LEVI, Finland – In test driving the all-new Porsche Taycan 4S north of the Arctic Circle, in the land of Santa Claus and reindeer traffic jams, company officials had warned us to pack for –30°C temperatures typical of the area in mid-December. Instead, the snowbound wonderland happened to enjoy a relative heat wave in our 24 hours there, varying between –8°C at night and 3°C in the daytime – all three hours or so of it. Those “balmy” temperatures there just happen to be common winter temperatures in various major Canadian cities, where the majority of the Taycan’s sales are expected.
Our previous test of the topline Taycan Turbo and Turbo S models at top speed in Germany proved eye-opening for overall whiplash-inducing performance. Sampling this new, less-powerful version in icy, mostly sub-zero conditions on snow-covered roads and at Porsche’s Ice Experience winter driving school in Finland highlighted the Taycan’s real-world winter performance, and how it addressed some common EV winter drawbacks as well.
The first of these common winter issues is cold-weather driving range, and it’s the first thing we looked at when we stepped into the Taycan in the frigid early morning darkness: how much range it displayed on a full charge at sub-zero temperatures. All the Taycan 4S models here were equipped with the larger 93.4 kWh battery option, the same size battery that come on topline Taycan Turbo models. At –7°C, we knew it would be far from its WLTP rating of 463 km – and shorter than its separate WLTP “long-distance range” estimate of 365 km, which takes higher highway speeds, climate control use, and minimal brake regeneration into account.
At a near-full 99 percent charge, with the heat on, the range estimate on our Taycan 4S showed 261 km. Turning off the heat boosted it to 293 km, and for every kilometre that ticked off on our odometer, the range shortened in a fairly accurate and linear manner as well, though we didn’t do much highway driving.
Overall, we’re fairly confident in saying a fully charged Taycan in a typical urban Canadian winter setting should provide roughly 300 km of range for most drivers, barring any dramatic cold spells; it will be worthwhile to do a longer test in Canada to actually confirm this. With the standard 79.2 kWh battery, WLTP range for the 4S is listed at 407 km.
Many early owners of the Taycan 4S may be curious about how its electric thrust lines up to rival electric four-door sport sedan Tesla Model S. Or to the pricier Taycan Turbo and Turbo S models, which start at $173,900 and $213,900, respectively. The latter is roughly $95,000 (!) more than a base Taycan 4S, which offers a 4.0 second 0–100 km/h time, compared to the Taycan Turbo S model’s official 2.8 second time.
The Taycan 4S certainly doesn’t seem like it falls $100K short of the Turbo’s performance. And it shouldn’t – our heavily optioned tester landed just over $175,000.
With 482 hp available at all times, and 479 lb-ft of torque, mashing the go pedal in the 4S at almost any legal speed was enough to pin back your shoulders into warp mode, though on these snow-covered roads, its standard all-wheel-drive system went into its favourite dance often, each corner alternately grabbing for traction onto the slippery streets, its stability control flashing its warning light to us.
Engage the optional Launch Control – thereby disabling the stability control – and the overboost function offers up its full 562 hp, with a zoomy Star Wars-like soundtrack that’s just like the one in the Taycan Turbo. With no shift paddles to increase driver involvement, and relatively quiet harmonics coming from the smaller-diameter electric motor at the rear, the optional “Electric Sport Sound” helps to create the impression of being at the helm of a futuristic car chase sequence.
Unfortunately, that launch control function and overboost power can be affected by the cold. We ran into a couple of instances where the car had been parked for the night without plugging in, and found the Launch Control to be unavailable until the battery warmed up with a bit of driving. So remember to keep the car plugged in if you’d like to take a friend or colleague for a quick LC rip in the wintertime.
In short: the 4S sounds just as good as Taycan Turbo models, but doesn’t rocket quite as explosively forward.
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Driving Feel: 9/10
Handling, on the other hand, is a whole different matter with the 4S. The low and lithe feel of the Taycan behind the wheel remains fully intact, with quick yet not overly digital steering response that makes it easy to decipher what both sets of wheels are doing.
This became especially evident on Porsche’s Ice Experience driving loops, which consisted of a series of tail-out exercises, where all manner of stability and traction controls were banished at the push and hold of a button, but turned back on while shuttling around the course, which helped highlight how easily the system restricts any tail-wagging when called upon.
Through icy slaloms and both tight and large circular skidpads, the Taycan showed how its dual-motor AWD, dynamic torque-vectoring, and Porsche Traction Management system all worked together seamlessly. Our studless winter tires helped us keep control at serious slip angles so often that side windows became the windshield, and you almost wished for headlights on the doors.
Clearly we were pushing these slides harder than any sane person would on the street, but it did provide two clear messages for street driving: one, there is lots of ability to steer around trouble in this car, even in deep winter; and two, there’s terrific fun to be had in empty parking lots or large driveways, if you’re so inclined.
As the entry-level Taycan, at least for 2020, the $119,400 4S is clearly priced to entice would-be Tesla Model S buyers, as these are two of the only luxury electric sport sedans on the market – or will be, once the 4S arrives in summer 2020.
Porsche leaves a lot of room on the options list for owners to personalize their rides as they wish; the flip side being that there are a handful of features that shoppers are expecting to be included in those already considerable starting prices. In the Taycan’s case, this includes such items as electric folding mirrors ($750), tire-sealing compound and air compressor ($80), and a surround view camera ($1,360).
But there are also impressive features that help make up the magic of this car, and its hefty options tab of over $54,000. The Performance package seems like a must for enthusiasts ($7,670) with that electric sport sound and Sport Chrono package with Launch Control, while the larger 93.4 kWh battery costs $7,500.
The $10,350 ceramic brakes came in very handy when we turned a corner to discover four reindeer loitering in the middle of the road, though we would have likely fared just as well with the standard brakes.
User Friendliness: 8.5/10
The front passenger especially will appreciate unique features such as the passenger screen, which allows for a choice of music and infotainment options. Some drivers may not appreciate giving up so much control of the stereo to ride-along passengers, perhaps of the teenage variety, so there is a way to turn off the screen or disable some of its functions.
The front 81-litre trunk also offers up a useful bit of extra cargo capacity, though in truth, this car is a little small to be a true family long-distance machine. The absence of a bulky transmission (there is a two-speed transmission on the rear axle), gas tank, and exhaust system means there’s a surprising amount of room inside the wide but relatively low-roofed Taycan.
The fixed panoramic sunroof helps add to this feeling of spaciousness inside, as do the rear seats that have a lower floor than the front.
Design-wise, there’s little if any reason to choose a Taycan Turbo over a 4S. Perhaps the wheel designs are slightly less aero-enthusiastic on the Turbos and somewhat better looking than the ones here, which had large discs in their centre that likely smooths airflow but covered most of the brake components.
But this car looks (and feels) much closer to a four-door 911 than anything else in Porsche’s lineup, and certainly more so than Porsche’s larger Panamera.
European safety ratings have just landed that gave the Taycan high marks all around, with the 4S achieving a five-star Euro NCAP score that put it second in its high luxury class, behind only the larger Tesla Model X in that (wide-ranging) category.
Part of these high scores were derived in part by the high number of advanced safety systems on the Taycan, including automatic emergency braking for pedestrians, cyclists, and overall urban systems, as well as the more usual active cruise control that can bring you to a stop if it senses slowing or stopped traffic ahead.
In the context of $150,000 German luxury four-door sedans, the Taycan 4S is not nearly the most comfortable choice out there. Its chassis is clearly geared to carving corners rather than soothing stressed-out sciatic nerves, which goes along with the relatively younger and more tech-oriented customers Porsche expects the Taycan to attract, compared to the similarly priced but larger Panamera.
But its unique mix of relatively silent drivetrain – especially if you turn off the Electric Sport Sound button – along with plentiful heat (an issue with earlier EVs), rear seat and climate controls, plus adaptive air suspension means that there’s a broad spectrum of comfort and performance on offer here.
And being comfortable in all ways with the new electric technology was one of the reasons Porsche decided to highlight the 4S way up north in Lapland, said Taycan director of sales and marketing Matthias Kirchgässner.
“It was important because people likely have a fear of batteries and extreme conditions,” he acknowledged after the drive. “We do not want them to have range anxiety, even in cold conditions.”
Fuel Economy: 9/10
Part of dealing well with such cold conditions is the fact that the Taycan 4S is amongst the fastest quick-charging EVs on the market – and the fastest along with the Taycan Turbos, if equipped with the larger battery that can ram in electrons at a speed of up to 270 kW, with special 800-volt chargers being installed across the country now by organizations such as Electrify Canada and Petro Canada.
The base battery can quick-charge at a slower but still impressive 225 kW speed, again obviously in ideal conditions. You likely won’t hit the boasted 100 km of juice in five minutes in sub-zero temperatures, or go from five percent charge to 80 percent in 22 minutes; but both are faster rates than the Model S can charge at right now.
At this point, however, as Tesla fans and owners will validly point out, the Model S offers a much more robust and plentiful Supercharger network than the ones mentioned above, in Canada and across North America.
It’s difficult to give a $175,000 vehicle top marks in value, because there are so many quality vehicles that can do so much for so much less. But the with world of high-performance all-electric sedans limited to the Model S and the Taycan, it seems crystal clear that no other German or sporting luxury four-door can offer the combination of smooth yet supercar-like performance combined with enviro street cred, which is a thing, and getting more and more valuable with each introduction of new electric vehicles to market.
But for the loss of some (but not much) warp-mode acceleration, the 4S offers lots of thrills per dollar and modern style in this rarified group of exotic super sedans.
There’s no getting around the fact that current electric vehicles suffer some in cold winter climates, even the most advanced ones like the Porsche Taycan 4S – just like people, vehicles are happiest at room temperature. So yes, there’s less range and slower charging in sub-zero temperatures with EVs in general. But the Taycan 4S, with its addition of larger batteries, faster onboard and external chargers, the ability to pre-condition the battery on the road to accept faster quick-charging, and even the available heat pump, all help to mitigate the range and charging inconveniences that early EVs suffered from.
It’s incredible to see how far the Taycan 4S has come, as well as how its price has come down. Now the major question is how low and how fast will some of this market-shifting tech take to spread – and take on Tesla in more affordable and more mainstream vehicles.
|Engine Displacement||390 kW||Model Tested||2020 Porsche Taycan 4S|
|Engine Cylinders||n/a||Base Price||$119,400|
|Peak Horsepower||482 hp (562 hp w/ Launch Control Overboost)||A/C Tax||$100|
|Peak Torque||479 lb-ft||Destination Fee||$1,500|
|Fuel Economy||n/a||Price as Tested||$175,060|
|Cargo Space||407 L rear, 81 L front|