It’s not often one gets to park two electric vehicles at the forefront of the electro-mobility transition in the driveway, but that was exactly what transpired in March at our humble abode.
Just 10 days after taking possession of a brand new shiny white Tesla Model 3, a “frozen blue” electric Porsche Taycan 4S was parked next to it. We had to assure the neighbours we hadn’t won the lottery.
It’s certainly the most expensive car I’ve ever driven (and hopefully not the last). But despite the “entry-level” tag, the 4S carries a $190,000 price (before on-road costs), and it doesn’t seem to have affected interest in what is Porsche’s first high-performance electric sports car.
Recent Vfacts figures released in April show that 250 Taycans (pronounced “tie-kahn”, apparently) have already been registered in Australia, and a salesperson at the Brisbane Porsche Centre tells us Australia’s current allocation is already sold out.
The reason behind its popularity – it is currently ranked the third best-selling EV in 2021 in Australia – is immediately clear, at least to this writer. It is because the Porsche Taycan 4S is a dose of the future blended with old school elegance
And with the better half of a week to drive it on the highways and hilly hinterland of the north coast of NSW, I got a chance to experience this for myself.
First impressions driving out of Porsche’s Brisbane centre were that did the Taycan has (somewhat curiously) all the driving feels of an old Jaguar. It’s a bit bouncy and has much more ample proportions than your standard Porsche.
Those bouncy driving feels can be adjusted though as I quickly set about finding out, switching from normal driving mode to sports mode, upon which the suspension and handling are immediately tighter and more responsive.
This was also the point I first heard the Taycan’s ultra-cool “electric sports car sound” kicked in. As we quickly found out, this is best enjoyed with the windows all the way down, or sadly by not actually being in the car itself.
Sports mode, and its more powerful Sports Plus mode, both turn the electric sports car sound on by default but I can share our favourite Taycan hack with you – if you’re not willing to sacrifice range and want to stay in normal mode, just navigate on the centre touchscreen to “Drive” and turn the sound back on again. Problem solved.
There are numerous other settings included in the Porsche, and you can customise them if you want something different to the defaults that come with the driving mode settings.
Both the chassis (suspension) setting, as well as chassis height, can be set to your preferred settings. Oddly, the Taycan kept switching off the recuperation. Apparently, its default mode is “coasting”, although you can adjust this via a button on the steering wheel.
So what is it like to drive?
This car is definitely a head-turner. Driving and charging around town it caught the attention of many, from the young to the young-at-heart and even well-known blues musician Ash Grunwald.
Out of the four drive settings I opted for normal mode the majority of the time. This delivers more than enough torque to impress revheads at Gold Coast traffic lights, without eating up range.
Range mode, as it suggests, dials down the power demands as well as limiting the speed to 100km/hr to get the most driving range.
With Sports mode you’ve got a bit more access to power, but why stay in sports mode when you’ve got sports plus?
Sports Plus opens up the throttle, so to speak, and quite simply is the best way to guarantee a smile on the face of unsuspecting passengers when you put the foot down.
It’s a great feeling of exhilaration experience as you glide effortlessly from 0 to 60km/hr or up to 110km/hr on the highway but be warned: this is definitely a car in which you have to be careful not to get yourself a speeding ticket.
Driver-assist features include lane-keeping assist, active lane-keeping, lane change assist, and intersection assist.
Lane-keeping is a lot like what Tesla calls Autopilot, but without the reams of negative press. However, I did find that the car’s sensors at times did not pick up lane markings as well as what I’ve experienced in the Tesla.
On a few occasions driving from my town to nearby Byron Bay, I found that the lane-keeping on one occasion mistook a patch of asphalt ends as a lane marking and swerved across the lane, and on another patch where one lane marking was a lot fainter than the other it didn’t see the middle of the road and drifted over. Other than that the lane keeping really makes the driving experience more relaxed and adds to that sense of luxury.
Power and range
When I picked this vehicle up off Porsche it was fully charged, with the dash showing it had 443 km on the clock.
Being a 4S with the Performance Plus option (which means it has 83.7kWh usable battery capacity instead of the standard 71kWh), this is about what you get if you’re driving on an average 25-degree day with 15% city driving, 15% highway driving and 70% country driving on 20-inch wheels according to the range estimator Porsche provides on its website.
I had expected that with the amount of highway driving I’d done, plus some testing of the acceleration of this vehicle that it would be substantially less range than what the vehicle’s “guess-o-meter” said.
After highway driving plus a lot of heavy traffic including stop-starts through the Gold Coast, and a weekend cruising around the hinterland hills that after 380 km of driving I still had 33 km left, mainly because the average speed was around 60km/hr.
Power usage averaged at about 21kWh per 100 kilometres, less than the 27kWh listed in the Taycan 4S specs, although quite a bit more than your average Tesla Model 3’s 16kWh or so (but then, that wasn’t unexpected).
I’m fortunate to have a 350 kW fast charger not too far from my home, however, I have been told that until certain changes are made at the local transformer, it is capped at 80 kW.
This was disappointing (but out of the hands of charging network provider Chargefox) because the Porsche Taycan is supposed to be able to charge at 270 kW which means that its 83.7kWh hour battery can recharge from 0 to 80% in as little as under 20 minutes.
Still, the charging experience is as you would expect, and even though the local charging limitations meant I was sitting at the charger a bit longer it simply meant more time to chat with people about it or catch up on a bit of work.
Interestingly, the car has two charging points; one which has a CCS2 port that can be used for both AC and SC charging, while the other is an AC-only Type 2 – perfect if you already have a wall charger accessible more easily from one side.
Inside the car
Moving away from technicals and back to style: this vehicle is a sports car first and foremost, so it’s got sport seating and sport styling inside. Then there is the almost superfluous analog clock sitting on the centre of the dash which reminds you of this brand’s histories past and gives you a little bit of that James Bond experience
The dash itself is adorned with two wide touchscreens, one in the centre and another in front of the passenger.
These give access to driver controls and another centre console touchscreen gives access to driver comfort and music and other infotainment settings.
The landscape touchscreen on the dash has a fantastic 3-D navigation interface. You can enter the address that you need to go to I did find however that the navigation was at times inconsistent.
Driving down the Gold Coast highway in full traffic navigation twice took me off the highway up to around about only to redirect me back onto the highway. I think I’ll leave it to Google Maps next time.
The great thing of course about this being an electric vehicle is that unlike your combustion engine Porsche it doesn’t have an engine in the back so not only do you get the “front trunk” but you also get enough space in the back. Yes, I did fit a week’s worth of groceries in the back, although I did have to make sure it was right in so that the boot would close.
Parking was made all the easier thanks to front and rear cameras as well as a camera at the bottom of each rearview mirror. I did find however that the wide-angle lenses made everything seem a lot closer than it was, not a bad thing when you’re parking a $200,00 vehicle but disconcerting nonetheless.
Would I buy one?
Given unlimited funds and a you-only-live-once attitude, perhaps. This is a car that is at the peak of the current market, the intuitive controls make it easy to get in and learn to navigate, and it’s just got that wow factor that makes it hard to hand back.
For the price though, I’d like to see more sophistication in the driver-assist features, and cameras in more sensible places. If you’re parking in a tight spot and have to close the rearview mirrors, the view is contorted into two butterfly wings.
That said, it is simply a beautiful vehicle that leaves you wanting another taste of futuristic elegance.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles since 2018. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability. She has participated in podcasts such as Download This Show with Marc Fennell and Shirtloads of Science with Karl Kruszelnicki and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.