Electric Dreams [COTY2020] : 2020 Porsche Taycan 4 S Drive [review]

By davidkhoo, 16 February 2021

Singapore - How times have changed: I’m of the age that had to shift around full-colour posters and ahem, pin-ups on my room walls to free up real estate for the Porsche 959 print poster that I’d swopped a pack of Top Trumps for over school recess time.

Today, it’s largely digital ‘wall’ space on the devices we spend the most time on: notebooks, smartphones and tablets. We’re past the cusp of the digital revolution and the next big leap should take us into electric mobility. Whichever sportscar(s) image you decide will take pride of place on your ‘home’ page exists purely as electronic data, be it in the cloud or on your hard-disk.

Likewise, Porsche has leapt from manual and mechanical from the 959 to Carrera GT, then onto the semi-electric 918 Spyder hyper-hybrid and now, we’re at the stage where Porsche has started building electric vehicles in earnest… with the Taycan as just the starting point.

(Click HERE to read our full First Drive of the Taycan 4 S in the company of a 964 C4)

We’ve been hardcore petrolheads since primary school, talked cars in class and played Top Trumps with our pals in the flesh. Everything was manual and mechanical, with automatic the exception rather than the norm. These days, entire spec sheets can be downloaded in pdf in the blink of an eye, so you can hit back virtually at your nemesis on the car chat group in less time then it would have taken me to shuffle the deck.

This author has been lucky enough to have driven a variety of Porsches, with a list that spans 356 to air-cooled 911s, GT3 models, RS models and plenty more in-between. Is it possible then, to reconcile these wonderful mechanical masterpieces from Porsche with the electronic-electric-automatic Taycan?

Don’t get us wrong, we love EVs: we already started including EVs in our annual Cars of the Year feature from as early as 2014, with the BMW i3 60Ah the first all-electric car to make it into the list. It’s a sign of the times to have two electric vehicles this year: the Porsche Taycan 4S and the MINI Electric.

(Click HERE to check out our COTY2020 Introduction and a look at the other Star Cars)

With a pedigree like Porsche, every car model has to live up to its towering reputation – some people feel the definitive Porsche has to be the 911, others, Cayenne and Macan, another group, possibly the Panamera and now, the Taycan. The reality is, the ‘Porsche’ DNA transcends driving dynamics – frankly, that’s a given with any Porsche – but has to include that most intangible of intangibles, a soul.

Don’t believe us? Drive any Porsche against its immediate contemporaries, and you’ll discover that on-paper specs tell less than half the story. Moreover, you can only experience the magic when you drive it (yes, just like playing Top Trumps, it has to be in the flesh!), because it’ll have that extra spark that adds a glint to your eye.

The ‘lack of soul’ was the biggest criticism levelled against the Taycan at its launch last year, but we reserved judgement till we drove it, because there’s nothing worse than ‘dissing before driving’... and you’d be surprised by how many do this.

In the flesh, it’s an elegant interpretation of the classic 911 design – albeit with four doors – and in a manner that appeals to us a lot more than the Panamera ever did. It’s not that surprising considering the Taycan’s design no longer had to be ‘driven’ by an engine – either up front or in the back – and the finished product could keep very close to the gorgeous Mission E concept from a few years prior.

Inside, Porsche has kept all the main aesthetic elements and cabin architecture design from the iconic models of bygone years instantly recognisable to the purists, albeit interpreted with a digital twist.

For starters, the driver sits right up to the windscreen, just like in the 911s – all the better to precisely place the car of course! The ‘On/Off’ power switch is in the same position as the 911 twist-starter/ignition keyhole, only in the Taycan, you’ll have to hold it to turn on the machine.

It gets the 992’s stubby ‘Braun-style’ transmission shifter, but this is positioned to the left of the steering wheel; the Taycan’s shifter doesn’t have a +/- function, so it’s a matter of sliding it into D (or R) and leaving it to its own devices.

For newcomers to electric vehicles, the eerie silence at start-up and in motion may be disconcerting at first, but it lets you appreciate how quiet the car’s cabin can actually be to enjoy a conversation or even more simply, music.

To us, the Taycan 4S (and possibly the coming entry-level Taycan) is the sweet spot of the range, because it has a comfortable performance for everyday use. In the Turbo/Turbo S models, we reckon we’d have a hard time keeping the speed down, and in daily commutes, I’d probably be less concerned with demolishing the 100km/h sprint in under 3secs.

We’d tick the S$26k option for the Performance Battery Plus though (that is standard in the Turbo/Turbo S models), because it gives the 4S a bump in performance and a slightly longer operating range. Until the border reopens and based on our average usage in Singapore-alone, the 450km-odd range should last us at least seven-to-nine days between full charges.

However, it’s only when you start driving the Taycan 4S in earnest that you appreciate the amount of work Porsche must have put in for it to feel ‘natural’, and it’s far more than just the devastating straight-line pace.

There’s a progressive feel to the steering that allows one to fluidly play connect-the-dots from corner to corner, with a soul-stirring level of driver engagement that would embarrass other conventionally-engined sportscars. We even found the controversial electronic sports sound to be perfectly appropriate soundtrack for the occasion, and it provided the suitable aural cue during acceleration/deceleration.

The Taycan isn’t intended to replace your sportscars, but join them in the garage to serve family/school-run/business meeting duties on your sojourns into town on the days you don’t feel like navigating high-humps in the sportscars, or fussing with a manual in start-stop traffic.

As Porsche constantly pushes the limits of technology and design, every new model or major paradigm shift in terms of technology and design has faced angry diatribe from its die-hard fans, but that’s just the nature of progress.

Nothing ever stays constant, so both the car brands and their fans need to learn to change with the times. With the Taycan, the brand has embraced all the performance and packaging advantages of an all-electric drivetrain, yet endowed it with the ‘soul’, which is an immutable part of every Porsche. And anything that stirs the driver’s soul today is wallpaper-worthy...

PHOTOS Zotiq Visuals

Porsche Taycan 4S (with Performance Battery Plus)
Battery Li-Ion, 93.4kWh (gross)
Power 490hp (571hp on Overboost)
Torque 650Nm
0-100km/h 4secs
Top Speed 250km/h
Kerbweight (DIN) 2220kg
Electric Range (combined) 386-463km (WLTP)
Efficiency 25.6kWh/100km

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