[Reprinted from Horizons Winter 2021]

PORSCHE TAYCAN 4S REVIEW: All Electric, All Porsche



Thanks to the generosity of Porsche Austin, I enjoyed the weekend use of a Taycan 4S in December. This very extended test drive provided the time needed to thoughtfully evaluate the functions and features, and most importantly, develop a sense of the driving experience.

The Taycan 4S has a base price of $105,150 including destination charge. Like any Porsche, the available options are extensive and can be expensive. The total MSRP of this particular Taycan was $136,970.

First impressions

My initial impression during my first time in the cockpit and first drive in the Taycan: this is different, somewhat complicated and just a little unsettling. The start button (reassuringly to the left of the steering column) is not needed to “start” the electrons flowing. As long as the key fob is in the car with you, you’re good to just go. But first you need to toggle the “gear switch” located to the right of the steering column from Neutral to either Drive or Reverse. There is no traditional gear lever because, well, there are no traditional gears. The standard Taycan configuration is a single-speed transmission on the front axle and a 2-speed transmission on the rear axle.

Simply press the accelerator and you’re off, quietly. I immediately noticed the relative lack of regenerative braking when easing off the “gas” pedal. Unlike the Tesla Model S I’ve driven on two occasions in the past, the interaction and response of the acceleration, braking and powertrain feels much more natural in the Taycan. Porsche deliberately avoided the traditional one-pedal “lift-off” regenerative braking, and instead developed a system with very mild accelerator regeneration but strong braking regeneration upon application of the brakes. The driver has the ability to adjust the regenerative braking characteristics, but I liked the default setting.

Through the rolling hills and curves west of Austin, I really noticed the low center of gravity (the lowest of any Porsche due to the placement of the heavy battery pack). Despite the hefty weight of 4771 pounds, the Taycan handled very well with essentially no perceptible body roll during deliberate cornering. It felt solid yet light on its feet. By the end of my first drive, I was impressed by how much it drove like a Porsche. And I was beginning to get more comfortable with the operating controls and feel of the Taycan.

The Interior

The interior design is thoroughly modern without being gimmicky. The instrument cluster consists of a curved 16.8-inch screen with the rounded look that’s typical of Porsche, but is a single piece in front of the driver. It features the ability to choose between four display modes where the driver can select the information displayed, including an option which shows the navigation map across most of the screen. A central 10.9-inch infotainment display and an optional passenger display (which this car did not have) are combined to form an integrated glass band in a black-panel look across almost the entire form of the dashboard.

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Another unique feature are the interior air vents which are only adjustable electronically, simplifying their appearance, In addition to air flow speed, you can choose between “focused” – for fast direct heating and cooling, or “diffused” for a more dispersed, draft- free flow.

The upper-dash placement of the gear selector has the benefit of freeing up space in the center console- which includes two very usable cupholders within natural reach of the driver. Overall the dash and center console flow well in looks and functionality and are simple and uncluttered.

This particular Taycan included a rather expensive ($7140) but also really nice interior option called Olea Club Leather Interior with Basalt Black/ Atacama Beige. Olea, I discovered, is a sustainably-tanned leather which uses olive leaves in the tanning process. The quality and elegant richness of the materials and the color contrast provides a truly pleasing and calming environment. This ambiance was partially offset, in my view, by the optional ($470) steering wheel in “Race-Tex” instead of the standard leather. (A heated steering wheel is also available with leather.) Race- Tex is a microfiber, a Porsche version of Alcantara. I thought the look and feel of Race-Tex cheapened the interior compared to a leather steering wheel. Others may prefer it, and for those who want to go all-in, a full Race-Tex interior is available.

The Exterior

This is a modern, distinctive design without being too far out of the mainstream. Traditional Porsche design elements abound. The wide hips, arched fenders, four-point running lights, full width rear taillights, and even the sloped roof profile. All Porsche. From a bit of a distance, and just a little imagination, the Taycan almost looks like a 911 sedan especially from the side. I really liked the look, although the black-painted front air intake vents under the headlights seem an unnecessary distraction. These stood out on this white vehicle but would be much less noticeable with a darker color paint.

This Taycan came with the optional 20-in Taycan Turbo Aero wheels ($2380). 19-inch wheels are standard, and I actually prefer the look of the standard wheels. Again, personal preference.

Similar to the Cayman and Boxster, the Taycan has two luggage compartments. Comparatively, the Taycan’s frunk is much smaller, and the rear trunk is substantially larger, than its mid-engine family members. There is certainly enough space for a weekend -or longer- road trip for a couple who packs efficiently. The back seat is usable for normal size adults, and foot-room is improved by the spaces carved out of the floor underneath the front seats.

Technology, Battery and Charging

The Taycan powertrain technology is advanced to say the least. Details are readily available from other sources, but I will mention a few highlights.

The electric architecture is based on an 800- volt system, which is double that of other EV’s. Higher voltage equates to lower current, which in turn results in less heat generation in the batteries and electronics allowing for thinner and lighter wiring throughout the vehicle. All of this also facilitates faster charging and enhances performance, especially repeatable acceleration.

The charging technology, process and options deserve close consideration by prospective Taycan owners. There is a lot of information on the Porsche website and elsewhere.

The Performance Battery Plus, a $6580 option on this vehicle, provides dual benefits of additional power and additional range. Compared with the standard Performance Battery rated at 79.2 kWh, this upgraded battery with additional cell modules has a gross energy content of 93.4 kWh. Related electric Porsche Intelligent Range Manager for $300.

Every Taycan comes with 3 years of 30-minute DC charging sessions with Electrify America. This is the largest public fast-charging network in the US. In the Austin area, there is currently only one of these stations: at the Round Rock Premium Outlets on I-35 just north of Austin. Other stations are located in northwest San Antonio, Waco, in Columbus – if you’re driving to Houston – and in Junction if you’re heading west on I-10. So, this is mostly a benefit on longer road trips which take you out of the Austin area and if you are mostly following on or near interstate highways. For all practical purposes, a home charger will be needed, which adds to the cost.

Driving Impressions

By the second day and 4th drive, I was already beyond acclimating to the electric-ness: I was thoroughly immersed in the Porsche-ness of the experience. It is almost eerie -in a good way- how much any Porsche feels like any other Porsche. I likened this to my experience when my wife purchased a 2020 Macan last year. We’ve had our 2014 Boxster since new and had become accustomed to the Porsche feel. The Macan felt noticeably different at first, but after some time and familiarity it felt, in many ways, similar to the Boxster at least in normal driving environments. By contrast, the Taycan feels closer in driving character to the Boxster when driving more briskly. I did notice and appreciate the commonality of overall ergonomics, certain switchgear, and simply the way it feels.

The Porsche Electric Sport Sound (a $500 option on this vehicle) offers a distinct but subtle electric/ electronic sound during acceleration and deceleration. This is an enhanced recording that augments the actual vehicle sound, not an artificial replication of an internal combustion engine as in some other electric cars. I liked it, and I think it enhanced the experience.

Porsche has built a true electric sports car. Although the “least powerful” compared with the Turbo and Turbo S, the 4S felt just right to me – although I may feel differently upon direct driving comparison with the others! The acceleration is truly addictive- there is no other way to describe it. The driving character is clearly Porsche. Porsche aficionados will be pleased that the Taycan enhances the brand, and as is always the case with Porsche, will continue to improve and evolve over time.