Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: February 15, 2021
The Taycan was first launched in its most powerful iterations. The Turbo and Turbo S were the spearhead of Porsche’s bold foray into the zero-emission market. But they have now introduced a more affordable trim downstream called the 4S. Equipped with the same sheetmetal and powertrain as the Turbos but with detuned electric motors, the 4S is Stuttgart’s mid-level offering, sitting above the recently unveiled base model rear-wheel drive Taycan, and its crosshairs are aimed directly at the Tesla Model S.
Was it a smart move to launch the quicker but more expensive Turbos first? Absolutely. State your performance claim with nothing but the best, then follow up with models that a larger portion of the public can actually afford. Porsche is off to a good start too, selling over 20,000 Taycans worldwide in 2020 alone. The 4S starts at $119,400, which is $53,400 less than the Turbo, and the only way you can tell them apart aside from the obvious badging is via the wheels. The 4S gets standard 19-inch wheels (with beefy sidewalls), while the Turbo gets 20s and the Turbo S gets 21s. Still, Porsche doesn’t stop you from optioning the 4S with 21s anyways. Keep in mind the press vehicle we tested was a 2020 model, and that is reflected in the pricing. 2021 models are up by around $1,100.
But how much performance is diluted when jumping from Turbo to 4S? The difference comes down to the electric motors. All Taycans except for the RWD model use a one-speed transmission to power the front electric motor, and a two-speed to drive the rear motor, but the 4S’s rear motor is less powerful.
Mirroring the Tesla structure, the Taycan 4S is available with two types of batteries. The Performance Battery (79.2 kWh) produces 429 hp (522 hp in overboost) and 472 lb-ft of torque, while the optional Performance Battery Plus (93.4 kWh) costs an extra $7,500 but swings that output to 482 hp (562 hp in overboost) and 479 lb-ft instead. Overboost is a launch function that unlocks maximum thrust for a short period of 2.5 seconds to keep the batteries from overheating.
Range? EPA says the 4S will go 320 km while the Performance Battery Plus will reach 365 km. We averaged just about 280 km with the bigger battery, but this was in -8C weather with all the heaters on. But the trick up the Taycan’s sleeve is a 800-volt power supply that is double the voltage of what EV cars typically use. This means faster acceleration and charging times, taking the 93.4 kWh battery from a 5-80% charge in 22.5 minutes, or 100 km in 5 minutes, when using a power supply outputting 270 kW. The catch? These 270 kW-350 kW high-powered charging stations are few and far in between, meaning you will have to settle for less powerful outlets in the range of 50-150 kW instead.
The 4S will accelerate from 0-100 km/h in 4.0 seconds no matter which battery pack you choose due to the Plus’ added weight of 80 kg. In comparison, the Turbo we tested ran it in 3.2 seconds. But speaking from experience, the difference between perceptible speeds once you dip below 4.0 seconds tends to blur and become subjectively similar. Yes, the Turbo hits you right in the gut when launched but we honestly find the 4S just as exhilarating. And it’s not just the initial thrust. The strong propulsive force is sustained even in the mid-range where many other EVs fall off like a cliff.
Without a loud exhaust or the accompanying soundtrack of a combustion engine, it’s clear that the Taycan lacks any sort of auditory and emotional connection like the similarly priced BMW M5 Competition and Mercedes-AMG E 63. Instead, Porsche have doubled down on prioritizing driving dynamics and a genuinely 911-like experience to dissuade naysayers that this isn’t a proper Porsche. They concentrated most of the weight to the floor bed, and it feels incredibly grounded and stable as a result. Porsche also used every trick in the book to mask that weight penalty, from rear-wheel steering and torque vectoring to active anti-roll bars.
The steering is light without being overboosted, and quick without being twitchy, adding to its overall sense of athleticism. The active anti-roll bar system seems to anchor everything down, but the springy brake pedal leaves a lot on the table. While not terribly difficult to modulate, there are many other EVs and hybrids that give better and more linear pedal feedback. With the optional rear-wheel steering feature, the turning circle is even smaller than the Lexus IS 300 we tested the same week. Taut and tightly strung, the adaptive air suspension makes a case for itself too, neutralizing small suspension movements better than the Panamera. There’s even a driver-selectable ride height lift function that allows drivers to traverse over nasty speed bumps and steep ramps. This is supposed to be an everyday automotive tool after all.
And while its futuristic sheetmetal means it will stick out like a sore thumb, there is so much 911 design DNA embedded into the Taycan 4S with its bloated hips, full-width taillight bar, and a tapered front hood, that it’s instantly distinguishable as a Porsche. This is what the first-generation Panamera should have looked like.
The same goes for the snazzy interior, which is the same as the Turbos but with standard 8-way adjustable, partial leather seats instead. The sheer amount of digital real estate in here cannot be understated. We’re talking about four large screens, including the optional passenger display. With it, the passenger can control all the media and vehicle settings and not have to fuss around in the center console. If only it could play movies.
While Porsche tradition dictates a large tachometer sitting front and center of the instrument cluster, we have a curved 16.3-inch digital screen instead. Like its analog counterparts, there are five digital dials but the steering wheel effectively blocks the outer two, rendering their usefulness and convenience moot. While the screen is adjustable, Porsche actually limits what you can see in each dial, unlike Cadillac that pretty much lets you mix and match until your heart's content.
Fingerprints will mar the screens no matter how diligent you are with cleaning, though they’re bright enough that they won’t wash out easily under heavy sunlight. Those who prefer the direct tactility of real buttons will be disappointed but those looking towards the future of technology will find much to love. The build quality is exceptional, the fixed panoramic roof is expansive, and the Taycan does a stellar job balancing out the right kind of simplistic and futuristic EV vibe that it wants to convey. The driving position is spot-on too, with the Taycan’s pronounced front shoulders mimicking the view out of a 911. The 18-way adjustable seats are supportive but the stiff and high thigh bolsters are a pain for male-specific ingress and egress. Place your buttocks strategically unless you want some bolster protrusion. And for such a large sedan, rear seat accommodations are sparse. Headroom is just enough for my six-foot figure, but my knees are crammed right into the seat back when sitting behind myself. Seems silly for Porsche to charge an extra $550 to get a middle seat as well.
The flat and thin steering wheel is a delight but the plastic drive mode dial budding out the lower right corner feels low-rent and lacks the premium appearance of the AMG equivalent. I do love having a shortcut button on the steering wheel, though. More automakers need to implement this as more and more user functions transition over to touchscreens. Oddly enough, Porsche limits what you can actually program into the button. We had ours set to activate the spooky Porsche Electric Sport Sound function that pipes spaceship noises both inside and outside the vehicle. Ever hear a Taycan accelerate? It’s like they pulled an audio clip from Star Wars. Of note, like other hybrids and EVs, the Taycan has to emit these kinds of white noises to meet legal requirements - Canada doesn’t want you to silently and accidentally run over unexpecting pedestrians in the parking lot.
Hardly a diluted or penalized Taycan, the 4S exemplifies everything that was good with the Turbo and shrinks it down to a more digestible level. The price tag still commands a higher premium than the equivalent Tesla Model S but Porsche’s stellar build quality and strong dynamic acuity go a long way. Is the 4S the new sweet spot of the Taycan range? We have to test the new rear-wheel drive base model to confirm just that, but we have no reason not to believe it.
Model: 2020 Porsche Taycan 4S with Performance Battery Plus
Paint Type: Frozen Blue Metallic
Base Price: $119,400
Price as Tested: $163,910
Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,963 / 1,966 / 1,379
Unladen weight (kg): 2,140 / 2,220 (battery plus)
Powertrain: 2 permanent magnet synchronous motors + 93.4 kWh lithium ion battery
Horsepower: 429 hp / 482 hp (performance battery plus) / 562 hp (overboost)
Torque: 472 lb-ft / 479 lb-ft (performance battery plus)
Transmission: Single-speed transmission (front), two-speed transmission (rear)
Drive Configuration: AWD
Tires: ContiWinterContact XL; 225/55R19 front; 275/45R19 rear