First Drive: 2021 Porsche Taycan RWD Review
The invitation to drive the new rear-wheel-drive Taycan includes a boast of how it’s just set a record for the longest continuous drift in an EV which, given we’re driving it on slippery winter roads and there’s a big roundabout right outside Porsche GB’s Reading headquarters, sounds like a tempting target to beat. Sensible heads on for a moment, this new model is a significant expansion for the Taycan range, given most people wouldn’t tell it apart from a Turbo S costing twice as much and, realistically, 476PS (350kW) is more than enough for most driving situations. If that wasn’t enough it’s also got the greatest range of any Taycan when optioned with the more powerful Performance Battery Plus.
In so many ways the Taycan is completely unlike a 911, and yet also so alike. Putting a ‘Turbo’ badge on a Porsche with no internal combustion engine might have seemed daft but the range hierarchy makes sense, or at least it would have done if they’d just gone the whole hog and called this one the Carrera. Because that’s basically what the entry-level Taycan is to the rest of the range, given it’s rear-engined, rear-wheel-drive and, relatively, stripped back to reveal the true essence of what the car is about. Just like the 911, for those not fixated on horsepower and tech the ‘plain vanilla’ version is often the nicest from a driving perspective, too. Does the same apply to the Taycan?
- All the appeal of the Turbo S for half the money
- Arguably nicer to drive
- More than fast enough
We don't like
- You’ll spend the saving in options
- Still very heavy
- Range can’t match Tesla
If you’re already read our review of the Taycan Turbo S you’ll know we’re fans of the Taycan’s design inside and out. Nothing changes here, the fact you get a car that, to 99 per cent of people, looks identical to the model costing twice as much meaning a significant return on your posing investment. Sure, you might have to chuck a few quid at some bigger wheels so as not to look like too much of a cheapskate but the Taycan is such a fresh and dramatic take on familiar Porsche styling that you’ll easily ride the wave of appreciation for the brand’s move into the electrified era.
Performance and Handling
Remember the good old days when comparing power stats meant picking out a single figure on a spec sheet? That’s rather more complicated in the electric age, the Taycan’s technical data containing no fewer than four power outputs depending on whether you’re in standard or ‘overboost’ mode and which of the two battery options you’ve chosen. The baseline of 326PS (240kW) compares with the 330PS (243kW) of an equivalently priced Panamera, though if you fork out another £4,049 you upgrade your battery from 71kWh to 83.7kWh (both ‘net’ figures) and get 380PS (280kW). Decent but nothing to shout about in EV circles until you factor in the 476PS you get on ‘overboost’ with the bigger battery. That all goes to the rear wheels, saving 90kg compared with the all-wheel-drive 4S and contributing to the best range of all Taycan models, the bigger battery offering 301 miles by official figures. We were on for a solid 240 miles on a cold February day until we started enjoying ourselves, eventually returning to Porsche on ‘reserve’ with 24 miles showing and 179 miles covered.
Back to the fun stuff, and 0-100mph times are more informative than 0-62 at this level, the Taycan doing it in 11 seconds dead compared with the 8.5 of the 4S. The Turbo S does the same in an astonishing 6.1, for context. Of more interest on a wet road on a winter’s day is whether a two-wheel-drive Taycan has any hope of getting that power down. It’s worth caveating impressions with the fact our test car’s build included optional torque vectoring, air suspension, Sport Chrono Sport Plus mode and more but, even so, the rear-driven Taycan does an incredibly impressive job. Just like a 911 it uses weight over the rear axle to its benefit in traction terms, the lighter nose making it feel more alert and agile than a 2.2 tonne car has any right to. Yes, it’s genuinely playful, and if the Turbo S is impressive the Taycan is fun. Nor did we miss the PDCC active anti-roll or rear-axle steering of the last Taycan we drove, proof that the fundamentals of the car are as thoroughly sorted as you’d hope.
On the inside it’s all very new tech with surfaces stripped of buttons and a clean, modernist look. But the way classic Porsche design cues like the sweep of dials behind the wheel have been reinvented for the digital age with a blade-like screen is nicely done, to the extent they’ve even maintained the tradition of the outermost dials being obscured by the rim of the steering wheel.
While Tesla shows off yoke-style steering wheels, wireless widescreen gaming and a promise the car can ‘guess’ which way you’re going so you don’t need indicator stalks, Porsche sticks to quaint traditions of building cars for people who actually like driving. This and a sense of quality Tesla has yet to match are the two key differentiators for the Taycan over the Model S, and proof Porsche doesn’t need gimmickry. From a seating position that feels straight out of a 911 to the precision of the assembly, there’s a reassuring sense of quality in the Taycan that will ease the transition for long-standing customers coming from internal combustion powered products. The idea of an electric Porsche may seem like a big leap. But once you’re in it you feel very much in the comfort zone, with just enough futurism to validate the Taycan’s trailblazing role but not so much it’ll scare off EV rookies. More generally the industry-wide switch to touch-sensitive surfaces has been enthusiastically embraced by Porsche and won’t be to all tastes. But it feels good in here.
Technology and Features
As a reviewer it’s very easy to get swept away by the experience of driving a Porsche but it pays to scrutinise the spec sheet to compare the press car dream with the reality of what customers will actually get for their money. And in the case of the car you see here it’s worth bearing in mind you’re not looking at a £70,000 Taycan as you might think but, rather, a £100,000 one. T’was ever thus with Porsche but the few hundred quid here and there you pay for things like power folding mirrors, rear side airbags and the rest quickly add up. There’s plenty of standard kit but you need to fire up the configurator with your eyes – and your wallet – open.
A true verdict on the ‘base’ Taycan will have to come when we’ve driven one with steel suspension and the bare minimum of torque-vectoring fluffery. But the fundamental questions of whether a 476PS Taycan is fast enough, or capable of deploying its instant electrified torque through just two driven wheels, can be answered with enthusiastic affirmatives on both counts. That you can use all that power in complete confidence even when the roads are at their greasiest is tribute to how cleverly Porsche has calibrated its delivery. That there is genuine feedback through the steering wheel and seat of the pants in a car this big, this complex and this heavy is extraordinary. In the silence of electric propulsion you can sense grip levels through the sound the tyres make on different surfaces, the utter faith you get from the control responses meaning you can confidently play with the rear-driven Taycan on the throttle with such subtlety your passengers won’t even notice. That drift record is there for the taking. But you don’t need to be on the lock stops to appreciate the fact this might be the most rewarding Taycan to drive at vaguely realistic speeds, as well as the cheapest to buy and the one that’ll go furthest on a charge.
Single electric motor, 83.7kWh Lithium-ion battery
357Nm (264lb ft)
Two-speed automatic, rear-wheel-drive
301 miles, 3.05 miles/kWh
10 hours and 30 minutes to 100 per cent with a 9.6kW charger, 1 hour and 33 minutes to 80 per cent with a 50kW rapid charger
Reviewed by Dan Trent