A Classic German Sports Sedan For The Age Of Electrics

Porsche Taycan in 4S, Turbo and Turbo S trim levels delivered for Porsche in the midst of COVID hell, pushing the firm to its second-best North American sales ever. Returning from Dawn Patrol in the $205,000 Taycan Turbo S last spring, I was speechless, unable to respond when my Lovely Attorney asked if I’d had a nice drive. I sat down and wrote the first draft before my second cup of coffee. I would have hung up my spurs if the first all-electric Porsche super sedan had not achieved strong sales.

Porsche led the market with the three higher-spec Taycans—4S, Turbo and Turbo S—but in a few months the “entry-level” Taycan will arrive, starting at roughly $80,000, a full $105,000 less than the Turbo S base price, and $125,000 less than my Taycan Turbo S test car. Yet so good is the basic architecture that Porsche has managed to retain the performance sensibilities that separate Porsches from all other cars. Porsche has mastered “sliding scale” trim-level pricing as well as any, with carefully ciphered overlaps in standard and optional equipment to create a Porsche for everyone and anyone.

Gone are the high-sided hip hugger bucket seats of the Turbo S, replaced with leather buckets that suit Taycan’s less extreme handling limits and everyday capabilities. Taycan seats do not require carefully practiced gymnastics for entry and exit.

Gone are the expensive, gummy ultra-performance tires of the Turbo S wrapped around enormous 21-inch wheels, replaced with less exotic 19-inch Michelins. Based on appearance of the EU-spec test car I had for this COVID-era first drive story, I strongly recommend investing in one of the optional wheel upgrades.

Gone are the Turbo S 16.5-inch ceramic brakes, which would be nothing more than an expensive and unsuitable affectation on Taycan. Instead, 14.1-inch steel rotors and 6-piston calipers, which not too many years ago would have been found only on exotic cars. No shortage of braking capacity.

Gone is the front-mounted electric motor and Turbo S’s 750 electric horsepower under Launch Control, though Taycan’s 469 is no minor sum. More significant is the drop in maximum torque, from the Turbo S’s 774 to Taycan’s 263.

Gone also is the Turbo S Lightspeed sprint to 60 mph in 2.6 seconds—that front electric motor is all the difference, Han Solo. But Taycan will hit 60 mph just shy of five seconds flat, which is plenty quick, achieved with complete ease. It’s the difference between mind-bendingly Interstellar quick and “Wow, that’s pretty darn quick.”

Gone is about two hundred pounds out of the nose, which heightens the already exceptional steering turn-in when on the hunt. Porsche was the first company to sort electric power steering with the same excellent feel of hydraulic-assist steering, something I first experienced in the 718 and Cayman five years ago. Taycan builds on those lessons, the steering precise and nicely weighted, very satisfying working through mountain corners.

Gone too is the Turbo S’s 201-mile range. Equipped with the optional (and I’d argue mandatory) Performance Plus battery, Taycan driving range should be close to 240 miles, well beyond the margin of error for the daily shuttling of Los Angeles professionals. The navigation system lists nearby charging stations when range drops to 50 miles. Taycan meets the challenges of life in Greater Los Angeles.

Range and suspension tuning with a bias to sporting comfort change Taycan into a long-distance tourer, especially with the optional 3-chamber air suspension. Touring is achievable thanks to Electrify America’s expanding infrastructure. Several rapid-charging stations dot the highway between Los Angeles and Vegas, capable of recharging a depleted Taycan battery to 80 percent in about 20 minutes, enough time for a potty stop, leg stretch, and fresh cup of coffee. Utah and Colorado are also reasonable highway trips. If you follow the Electrify America breadcrumbs along major highways, crossing America is possible. Just don’t go venturing into the unknown like Lewis and Clark. Electrify America has populated key stopovers along Interstate 5 through our Big Valley, making LA-San Francisco easy. Central Coast wine country beyond Santa Barbara? Or less-traveled Rocky Mountain highways with spectacular vistas? Mt. Rushmore? Electrify America has work to do on scenic routes. I’d love to drive a Taycan or 4S across the continent, particularly once lesser-traveled Rocky Mountain highways are on the charging grid.

Porsche’s considerable pre-orders are a barbell: either minimal options to preserve value in an innately good vehicle, or heavily optioned with electronics and creature comforts, with not many cars specced in between. My test car would likely price just over/under 100 grand, equipped with Performance Plus battery ($5780) that extends range and performance, the otherworldly 3-chamber air suspension ($2200), bright, clear Burmeister audio system ($7000), passenger-side dash touchscreen ($1100), the debatable extra-cost “hero” marketing color of Frozen Berry, and a long list of extra-cost electronics that enhance both performance and comfort. The Performance Plus battery pack seems mandatory. This well-appointed Taycan is the car for my Lovely Attorney: cossetting, comfortable, but with excellent performance. I’d prefer to drop many of the options and scale up to the more potent 4S. Season to taste. Here we are again at Porsche’s mastery of the product planning sliding scale.

Taycan’s single electric motor and 2-speed gearbox put 375 electric horsepower to the rear wheels, and when set to Launch Control, no less than 469 horsepower. It cannot trade blows at the drag strip with a $3 million Bugatti Chiron or Ferrari SF90 Stradale hypercar as the Taycan Turbo S most certainly can, but on a mountain road Taycan is very well sorted in typical Porsche fashion, and thus a satisfying drive. It’s a pleasant cocoon driving through urban LA.

Under acceleration, Taycan has the same hypersonic dentist drill aural signature I enjoyed last spring in the Taycan Turbo S, and that same trigger-pull shift of the gearbox, which is deeply satisfying. Taycan is rarely caught flat-footed and can pass even on relatively short chutes between tight corners. No need to time revs, gearing and entry speed for a pass. Just slip up behind the unsuspecting victim, squeeze the throttle and catapult.

Better still, in recuperative braking the wubba-wubba-wubba sound of a Tatooine pod racer in Star Wars reaches the passenger cabin, bringing a smile. It’s a new world with new sounds, new sensations. I’ve always wanted to flash my vents in a take-no-prisoners Tatooine pod race.

Taycan fits comfortably into the glorious tradition of the German Sports Sedan, a genre that matured to clear definition throughout the 1980s and ‘90s, when a free-revving 250 to 300 horsepower straight-6 engine was considered exemplary. I loved these cars as a young man, and in my day on the mountain and the freeways of the Big Bang Theory, Taycan seemed like the battery-electric evolution of the concept: confident, capable, and agile, excellent sightlines and a sense of man-machine connection, yet supple and comfortable. Such German 4-doors were a revelation in the 1980s, and so too is Taycan now.

With two Taycan tests to my credit, I am intensely interested in future repackaging of these sub-systems to create a battery-electric Macan SUV. Sitting up higher in a Macan, that would probably win over my Lovely Attorney.

To my Old Guard friends who drive Italian, English and German supercars and super sedans, I say be of good cheer. Yeah, the Star Wars pod racing soundtrack is not the wailing aria of a high-revving Italian V8 with a flat-plane crank, but don’t be so grumpy. Porsche has created an architecture, an “engineering toolkit,” that will bring many exhilarating vehicles to market, not just with Porsche, but within the family of other VW Group luxury brands. If top-down government initiatives force us to give up gasoline over time, there will be performance cars for those who can swing the price. If this base Taycan or the next-up 4S constitute suffering in a new epoch, I’m in.

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