Auto123 carries out a (none too) wintry test drive of the 2020 Porsche Taycan 4S.
Let me draw the picture for you: It’s late September, and like a good automotive journalist, I contact the manufacturers, as I must do periodically, to book my future road tests. Because yes, it is through those press vehicles and the reviews that come out of them that I earn my living. Of course, new models are always given priority, because it's often these that people want to hear about, even when it's a German electric sedan with a starting price of $119,400. And so I book the new all-electric Taycan for a test drive.
My idea is to put the 2020 Porsche Taycan 4S to the wintertime test, notably to appraise how the model reacts to winter weather, as well as to determine for myself if the brand's first electric proposition respects the sporting tradition established by a certain 911 more than 55 years ago.
The date I’m offered for taking the wheel of the EV is November 30th, a time of the year when the temperature is difficult to predict. But I figure I’ll chance it.
Of course, as you may have noticed, the fall of 2020 was one of the warmest on record, and my test-drive week was no exception. The mercury didn't drop far below freezing during my time behind the wheel and I had to drive some distance to find some snow and ice to drive it over.
The moral of the story is that dealing with Mother Nature’s caprices is part and parcel of being a car writer. Well gosh darn it (or something similar), I said to myself, I wasn't about to let the (lack of) weather ruin my first encounter with one of the most eagerly awaited cars of the year.
Here’s something else that comes with doing what I do: It’s not uncommon to receive signs of approval (or occasionally disapproval) from pedestrians and even other motorists. Might be a little less common when in a Honda Civic or Toyota RAV4, for sure, but the Porsche Taycan is a car that invariably arouses admiration and curiosity in many ways. Even with this Volcano Grey Metallic exterior (in my opinion too discreet for such a spiffy sedan-coupe), many who saw me passing by were clearly happy to see it. On the highway, I even found myself at one point in a peloton consisting of a Chevrolet Bolt, a first-generation Nissan LEAF, me, and a Tesla Model 3, which followed me for a little while.
A quality interior, but...
If there's one thing that doesn't change at Porsche, it's the quality of the interior. Even a basic Macan impresses with the arrangement of the materials that line its interior.
That said, the manufacturer had no room for error with this first foray into the world of electric performance cars. Porsche may say that it's not directly targeting Tesla and its Model S with this Taycan, but there's an obvious parallel to be drawn between the two sedans. And in this regard, it's safe to say that the Stuttgart-based automaker wins hands down over its California-based rival when it comes to the excellence of its interior.
Note also that the manufacturer even dared to send into the fleet of media vehicles a Taycan 4S with the original cabin, offering very few visible cosmetic options. Even without the usual bling - and we all know how versed Porsche is in the art of selling its clients expensive options - the Taycan 4S is very welcoming. Just remember to bend over properly before lowering yourself in. Indeed, Porsche's first electric car sits almost as low to the ground as a 911.
Once seated, it's very easy to find your driving position. No surprise there either. The start button is placed on the left, as on the classic models of the brand. The steering wheel is also a joy to hold and handle, as is this small knob located on the right side of the steering wheel – when you have optional Sport Chrono package -, which is used to select the desired drive mode from among Normal, Sport, Sport Plus and Individual. Meanwhile another small button mounted higher up on the steering wheel activates the energy recovery system that comes into play during deceleration and, of course, braking.
On board the Taycan, everything or almost is touch-sensitive, starting with the tilted screen (at the end of the console) that you have to access for a multitude of daily commands. The central screen is also touch-sensitive, and while efficient in terms of responsiveness it’s a little complicated with all its menus. Note also that the third screen (for the right-side passenger) was not part of the options installed on my Taycan 4S tester.
While the front row drew few complaints from me, it’s a little different in back, regarding both the second row and the cargo area. A six-foot tall adult might find the going rough in back, firstly due to their head-top nuzzling up against the headliner, and secondly because space for the feet is very limited. Frankly, the Taycan’s second row is more welcoming for children or tinier adults.
The sporty silhouette also really affects rearward visibility, which is downright abysmal. As for trunk volume, you better be parsimonious when packing or doing the groceries. Luckily, the bench seat can be lowered for bulkier items. Also luckily, there's that trunk in the front for a few more bags!
An electrifying Taycan 4S?
My expectations were quite high when I headed to the Laurentians north of Montreal for a proper test drive. And, in this regard, the Taycan 4S really didn't disappoint me. Even if it doesn’t deliver usual symphony you’d get from a flat 6-cylinder behind the rear seat, everything else that characterizes a Porsche of the modern era can be found in this Taycan 4S. That includes goodies like precise steering, handling that makes you feel the tires are made of velcro, a firm but comfortable suspension and more.
And I didn't even mention the insane acceleration. Instantaneous torque is particularly impressive when you depress the right pedal... and it’s even crazier here when you remember that the 4S is the slowest model in the Taycan lineup! With 562 horsepower available at takeoff (482 in normal situations with the Performance Plus Battery, as was the case here), the sedan jets off like a dragstrip racer.
When I did the exercise on a slippery portion of a secondary road in the Laurentians, all with traction control deactivated, the result was a festival of four-wheel skating, which caused the rear axle to stall slightly. Let's say it's more consistent with the system on. The mix of ice, asphalt and sand was a challenge for the car.
Thanks to all-wheel drive - there are two motors, remember - the Taycan 4S follows the road come what may and the slightest driver intervention is obeyed with military precision. Still, I would have liked to see how the car performed with more energy recovery. I think a more aggressive system would make the Taycan even more effective in braking as it approaches a corner, though to be clear, it's not like it's under-equipped in this area.
The only evident downside to the Taycan in my opinion, aside from the price, is the somewhat limited range. Indeed, after a full night at a charging station at the Circuit Électrique, the car displayed a possible range of about 370 km, a result similar to what my colleague Daniel Rufiange obtained earlier in the fall. Keep in mind that simply playing with the drive modes changes the possible distance displayed on the screen in front of you.
But here's the problem: even though Porsche maintains that the Tesla Model S is not a direct competitor, many potential customers of the Taycan will not be unaware that Elon Musk’s EV is capable of covering a distance of up to 647 km on a full charge.
The last word
There can no arguing this: Porsche has made a successful landing in the electric car domain. The Taycan 4S, despite its power disadvantage vis-à-vis the Turbo and Turbo S trims, is an incredible sports sedan, quiet, agile, powerful and superbly crafted.
It's true that space in back and in the trunk is limited, and that the range could be improved, but with the ultra-fast network of charging stations currently in preparation, and the much-ballyhooed possibility of recharging 80 percent of the battery in 22 minutes, the first electric Porsche is making history in its own way. And that way runs straight out of Stuttgart.
The precision of a sports car
Quality of construction
We like less
Truly awful rear visibility
Space in the second row
Audi e-tron GT (coming soon)
BMW i4 (coming soon)
Mercedes-Benz EQE (coming soon)
Tesla Model S