drivetrain: 93.4-kWh battery; front and rear electric motors; single-speed gearbox on front motor, two-speed gearbox in rear; all-wheel-drive
Torque: 479 lb-ft
EPA Range: A conservative 227 miles
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