2020 Porsche Taycan 4S Review: A Fast, Silent Go in Stuttgart’s Lowliest EV
We take Porsche’s new Taycan 4S for a rip on some incredible roads.
LOS ANGELES, California—Given the afternoon in a Porsche and a route that snakes up out of L.A. and then to ribbons of pavement drizzled across the hills surrounding the city, what would you do first? Obviously, go for a full send. Moments after exiting an underground parking garage in the electric 2020 Porsche Taycan 4S, I punched the gas—er, throttle, no, wait, accelerator!
As the Taycan silently leapt down Figueroa Street, an informational placard Porsche had left on the dashboard flew backward and "stuck" to the passenger seat. This little paranormal event is by now an easy tell for an electric car's power. You've probably seen YouTube videos where Tesla owners troll unsuspecting, phone-wielding passengers by punching the accelerator, sending smartphones, torsos, small animals, and other loose items inside the cabin flying up against the seatbacks and staying there for a few seconds before the car's acceleration tapers off.
In the 4S, which is the slowest and least powerful of the by now familiar Taycan variants introduced to date, the laminated placard stayed pinned to the seat for only a brief moment during our rip. With the accelerator still floored and the Porsche passing highway speeds, the card succumbed to gravity's forces and fell onto the cushion. That's what "only" 563 horsepower from two electric motors' overboost function is capable of. Outside of brief full-throttle bursts, the motors produce less—483 horsepower—and should you opt for the smaller of the 4S's two battery packs, and those figures drop to 523 and 429 horsepower, a far cry from the Taycan Turbo S's 616 horsepower (750 with overboost) and well off the most powerful Tesla Model S's numbers.
What does this mean, practically? That the Taycan 4S looks, feels, and is pretty much exactly like its more powerful siblings and is hardly mundane. In the things-flying-off-the-dashboard sense, sure, it lags behind the Turbo S and Tesla's hard-charging Model S. But Porsche claims this slowest model still reaches 60 mph in 3.8 seconds and can continue on to 155 mph. And it does so effortlessly and repeatably—unlike the Tesla, which can dump more power into its acceleration runs but only for a limited number of runs before the computers dial back its performance to spare the battery and motors from thermal issues.
The Taycan 4S we sampled in California came with the "Performance Battery Plus" option from the Turbo S, which translates to a 93.4-kWh (and $6580!) lithium-ion battery upgrade over the regular 79.2-kWh "Performance Battery" that comes standard. Next to the higher output it squeezes from the dual electric motors, one per axle, the larger battery ups the Taycan's range from between 207 and 253 miles to 240-288 miles, depending on your driving style. These, of course, are Porsche's estimates; official EPA driving-range ratings are forthcoming. No matter which battery you choose, you won't be getting Tesla-style range, which on the Model S now extends close to 400 miles per charge.
Again, Porsche isn't aiming at Tesla head-on. It's ceding stomach-dropping (albeit limited) acceleration and range capabilities for a more consistent, performance-focused driving experience. Here, the lowly 4S doesn't disappoint. Want a gut check? You may not get it accelerating forward in a Taycan, but you will get it laterally when punching the accelerator through a corner. We'll skip right past the trope that the Taycan corners like it's on rails and suggest, instead, that trains don't hold a line as well as this Porsche. Our test car's Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) system kept the air springs and the electronically adjustable dampers taut and the body feeling flatter than Kansas.
In fact, the ease with which the Taycan steered was almost boring. Maybe it was the lack of engine noise—or, well, nearly any noise. Mostly, it was the car's sheer competence and the dearth of challenge Angeles Crest seemed to pose against it. There is simply so much grip from the chassis, which benefits from the low-slung battery, wide summer tires, and typical Porsche tuning goodness, that braking for even the Crest's tighter bends seemed unnecessary. We found ourselves easing off the accelerator pedal and just, well, turning the steering wheel, easily doubling up posted speed suggestions for the corners.
Never once did we sense that the car's 800-volt electrical architecture wasn't giving us everything we were asking for from the motors. We only had to cool off from probing deeper and deeper into the Porsche's limits when, on a brief straightaway while passing a Chevy Cruze that was well and truly beyond its limits, we whooshed past a California Highway Patrol car traveling in the opposite direction. At 85 mph. Accelerating. Uphill. It was one instance where our gripes about the Taycan's noise, or lack thereof, registered as a positive. We bet the cop was still piecing together our Frozen Blue Taycan's apparent speed with its utter silence as it passed by the time we were two corners away. Porsche does pump in some warbly Star Wars spaceship sounds through the audio speakers in the Sport and Sport Plus drive modes that rise and fall with your speed, but in Normal or Eco, the motors' distant whine barely registers.
Our other complaints with the Taycan are few. The brake pedal on our 4S test car provided immediate stopping power at the slightest touch, without feeling twitchy, yet the pedal feel only tightened up after an inch or two of travel. (Our 4S also came equipped with the available carbon-ceramic brake rotor package, which can deliver similar sensations when not up to temperature, but another Taycan without this option exhibited the same pedal feel.) Porsches are supposed to be expensive, we know, but the Taycan is unique in that it seemingly competes directly with Tesla, whose fans seem bent on constantly reminding everyone that the Model S costs less and offers more driving range.
If you can get past those bugaboos, or prioritize Porsche's brand of total, satisfying performance, no amount of bleating from the Teslarati will matter. Good for you, because you'll be grabbing nearly the same performance that you'd get in the Turbo or Turbo S—plus the same hot looks, screen-addled interior, and excellent seats—for tens of thousands less. In Porscheland, "much less money" means you'll still need to bring at least $105,150 to your dealer, plus whatever extra you're bound to spend on the Taycan's many, many personalization options. And make sure you live near one of the many 800-volt DC fast-chargers slowly proliferating across the country, which can juice a Taycan's battery to an 80 percent charge in about 20 minutes. After all, fast is all a matter of perspective, be it charge times, performance consistency, or a car's ability to pin shit to its seats with its accelerator pinned.
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|2020 Porsche Taycan 4S Specifications|
|ON SALE||Winter 2019|
|ENGINE||Dual permanent magnet synchronous motors, 429 hp (523 hp boost), 472 lb-ft (4S); 483 hp (583 hp boost), 479 lb-ft (4S w/ Performance Battery Plus)|
|TRANSMISSIONS||1-speed direct drive (front), 2-speed automatic (rear)|
|LAYOUT||4-door, 4-passenger, dual-motor, AWD sedan|
|L x W x H||195.4 x 77.4 x 54.3 in|
|WEIGHT||4700-4900 lb (est)|
|0-60 MPH||3.8 sec|
|TOP SPEED||155 mph|