WhichCar
Powered by
  • WheelsWheels
  • MOTORMOTOR
  • 4X4 Australia4X4 Australia
  • Street MachineStreet Machine
  • Trade Unique CarsTrade Unique Cars

2021 Porsche Taycan 4S review

By Scott Newman, 25 Feb 2021 Reviews

Porsche's electric rocketship lands in Australia

2021 Porsche Taycan 4S review

If you were taking bets on which manufacturer would not just dip a toe but dive headfirst into the world of electric vehicles then you would have got long odds with Porsche, but here we are with the first Australian drive of the Porsche Taycan 4S.

It provides the first real competition to Tesla in the zero-emissions luxury performance market, claiming to offer rocketship acceleration, equally brisk charging times, a long battery range and a clear environmental conscience.

The numbers suggest that even this ‘entry level’ Taycan achieves those aims but can this silent, 2220kg four-door offer the sort of driving engagement Porsche is renowned for?

As mentioned, the 4S kicks off the Australian Taycan range, sitting below the more powerful Turbo and Turbo S, but base model isn’t an appropriate adjective of a car that starts at $190,400. Big money, but also $100K less than Porsche’s similarly sized, petrol-powered sedan, the Panamera 4S.

READ Porsche Taycan pricing and features
Still, that initial figure is easily enlarged, our test car wearing more than $40,000 of options to lift the price tag to $230,530 before on-road costs. The most important of these and biggest ticket item is the $11,590 Performance Battery Plus, which improves both range and performance, but we’ll return to that shortly.

None of the two solid or seven metallic paint colours attract an added charge, even the stunning Frozen Blue you see in the pictures here. Externally, our test car wears Taycan Turbo rims ($1150), LED matrix headlights ($4610), a panoramic glass roof ($3370) and courtesy lights ($600). Beauty is in the eye of the beholder but we think the Taycan looks fantastic, more sculpted and athletic than the Panamera with strong hints of 911, especially at the rear.

The general public appears to agree, the car prompting plenty of questions and comments. Even non-enthusiasts somehow appreciate the Taycan is different, a bit special, even when there isn’t an electrical cord protruding from it.

The only slight question mark is the black vertical line that extends downwards from the outer edge of the headlights and makes it look as though the Taycan’s mascara has run, but it’s a fairly inoffensive way of incorporating the necessary venting.

On the inside, an extra $7450 scores you a very cool leather-free interior. The seat inserts, door cards and centre console sides use a material that looks and feels like something you’d find on a sneaker while the seat outers, headrests and steering wheel are covered in ‘Race-Tex’, an Alcantara-like suede that’s claimed to use 80 per cent less CO2 in its production than regular materials. The seats themselves – heated and ventilated as standard – are comfortable and the driving position spot on, with the pedals set up perfectly for left-foot braking if you wish to do so.

The floor covering is made from the recycled fibre Econyl and while you’d swear the majority of surfaces are leather-wrapped, it’s actually a material called ‘slush’. Regardless of what it’s made of, it looks and feels great.

In fact, overall quality is fantastic with virtually no hard plastics (limited to the B-pillars and kick panels) but there are a few ergonomic quirks. The B-pillar is angled, which requires a small adjustment when entering and the ‘transmission’ selector is hidden behind the steering wheel rim on the left-hand side, though once found it’s easily operated: press down for Drive and up for Reverse.

Porsche has gone all-in on screens for the Taycan, with generally positive results. The massive 16.8-inch instrument display is widely configurable, able to show speed, power usage, trip information, the navigation map – in small or large sizes – or next to nothing at all in its ‘reduced’ mode, while it also incorporates light controls on the left-hand side and chassis controls (damper stiffness, ride height and ESP setting) on the right.

READ WhichCar Electric Car Buyer's Guide
In the centre is a 10.9-inch infotainment touchscreen featuring Apple CarPlay, ‘Hey Porsche’ voice control, internet access, digital radio, a 14-speaker, 710-watt Bose stereo and Porsche Connect, with the ability to sync your calendar, search for restaurants and control certain functions such as air-conditioning via a smartphone app.

Below this is a haptic touchscreen containing the HVAC controls, charging information and a touchpad that allows the selection of functions on the main touchscreen or navigation inputs via handwriting. This feels like a screen too far; the climate controls are fine but the touchpad is imprecise and unnecessary when the main screen is within easy reach.

We would’ve been happy with physical buttons for the climate control and relocation of the drive selector. Our test car also featured a $2150 passenger display, a clone of the main screen located on the left-hand side of the dash, and while it’s an impressive sight, it’s difficult to think of a practical use for it.

In the rear, there is just enough space (provided the front occupants aren’t too tall) but forget about Porsche’s $1000 ‘4+1’ seating option as the Taycan is built for a quartet only. Reach down for a pair of USB-C ports (to match another two in the centre console) but another $1720 is required for the rear passengers to control the temperature that comes out of the central vents.

Two other inclusions we’d like to see standard at this price point are soft-close doors and a head-up display. Luggage space is a reasonable 366L in the rear, the lack of engine allowing for an additional 81L in the nose.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of how the Taycan drives, it feels appropriate to return to the Performance Battery Plus (PBP) option, as it affects the car’s performance, range and charging capabilities.

As standard, the Taycan 4S uses a 79.2kWh battery (71.0kWh net) but ticking PBP increases this to 93.4kWh (83.7kWh net) and lifts outputs from 320kW/640Nm to 390kW/650Nm, with 420kW available for launch control standing starts.

Porsche claims this drops the 0-200km/h sprint from 13.3 to 12.9sec, though 0-100km/h remains 4.0sec dead. Claimed electrical consumption actually rises from 26.2kWh/100km to 27.0kWh/100km but thanks to the larger battery, claimed range increases from 365km to 414km.

The stop-start nature of a photoshoot isn’t conducive to impressive – or even particularly relevant – efficiency numbers, particularly when there’s a journalist behind the wheel tasked with exploring the Taycan’s entire performance envelope.

Nevertheless, our experience provides a clue as to the car’s real-world consumption when driven with no thought for efficiency. Over the course of 287km the Taycan consumed an average of 26.5kWh/100km; following a quick charge a further 60km journey through sedate afternoon traffic yielded an average of just 17kWh/100km.

Thus our early, admittedly highly unscientific verdict is that even a hard-driven Taycan with PBP should manage 200km between refills and about 450km seems very feasible with more gentle use.

Obviously, the range you achieve will vary wildly depending on not only your driving aggression but the temperature and whether you are using the headlights or the heated and ventilated seats or the air-conditioning.

It’s also a largely a moot point, as while Australia’s charging network is a long way from world-leading, the majority of Aussies will be able to access fast charging for their Taycan without too much trouble.

There are two charging ports, one just fore of each front door. Either can accept 11kW AC charging, which is claimed to take eight hours from 0-100 per cent for the standard battery and nine hours for the PBP.

Porsche is working with JetCharge to ensure owners have the appropriate infrastructure at home, the idea being that regardless of the state of charge when you get home of an evening, your Taycan is fully juiced and ready to go the next morning.

READ EV charging levels explained
The passenger side charge port can also accept DC fast charging. A 50kW charger is claimed to fill the battery from 5-80 per cent in 93mins; on two separate occasions we used just such a charger, the first adding 20.281kWh in 27m at a cost of $8.11, the second 20.971kWh in 31m at a cost of $8.39.

Thanks to its 800V electrical system, however, the Taycan can also use ultra-rapid 350kW chargers to achieve that 5-80 per cent increase in just 22.5mins. An ultra-rapid network already connects Brisbane and Adelaide via Sydney and Melbourne, with additional stations in Perth, Launceston, Cooma, Geelong, Wollongong and Moe. Like all things in life, however, fast charging is best enjoyed in moderation.

The fine print suggests: “The predominant use of CCS fast charging pedestals leads to a long-term increase in charging times. For regular fast DC charging, we recommend a maximum charging output of 50kW”. Installing the various smartphone apps is the biggest hurdle with on-the-go charging, but the download/sign-in process is a one-off annoyance.

This is all great: the Taycan is a proper luxury item and a lot of the traditional impediments to EV ownership are no longer an issue, but this is a Porsche, so what is it like to drive? Anyone familiar with modern Porsches will immediately feel at home.

The weight and response from the brakes, throttle and, in particular, the steering could be from a Cayenne, Panamera or Boxster. This consistency is no mean feat, as in most cases the controls are attached to vastly different mechanicals.

For example, the brake pedal feels utterly natural, despite the fact that the majority of braking is completed by the electric motors, not the physical brakes. To this end, the Taycan’s brake pads are replaced on time, not distance, after six years.

READ What is regenerative braking?

Speaking of braking, Porsche does not subscribe to ‘one pedal’ driving, the term referring to the heavy regeneration many electric cars employ when the driver lifts off the throttle.

Instead of constantly adding small amounts of charge to the batteries this way, the Taycan instead boosts its range by gliding. If you’ve ever knocked your car into neutral going down a hill you’ll be familiar with the sensation, but it’s a slightly odd experience to lift off the throttle and have the car virtually maintain a constant speed thanks to the lack of mechanical and aerodynamic drag, the Taycan’s ‘Cd’ a slippery 0.22.

The car feels to exert no effort in maintaining motion, which when combined with an absorbent ride and impressive levels of sound suppression makes it extremely relaxing to drive. The semi-autonomous safety systems – adaptive cruise with lane change assist, lane-keep assist and collision and brake assist are standard – all work well, though the lane-keep can be confused by narrow roads, nudging you into the centre of the road when you’re already there, a byproduct of the Taycan’s substantial 1966mm width.

On more undulating roads the 2.2-tonne heft makes itself known, the car settling heavily into its air springs, but a click to Sport provides greater control, as well as sharpening the throttle and activating (still very mild) regeneration.

Another click to Sport Plus firms the dampers and sharpens the throttle further as well as activating ‘Porsche electric sport sound’, a $1020 option that aims to give the Taycan some character via an odd, bubbling, Jetsons-style noise that I suspect will be an acquired taste.

Happily, regardless of the mode selected the steering remains light and beautifully communicative, which is helpful as there are very few points of reference in a Taycan as to how quickly you’re travelling.

Approach a corner and because there is no noise or gear to select, you rely totally on your eyesight to gauge how fast to enter it. This presents difficulties as your perception of speed alters depending on how quickly and for how long you’ve been driving.

As familiarity grows you adjust and begin to corner faster; there is impressive grip, though the sportier ’S’ variant of Michelin’s Pilot Sport 4 tyre would generate more, the Taycan never feels flustered and even this ‘non-Turbo’ variant is very quick.

Photographer Brunelli dubs it the Gravitron due to its ability to pin you to the seat under acceleration and the power is delivered instantly in a way no combustion engine could ever replicate. Dry-road traction is indomitable, though slipperier surfaces hint there may be a more playful side buried within.

So can the Taycan deliver the sort of driving engagement Porsche is renowned for? No. Despite its prodigious power, the driving experience is too one-dimensional. There are no gears to change, no sound to enjoy, no traction loss to manage – the Taycan doesn’t engage enough of your senses to be truly exciting.

Perhaps the otherworldly power of the Turbo and Turbo S will alter this view, but while the 4S is impressively capable, there’s little reward to be had for driving it harder than seven or eight-tenths.

This is a fact but, perhaps surprisingly, not a criticism. If your expectation was that the Taycan would somehow be a silent four-door 911 then you’ll likely be disappointed, but viewed as a car that takes conventional Porsche attributes and offers them in a cutting edge, zero-emissions package it’s a resounding success.

It looks great inside and out, has truly potent performance and is beautiful to drive, making it a fantastic everyday proposition. Porsche has taken a headfirst dive into the pool of electric vehicles and arisen to the applause of the judges.



Clever Gearbox

One of the Taycan’s coolest features will remain unfelt by Australian owners lest they venture off the public road. Floor the throttle and at around 130km/h you will feel it shift gear. Whereas most electric cars use a single-speed direct-drive transmission, the Taycan has a two-speed rear axle to improve acceleration. Under normal circumstances, it drives around solely in the 8:05.1 second gear, but under full noise it will switch to the 15.563:1 first gear. This gear shift not only adds a welcome bit of theatre but having more gears would also make it easier to judge speed when driving quickly. So, Porsche, how about a six-speed EV?

Rival: Tesla Model S P100D

It couldn’t be anything else, could it? Tesla’s groundbreaking large sedan has remained remarkably timeless, its sleek styling and minimalist interior still fresh almost a decade after it first launched.

At a shade under $130K the Tesla has a handy price advantage but like the Porsche, options can increase that dramatically. At 500kW and 0-100km/h in 3.2sec (claimed) it’s also much quicker than the Taycan 4S, though there is unlikely to be much between them in the real world.

However, waiting in the wings is the updated Model S ‘Plaid’, offering Tesla’s latest tech, 760kW, 0-100km/h in a claimed 2.1sec and 600km+ of theoretical range. According to the Tesla website, Australian pricing starts at $174,990 plus on-roads or $189,990 for the even quicker Plaid+.

9/10

Pros: Refinement; ride; styling; performance; charge speed

Cons: Screen overload; option requirements; not hugely involving

Porsche Taycan 4S Specifications

Body: 4-door, 5-seat sedan
Drive: all-wheel
Battery: 93.4kWh (83.7kWh net)
Motor: Permanent magnet synchronous (f/r)
Power: 390kW (420kW overboost)
Torque: 650Nm
Power/weight: 176kW/tonne
Transmission: single-speed (f); 2-speed (r)
Weight: 2220kg
Suspension: double wishbone, air springs, adaptive dampers, anti-roll bar (f); multi links, air springs, adaptive dampers, anti-roll bar (r)
L/W/H: 4963/1966/1379mm
Wheelbase: 2900mm
Tracks: 1702/1667mm
Steering: electrically assisted rack-and-pinion
Brakes: 360mm ventilated discs, 6-piston calipers (f); 358mm ventilated discs, 4-piston calipers (r)
Wheels: 20 x 9.0-inch (f); 20 x 11.0-inch (r)
Tyres: 245/45 ZR20 (f); 285/40 ZR20 (r) Michelin Pilot Sport 4
Price: $190,400 ($230,530 as-tested: performance battery plus $11,590; leather-free interior $7540; LED matrix headlights $4610; panoramic glass roof $3370; Sport Chrono $2340; passenger display $2150; 20-inch Taycan Turbo rims $1150; Traffic Jam Assist $1200; Porsche electric sport sound $1020; 4+1 seats $1000; ambient lighting $890; Vehicle key in car colour $780; Porsche courtesy lights $600; power steering plus $600; windscreen with grey top tint $240)