More than just an electric vehicle, the 2021 Porsche Taycan aims to be the next chapter in Porsche’s sports car lineage.
Without trying to sound too dramatic, it’s hard to overstate the importance of the 2021 Porsche Taycan on the global stage.
The German firm has dabbled in electrification with plug-in hybrid Cayennes and Panameras before. The PHEV idea even formed the basis of the flagship 918 Spyder, but this is the first time the iconic performance car brand has fronted a full-electric vehicle.
Like the Cayenne SUV before it, which represented a huge change in philosophy for an otherwise purist brand, the Taycan range introduces Porsche to another new market that’s sure to become essential to its survival.
As governments around the world put an expiry date on the internal combustion engine, cars like the Taycan won’t exist because they can, but because they have to. That’s not to say that Porsche, and other performance-honed brands, won’t try to instill their own identifiable elements.
In the case of the Taycan that means a three-model range, with some familiar Porsche identifiers: Taycan 4S, Taycan Turbo and Taycan Turbo S. All are all-wheel drive, but none are actually turbocharged.
We know, and Porsche knows, it’s a little absurd, but the Turbo name is too sacred to leave behind.
Bare stats are, well, not quite straightforward. Gone of the days of X variant producing n power and torque.
The Taycan 4S starts with 320kW and 640Nm basic outputs, but can tap into 390kW on overboost. If you option up to the available Performance Plus battery, outputs rise to 360kW and 650Nm, with 420kW available on overboost.
The mid-spec Taycan Turbo claims 460kW and 850Nm, or 500kW on overboost. The Taycan Turbo S keeps the same regular power figure, but ups torque to 1050Nm and peak power jumps to 560kW on overboost.
A fourth variant with rear-wheel drive and slightly lower outputs has also been announced overseas, and is expected to join the range in Australia at a later date.
Sprint times from 0–100km/h are 4.0 seconds for the 4S, 3.2 seconds for the Turbo and 2.8 seconds for the Turbo S. That’s a decent swag of numbers in one hit, so shoving stats aside for a moment, what’s the car itself like?
|Taycan 4S (PP)||Taycan Turbo||Taycan Turbo S|
|Motor count||Dual AC synchronous electric motors||Dual AC synchronous electric motors||Dual AC synchronous electric motors|
|Power and torque||320kW, 390kW overboost/640Nm (360kW, 420kW overboost/650Nm)||460kW/500kW overboost/850Nm||460kW, 560kW overboost/1050Nm|
|Transmission||Single-speed front, two-speed rear – automatic||Single-speed front, two-speed rear – automatic||Single-speed front, two-speed rear – automatic|
|Drive type||All-wheel drive||All-wheel drive||All-wheel drive|
|Kerb mass||2140kg (2220kg)||2305kg||2295kg|
|Energy consumption, claimed||26.2kWh/100km (27.0kWh/100km)||28.0kWh/100km||28.5kWh/100km|
|Energy consumption on test||Untested (24.7kWh/100km)||21.1kWh/100km||26.3kWh/100km|
|Boot volume||84L front, 366L rear||84L front, 366L rear||84L front, 366L rear|
|Warranty||Three years/unlimited kilometres||Three years/unlimited kilometres||Three years/unlimited kilometres|
|Price||From $191,000 + ORCs||From $269,100 + ORCs||From $339,100 + ORCs|
|Battery size||79.2kWh (93.4kWh)||93.4kWh||93.4kWh|
|Driving range||365km (414km)||420km||405km|
No surprises, really, but it’s a lot like a Porsche in many ways. To look at, you can see a familial relationship with cars like the Macan and 718, but maybe not quite the 911. Or maybe it is a parallel universe 911, opinions vary.
On the inside there’s a similar evolution. The dash design is supposed to recall the original 1963 911’s interior. Call me skeptical, but aside from having a steering wheel at one side, the similarities are few and far between.
Instead, there’s an evolution of the widescreen, tech-heavy Panamera interior, only with more screens. There’s one ahead of the driver for instruments, one for infotainment in the centre of the dash, one for climate and car control embedded in the centre console, and a sub-screen in front of the front passenger for even more infotainment.
It’s a lot, but it gives off the techy concept-made-reality vibe of almost no buttons, in the very EV-chic way popularised by a certain American EV brand.
It may be taking the minimalist theme a bit too far. Some of the physical buttons under clear panels in a 911 or Panamera are already heading for form over function, but this is something else.
Digital-natives are sure to take to it like ducks to water; fingerprint-phobics can be found sobbing in the corner of their garages.
The Taycan also breaks away from some Porsche legacy items. Gone is the twist-nub starter switch that’s replaced with an on/off power button.
The gear selector moves off the console, too. It’s a version of the 911’s fore-aft paddle, but up in the dash to the left of the steering column – handy for freeing up space, but hidden from sight by the steering wheel.
The seating up front is pretty comfy. You’re still positioned low, but not uncomfortably or awkwardly so, so it’s sporty without making you look ungraceful as you get in and out.
In use, the multi-screen layout works. There’s a sensible layout to the screens and menus, and if your passenger doesn’t want to play DJ or keep an eye on the map, their screen can be either fully deactivated or switched to a Taycan logo.
Some things just don’t need the tech overhaul, though, and Porsche has gone with air vent adjustment via touchscreen. Alongside preset direct and diffuse settings, if you want to move an air vent yourself you need to: press AC Menu, press Individual, and drag the airflow on screen to where you want.
Not the end of the world, but the diagrammatic representation is in no way indicative of where air flows, and the vents have a delay before they actuate, leaving you to guess where air will end up. Honestly, I don’t think the old-fashioned manual air flap system was really that in need of an overhaul.
Ahead of the driver there’s a configurable instrument cluster that can be all map (including Google’s satellite map view), a set of almost-traditional dials (the Taycan is the first Porsche without a tacho), vehicle stats, trip info, safety system status, and maybe a little oddly only one, almost hidden, EV system screen.
It’s pretty clear the focus here, then, is that the Taycan is a Porsche first and an electric vehicle second.
Second-row seating is pretty decent, too. In terms of external length, the Taycan slots right in between a BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E Class. Neither of which excels when it comes to rear accommodation, though neither disappoints.
The Taycan doesn’t quite do the ‘Panamera space in a smaller package’ thing, but there’s decent knee and leg room. Enough to give the BMW and Benz a run for their money.
Head space is tight, though. The sloping roof line meant that my 169cm frame fitted, but was pretty close to the rear headlining – adult-sized adults may not be so happy in the rear. Opt for the fixed glass roof, and rear-seat passengers may have to tilt themselves forward just a little to clear the rear frame.
A four-seat cabin layout is standard, but you can option a 4+1 layout.
There’s a small storage space under the bonnet, measuring 84L, while under the boot lid there’s 366L available. The 450L total is a bit behind similarly sized luxo-sedans, and the split space does strip back versatility a little.
Standard inclusions of the 4S cover things like dual-zone climate control, LED headlights, auto-dimming mirrors, heated and cooled front seats, heated steering wheel, partial leather trim, 20-inch wheels, 14-speaker Bose audio, powered tailgate, keyless entry and start, and plenty more.
Back to range and capacity. The standard 4S Performance battery has a 79.2kWh gross capacity and a suggested 365km range, or Performance Battery Plus lifts capacity to 93.4kWh gross and touring range to 414km.
The larger battery also powers the Turbo and Turbo S, and carries a 420km and 405km range rating respectively, according to ADR test cycle figures, which are a little more forgiving than what the real world might deliver.
Porsche Australia suggests buyers aren’t concerned with range, as their stats show Taycans are going to multi-car households, and owners are ordering charging hardware for their primary residence, office, and holiday homes in one hit. No surprises there, really.
Other EVs vary greatly in their range potential. The 80kWh Mercedes-Benz EQC is cheaper and less powerful, and claims a 430km maximum. The Audi e-tron range also undercuts on price and performance, and covers either 300km or 400km of range for 80kWh and 95kWh models respectively.
The more realistic competitor is the Tesla Model S, with range from around 620km to 660km, 3.2sec or 2.1sec 0–100km/h claimed acceleration, starting with 500kW up to 760kW from its dual-motor set-up, and that’s before an even more powerful variant sets down later this year.
The Taycan also comes with a three-year Chargefox subscription, for times the vehicle is away from home. Complimentary Porsche destination charging is also available at selected sites around the country.
Charge times are, according to Porsche, 0–100 per cent charge in 10.5 hours on a 9.6kW connection, or nine hours on an 11kW connection (like you’ll find at a Porsche destination charger) using an AC charger.
At its absolute fastest charge rate (up to 270kW DC, 850 volts) at an ultra-fast DC charger, the Taycan can add in 100km of range in five minutes, or charge from five to 80 per cent in 22 minutes and 30 seconds.
If you use a 400-volt DC fast charger, that 5–80 per cent charge would take 36 minutes. Figures are based on the Performance Battery Plus, and as always charge times may vary.
Porsche Australia has put together a handy video on how charging works, you can view it at the bottom of this page.
As for the driving experience, consider it Schrödinger’s Porsche. The Taycan both is and isn’t exactly like Porsches before it.
Despite the interior control changes to things like starter and gear selector, everything still feels fairly natural and logical. Unlike some EVs, the Taycan creeps forward in drive once you take your foot off the brake, instead of sitting idle.
Despite most of the controls moving to touch displays, you still have a fixed map of key controls and still have physical input into lights, wipers, seat and steering wheel adjustment. So far, so normal.
You don’t get, of course, engine vibrations or noise, and for some owners that might be the biggest change.
What you do get is an intriguing layout, mechanically. Whereas most EVs use a single-speed reduction-gear transmission on each axle, Porsche deploys a two-speed transmission at the rear and single-speed up front.
Up front it’s a 150kW/300Nm motor on the 4S, 175kW/300Nm on the 4S Performance Plus and Turbo, or 175kW/400Nm on the Turbo S. At the rear there’s a 270kW/340Nm motor in the 4S or 320kW/340Nm in the 4S Performance Plus, up to 335kW and 550Nm in the Turbo S.
That makes for an interesting model-walk. In reality, the 4S and 4S Performance Plus are as much distinct models as the Turbo and Turbo S. Rather than monstrous additional power, the Turbo S’s party trick is more torque, though in the battle of 4S versus 4SPP acceleration times are unchanged, whereas a Turbo will fall behind a Turbo S in a straight line.
Translated to road use, that means you can absolutely sprint off the line in a flurry of almost silent, scenery-blurring acceleration in the Turbo twins, and properly piss off your disengaged passengers by sending their mobile phones into their faces. Well, potentially.
The Turbo terrors are formidable, and with no mechanical hints as to speed or potential, no rising noise, and no torque crescendo, it’s often tricky to gauge speed. Am I doing 60km/h yet? Oh, closer to 80. Have I accelerated up to 100km/h? Nope, I’ve exceeded it by a substantial amount.
Adaptive cruise control and a speed limiter become more necessary in this car than most others.
On the other hand, the Taycan 4S would barely be considered slow by most rational measures, but it’s easier to roll onto the accelerator and modulate speed. Quite honestly, after the launch-control novelty of the Turbo S wore off, the 4S was the pick of the litter, giving you more wiggle room to engage it on challenging roads.
In reality, no road is a challenge, though. From a standing start, you just grip and go in any variant. No scrambling for traction, no slippage, just sheer acceleration.
Toss it into bends and the Taycan tracks faithfully, front wheels headed precisely where you point them, no understeer spoiling the fun, no oversteer panic – though the weight can test lateral grip. The tyres will scream in protest, but they didn’t let up. A racetrack test may reveal a different outcome.
Tyres on the cars driven at launch varied between Pirelli P Zero, Goodyear Eagle F1 and Michelin Pilot Sport 4 depending on size. Still, there was no appreciable difference between the three in a road-use setting.
Better still, in the absence of any other noise, the cabin stayed hushed – even over some notoriously raucous coarse surfaces. There’s just a hint of breeze around the corners of the frameless window glass, but little else to upset the peace and quiet.
You can turn on the Electric Sport Sound (standard on Turbo S, optional on the others) to give the theatrics of exaggerated EV hum as you boot the accelerator, or regen via the brake pedal, but honestly, I don’t think it added anything to the experience.
Speaking of brakes, they can be tricky to get right on an EV as slowing moves between motor regeneration to harness waste energy, and friction braking if you stop hard or slow to a complete stop. No such trouble here, with a really nice, linear, mechanical feel through the pedal, and no real sign of a handover from regenerative braking to friction braking.
Hardware varies by model, with 360mm cast-iron front rotors and four-piston callipers on the front of the 4S, 410mm Porsche surface-coated brake rotors and six-piston callipers on the front of the Turbo and 420mm Porsche ceramic-composite brake rotors clamped by 10-piston callipers on the Turbo S. At the rear there are 358mm, 365mm and 410mm rotors respectively.
Call it heresy, but there was hardly any fault to find with the base brake package in road usage. On the other hand, the more exotic packages stayed as smooth and squeal-free on our intro drive, so at least don’t bring any untoward compromises.
In all instances, the front wheels are there more to assist than to split the load, so you still get a nice handling balance, but with some of the available rear-wheel fun settled into a more obedient package than you might otherwise find in an all-paw 911. Dial the drive modes up to Sport and Sport Plus and the rear gets more responsive but never overbearing.
Where the weight of batteries can often be the enemy of electric vehicles, the Taycan hides its heft well. The lightest 4S tips the scales at 2140kg. It doesn’t defy physics and feel particularly light on its feet, but it’s been tuned to avoid feeling heavy and ponderous, which is encouraging.
Steering is as accurate as anything else in the Porsche family. It’s light in terms of weight, but laden with feel and feedback so as not to feel artificial or remote.
Without the need for regular oil changes, service intervals are double those of the regular Porsche range, falling every 24 months or 30,000km. There are still cabin filters and brake fluid to keep an eye on, but with the energy recuperation handling up to 90 per cent of brake load in normal driving, there should be no getting caught short in between dealer visits.
Vehicle warranty is Porsche’s usual three-year/unlimited-kilometre term, but the EV battery carries an eight-year/160,000km warranty.
In terms of energy consumption, Porsche claims 26.2kWh per 100km from the base 4S, 27.0kWh/100km for the 4SPP, 28.0kWh/100km for the Turbo and 28.5kWh/100km for the Turbo S. That’s a little high – Australia’s green vehicle guide ranks the EQC at 21.4 and the Tesla Model S Performance at 17.2kWh/100km.
Whereas real-world consumption is usually higher than factory claims, on test (largely open road, but with plenty of exploratory acceleration) the 4SPP returned 24.7kWh/100km, the Turbo used 21.1kWh/100km and the Turbo S settled at 26.3kWh/100km – all less than claimed, which is a little surprising.
Unfortunately, the first taste of the Taycan didn’t include any charging stops, so I can’t yet say how effective any of Porsche’s charging solutions are. We’ll look into that once cars come through the CarAdvice garage.
There’s no ANCAP safety ranking for the Taycan yet, but Euro NCAP awarded a five-star score in 2019. Standard safety and driver assist systems include 10 airbags, lane-keep and lane-change assist, 360-degree cameras, auto park assist, rear ISOFIX child seat mounts, and auto high beam.
So far, the one point not touched on is price. Not for any nefarious reason, but to save it from clouding opinion. It’s unavoidable, of course, but perhaps a little surprising starting from $191,000 for the Taycan 4S, stepping up to $269,100 for the Taycan Turbo, or rising to $339,100 for the Turbo S, all before options and on-road costs.
In the world of performance Porsches, that’s actually decent value. A Cayman GTS will get you to 100km/h in 4.5 seconds for $172K, and the cheapest way into a 911 is the $236,300 Carrera with a 4.2sec sprint potential.
If you must carry four in comfort and still achieve 4.0sec sprint times, you’re left with the Cayenne Turbo Coupe from $259,000. No one could accuse the Taycan of being a bargain, but it’s certainly not out of its own league.
The Taycan doesn’t do all things, it’s not searching for mass acceptance, and it is still likely to remain somewhat niche in its appeal. That’s always been a Porsche pillar, and is sure to remain as such.
It also shakes off some of the ‘science experiment’ aspects that may have clouded EVs so far. Yes, it’s thoroughly contemporary, but not so alienating that you couldn’t jump out of your 911 and into your Taycan without feeling a sense of instant familiarity.
Making the change from one long-held and well-regarded arena to another is always going to be a challenge. Porsche has shown, historically, that it knows how to do so, and the Taycan suggests that lightning can indeed strike twice.
To drive, the Taycan isn’t much like Porsche’s much-loved range of combustion-engined vehicles. It is, absolutely and without question, still very much a Porsche in every other way, though. Something that’s sure to be music to the ears of enthusiast drivers everywhere.
While purists might miss running through gears, and the evocative soundtrack of a six- or eight-cylinder engine, with the Taycan Porsche has declared that engaging performance motoring is far from through.
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