Porsche Taycan and 4S (2021) review: true to its roots

Published:02 February 2021

Porsche Taycan and 4S (2021) review: true to its roots
  • At a glance
  • 5 out of 5
  • 5 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 5 out of 5
  • 5 out of 5

By Ben Miller

The editor of CAR magazine, story-teller, average wheel count of three

By Ben Miller

The editor of CAR magazine, story-teller, average wheel count of three

► Most affordable Taycans tested
► Slower than the Turbos, but still does 0-62mph in 4sec
► Is the 4S £83.5k price tag the sweet spot in the range?

One of the hallmarks of a virtuoso at work is making the fiendishly difficult look easy. Witness a decent plasterer in action, for example, or Lewis Hamilton making a super-torquey, turbo-’n’-electric contemporary F1 car dance in a downpour. ‘I could do that!’ you think, which is the paradox – the better they are and the more confident you become, so the odds of your success dwindle.

With the Taycan range, Porsche has made going battery-electric look remarkably straightforward. While many marques have struggled, either to create a car at all, or to create one that made money, or – crucially – to create one that anyone might actually want to buy, Porsche turned out a technologically progressive and very convincing machine from the get-go, one able to go head-to-head with the likes of BMW’s M5 Competition despite the lacking the cool century of studious powertrain refinement cars like the M5 enjoy.

Taycan and beyond: Porsche's EV plans explained

What’s more, Porsche ladled plenty of 911 into the mix; uncannily similar profile and glasshouse, similar cockpit, similar model line-up. Because what’s more comforting in a time of tumultuous change than an EV that looks and feels a little like an iconic sports car born way back in the ’60s?

Taycan 4s rear

The approach worked. In the UK in 2020, the Taycan’s become Porsche’s second best-selling model, pushing the Cayenne SUV back to third. And now we have what looks suspiciously like the pick of the Taycan bunch, the £83.5k 4S, and a more affordable model in the form of the Taycan-without-suffix.

What about the Taycan - no Turbo, no 4, no S?

When most electric car manufacturers are chasing headline-grabbing 0-60 times and taming two-tonnes of high-speed batteries and momentum with all-wheel drive, the existence of the rear-wheel drive Taycan can raise a few questions. But then again, it's £13,000 less than the 4S, putting the Porsche in the heart of Tesla Model S budgets.

Propelled by 402bhp of electric motor, the Taycan can reach 62mph in 5.4 seconds. Frankly if 'is it faster than a Tesla' is on your mind, skip down to the 4S. This is a very different equation, and it's one that reveal's Porsche's luxury skills without the distraction of face-bending G-forces.

Porsche Taycan - Frozenberry - 2021

As with any Porsche, you can forget that list price - once you've raided the options list you'll still be paying much more than a Tesla will cost - but the lesser Taycan presents a character that is much more than simply a 'cost-reduced EV'. With the Performance Plus battery it can boast a range of 301 miles (though our 99% charged one in cold weather reported 211 miles), but it's how it drives that stands out.

What’s a Taycan 4S?

Bizarre though it is describing cars that don’t have engines, let alone actual turbochargers, as Turbos and Turbo Ss, the upside of Porsche’s transference of its model nomenclature wholesale from the 911 does at least mean you probably already know the answer to this question – the 4S is a slower-but-still-fast-and-still-all-wheel-drive twist on the recipe.

Porsche Taycan Turbo and Turbo S review

So, where the Taycan launched with its two most powerful, all-wheel-drive derivatives (the well-into-six-figures Turbo and Turbo S), the 4S comes in at £83.5k before options and 523bhp. That’s still a good bit more than the new entry-level Taycan (£70,690, 402bhp, 5.4sec 0-62mph), but where that car is rear-wheel drive, the 4S’s premium starts to look like a gap you must bridge when you factor in twin-motor all-wheel drive and a handy performance advantage (the 4S is 1.5sec faster 0-62mph and, with the Performance battery upgrade, capable of 8.5sec 0-99mph, versus 11sec for the Taycan).

Taycan 4s light

Porsche quotes a WLTP maximum combined range of 288 miles on the Performance Plus battery or 254 miles without it, versus 301 and 268 for the rear-drive Taycan. Performance Plus? It’s a £4049 bigger battery option that adds weight but also increases power and range – with it fitted, as our test car is, peak power climbs to 563bhp.

Porsche Taycan vs M5 vs Model S vs Polestar 1

North of two tonnes?! Forgive me if I fail to get too excited

Well indeed, but if you can retain that studied indifference as you approach the 4S, you’re doing well. So masterfully has design boss Michael Mauer gilded a car of not unlike the Panamera in size and shape with the DNA of the 911 that you might find your heart beating a little faster. It doesn’t hurt that the Taycan is a very handsome car in its own right, from that imperiously impassive Mission E face to the very 911 haunches and tail.

taycan 4s interior

Climb in and the excitement continues to ramp up because you sit low, seat on the floor if you want, in a proper Porsche driving position. The wheel and instruments ahead of you also feel 911, and this is the genius of the Taycan. Yes, it’s heavy – very heavy – and predictably it deploys every weight-masking trick in the book, from huge tyres through air suspension to massively powerful e-motors, but where none of this is unusual for a premium contemporary EV, most of which are SUVs, the Taycan is not an SUV, of course. The i-Pace, for example, drives well despite being the shape it is. The Porsche drives well because it is the shape it is.

So, there’s more to it than nosebleed acceleration in a straight line?

No need to ‘start’ the car, just click into D with the dash-mounted toggle, and the 4S moves away like a Porsche, with a just-so gentle creep to get you off your driveway (some EVs wait for a tickle of throttle, which is counter-intuitive) and a thunk from the stiff, cold and wide rubber as you distort it with a bit of steering lock.

Glide away and the sci-fi noises making way for a serenity compromised only by tyre noise – to be expected when you’re running 265/35 and 305/30 21-inch Pirellis. Pin it and there isn’t the otherworldly, faintly nauseating shove of a Taycan Turbo or Turbo S, but the 4S’s acceleration is still hugely impressive, particularly in that all-important 30-80mph range. And, being all-wheel drive, traction is absolute, even in near-freezing conditions, which feels right for a car with a remit this rounded (rear seat space is good; far better than a 911, if less generous than the back of a 7-series).

taycan 4s overhead

Incidentally, the 4S’s all-wheel drive is far from fixed. Call up the relevant displays on the driver’s display (a curved glass screen with touch controls at each end for the likes of damper settings, stability control and lighting) and you can watch the split shift with the drive mode, from predominantly rear-driven in Normal, Sport and Sport Plus, to front-driven in Range, though in each case the other motor’s always ready to seamlessly step back in, sparing you the blushes of anything so uncouth as wheelspin, particularly – heaven forbid! – on the front axle.

Take a while to get your head around?

What’s really impressive about the Taycan is how little time it takes to adjust. There are two levels of regenerative charging, toggled via a shortcut button on the wheel, but both are low compared with the EV norm, so the car does what you expect as you come off the throttle.

Drive itself is seamless, bar the merest hint of a shift as the two-speed rear gearbox selects the taller of its two rations, and the car is entirely intuitive to pilot, with taut, clean and nicely defined steering, extraordinary body control that nevertheless allows just enough roll to help you understand the car’ behaviour (no optional £2315 electro-mechanical anti-roll bars on this test car) and a remarkable neutrality to the handing balance. All of this, plus towering grip and stonking straight-line speed, combine to see the 4S monster any road, journey or mission you care to task it with. It’s so fast, so easy and so controlled that frankly it feels like cheating, and that’s not to suggest the driving experience is somehow lacking in satisfaction or excitement because of the EV powertrain. It really isn’t.

taycan 4s front tracking

There’s so much to enjoy here, not least the delicacy somehow engineered into the Taycan’s complex machinations. Start to broach the tyres’ limits, helped by wet, cold and slimy roads, and all four let go benignly and at the same time. Do this with a load of lateral load and some power and the 4S remains entirely controlled and balanced, hooking up and tucking its nose in in like a good all-wheel-drive Porsche should.

The 4S’s an astonishing level of performance, but it’s also an astonishingly accessible and intuitive one. As a result, your prior driving experience is still relevant, Porsche choosing not to throw in such EV weirdness that you’re dumped unceremoniously back at the bottom of the learning curve.

There must be something wrong with it?

When you’ve an EV with this much performance on tap, savaging your state of charge and remaining range display is as easy as falling off a log. Get greedy with the 4S’s performance and that 288 miles of maximum WLTP range (with the £4049 Performance Plus battery) on the combined cycle is, of course, ambitious. In freezing temperatures, fully charged, our car displayed 182 miles of range. 52 miles later, after some motorway cruising and a run across the kinds of roads you’re likely to seek out in something that drives this well, we’d lost a third of that charge, suggesting a sub-200m range.

But doing much better than that would be easy – easy enough to suggest Porsche’s minimum figure of 242 mile is on the cards, should you be able exercise restraint, keep your cruising speeds down and, ideally, save your hypermiling for climates more temperate than Lincolnshire in January. The Taycan’s 800-volt architecture both boosts efficiency and makes for fast charging, if you get to the right kind of charger. But for most the decision remains based on usage and home set-up. Regularly make shorter journeys, and can charge at home? We’re in business. Park on the street and criss-cross the country on random errands? It’s a Panamera for you.

taycan 4s touchscreen

Other gripes? The cockpit’s either beautifully minimalist or just curiously stark and empty, depending on your perspective, but what is there is nicely designed and finished. And while the main interface is touch, for better or for worse, the Porsche system does it better than most, with logical menus and controls, crisp haptic feedback and a little ledge on which to steady your left hand as you prod.

Being charged another £4k for a bigger battery in a car that’s already rushed you for 83 big ones feels cheeky, but know you don’t need to spend much more. Unusually for a press car, our 4S went without active anti-roll bars, torque vectoring or rear-wheel steering, but felt none the poorer for their absence, particularly when those three alone can add £5k to the price.

What does the entry-level Taycan lose - or gain?

It would be easy to dismiss the non-4S as 'Taycan-lite', and given Porsche's position as premium sports car maker, that wouldn't be unfair. However, you can't really spend all your time launch-controlling away from the lights or ignoring speed limits and congestion, and here's where the Taycan comes into its own.

Porsche Taycan (RWD) - Frozenberry

Take that starting price, and you've got over £13,000 to play with from the options list for a start - that's enough to get the essentials of the Performance Plus battery and the panoramic glass roof, which makes the Taycan feel airy and spacious in the rear seats as well as the front. Finally, you'll want the adaptive air suspension; even equipped with 20-inch wheels the ride is sublime, retaining a degree of supple compliance even in Sport Plus mode.

The sheer competence of the package, combined with a very driver-centric approach to the controls, ensures that while the Taycan isn't taking off at every start, it is an absolute pleasure to enjoy torque and performance very reminiscent of a 928 yet without the mechanical soundtrack, swapping modes with the wonderfully tactile wheel-mounted control, and enjoying the perfectly-balanced braking system and communicative, precise steering.

Porsche Taycan rear seats, with panoramic roof - 2021

Stripping away the more ferocious aspects of the Taycan reveals a gloriously comfortable yet still amazingly rapid GT. It's not just impressive - it's likeable, almost friendly.

Porsche Taycan 4S: verdict

That the Taycan 4S is 911 Carrera money should be entirely irrelevant – they’re not, on paper, a like-for-like comparison in any way shape or form.

And yet… And yet so capable, so desirable and so convincing is the 4S as a driving machine that it forces its way into that conversation. Much more than merely a great electric car or even a great car, the Taycan 4S is a great Porsche.

Porsche Taycan - two-wheel drive: verdict

If you're buying a Porsche because you want a screaming-fast supercar - the other models of Taycan can deliver; if your budget is tight, you can live without the options, right?

More pragmatic, rational drivers may appreciate being able to get the cream of the Porsche's chassis, trim and battery options for less than £80,000 though. This is the Porsche the whole family can enjoy without you feeling the need to show off the performance. This is all relative, too - it's still a very rapid car, both off the line and from point to point.

And sure. Your £80K Tesla might claim to drive itself, but the Taycan you can buy instead entices you to drive it. There's always adaptive cruise for the boring roads.

taycan 4s rear detail

Read more Porsche reviews here

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Price when new: £83,580
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: Single motor, 402bhp. 4S: Twin e-motors, 523bhp (563bhp with Performance Plus battery), 472lb ft (479lb ft with Performance Plus battery)
Transmission: 4S: Front single-speed reduction gearset, rear two-speed gearbox, all-wheel drive
Performance: 5.4sec 0-62mph. 4S: 4.0sec 0-62mph, 155mph top speed (limited)
Weight / material: 2140kg/aluminium, steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4963/1966/1379

Other Models

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  • Porsche Taycan and 4S (2021) review: true to its roots
  • Porsche Taycan and 4S (2021) review: true to its roots
  • Porsche Taycan and 4S (2021) review: true to its roots
  • Porsche Taycan and 4S (2021) review: true to its roots
  • Porsche Taycan and 4S (2021) review: true to its roots
  • Porsche Taycan and 4S (2021) review: true to its roots
  • Porsche Taycan and 4S (2021) review: true to its roots
  • Porsche Taycan and 4S (2021) review: true to its roots
  • Porsche Taycan and 4S (2021) review: true to its roots
  • Porsche Taycan and 4S (2021) review: true to its roots
  • Porsche Taycan and 4S (2021) review: true to its roots
  • Porsche Taycan and 4S (2021) review: true to its roots
  • Porsche Taycan and 4S (2021) review: true to its roots
  • Porsche Taycan and 4S (2021) review: true to its roots
  • Porsche Taycan and 4S (2021) review: true to its roots
  • Porsche Taycan 2021 - RWD
  • Porsche Taycan (RWD) - Frozenberry
  • Porsche Taycan rear seats, with panoramic roof - 2021

By Ben Miller

The editor of CAR magazine, story-teller, average wheel count of three