2021 Porsche Taycan First Drive Review: Two-Wheel Good
There are two approaches in the automotive industry. An automaker will either fill every imaginable niche with a model line (we’re looking at you, BMW and Mercedes) or they’ll sell a dozen different variations of a few vehicles. Porsche follows the latter philosophy. The company only sells six vehicle families (911, 718, Cayenne, Macan, Panamera, and Taycan), but as of this writing there are nearly 70 variants based on those models in the US market.
It was little surprise then when Stuttgart announced a new version of the all-electric Taycan in January. But what we weren’t expecting was the single-motor, rear-drive Taycan Porsche introduced for China in the summer of 2020. This vehicle now enters the US market as the most affordable member of Porsche’s electric lineup, and it represents an intriguing argument for buyers considering their first EV.
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Less Is Basically The Same
The difference between the Taycan and the Taycan 4S is simple – the base model has a single electric motor on the rear axle, while the 4S carries another one up front. Yeah, the options sheet is a bit different too, but functionally, all you’re losing is an electric motor. You’ll find the same 800-volt electrical architecture, the same two-speed automatic transmission, and the same lithium-ion battery pack options: a base 79.2-kilowatt-hour unit or a larger 93.4-kWh pack, with the confusing names of Performance Battery and Performance Battery Plus, respectively.
Unsurprisingly, the rear-mounted electric motor is the same too, even if its output is down a smidge. The permanent magnet synchronous motor is good for 402 horsepower and 254 pound-feet of torque. Like the dual-motor 4S, though, the larger pack increases output to 469 hp and 263 lb-ft.
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Either variant will scoot you to 60 in 5.1 seconds, with the 93.4-kWh Taycan feeling slightly quicker at higher speeds. In the world of EVs, though, the base Porsche is positively leisurely, coming in 1.3 seconds behind the Taycan 4S and full 2.0 seconds behind the Tesla Model S Long Range. There are speedier Taycans, but there’s little arguing that the rear-drive model is slower than the Porsche badge on the nose says it should be.
Now, would you like a rationalization? When you peg the accelerator on this rear-drive Taycan, you still experience the immediacy of an EV. But while it will set you back in your chair, the performance is neither breathtaking nor the sort of thing that can catch someone off guard – 5.1 seconds to 60 is the sort of speed that every driver can process. It won’t invigorate the driver stepping out of a 911 Carrera S or Audi RS7, but for the person fresh off lease from an $80,000 Audi A6 or Macan S and considering their first electric, the Taycan’s performance will be exciting while still being approachable.
And in the real world, the standard Taycan can still dispatch most other vehicles on the road. Driving around metro Detroit, our German-spec test car was all too happy to deliver confident blasts of acceleration when passing slower traffic. Even at highway speeds, losing a motor has little effect on the immediacy of the Taycan’s power delivery.
At the same time, we noticed a peculiarity. Where other Taycan variants exhibit hard shifts as the two-speed gearbox changes from its everyday first gear to its high-performance second gear, we struggled to feel the upshift in the base car. Even when trying to provoke some bad behavior, the two-speed came across as more refined.
Opting for the rear-drive Porsche sacrifices some performance, but the tradeoff should be slightly more exciting handling. There’s 200 pounds missing from the front axle and the base Taycan feels more eager to change directions because of it. Porsche Active Suspension Management for the air suspension and Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus made for tight body motions on the turns we encountered, but in terms of ultimate agility, it was hard to spot huge improvements over the Taycan 4S we’d driven weeks prior.
As for what effect dropping a motor will have on range, it’s hard to say. EVs aren’t like internal-combustion cars – less power doesn’t automatically translate to improved fuel economy. As we predicted in our coverage of the Taycan’s debut, the rear-drive model should broadly match the 4S, with the base battery covering about 200 miles to a charge and the Performance Battery Plus returning about 230 miles. That said, EPA range estimates aren’t available and aren’t necessarily reliable, as real-world tests of other Taycan variants have proven.
The Taycan has a strong track record of beating its estimated fuel economy figures in real-world driving, and our day with the rear-driver shows that trend is likely to continue. Despite temperatures well below freezing and driving that leaned toward the enthusiastic end of the spectrum, we covered about 90 miles while sucking down 40 percent of the Taycan’s charge. We’ll wait for our electron-sipping colleagues at InsideEVs to do a proper range test (they already did a frosty drive in the 4S), but there’s reason to be optimistic about the rear-drive Taycan.
Even if it fails to perform, though, the single-motor model can still recharge at a rate of 270 kilowatts via a DC fast charger (if conditions are right), with a promised filling time of five to 80 percent in 22.5 minutes. Unfortunately, our German-spec tester’s software prevented us from trying out this level of charging and we had to settle for a splash-and-dash at 50 kilowatts.
Since the car was built for European cellular networks, we were also unable to test the EV-specific Porsche Connect features. Porsche’s US outfit has promised that these items, already found on the Taycan’s other US-market variants, will be ready for rear-drive models when sales begin in the spring.
Dip A Toe In The EV Pool
The most interesting thing about the rear-drive Taycan, of course, isn’t the single motor, but the price. Compared to a Taycan 4S, this $79,900 EV costs $24,000 less. But more intriguing is the $7,300 in savings (before incentives) relative to a base Panamera, a car that’s two-tenths of a second slower to 60. Porsche’s options catalog is extensive, but there’s a lot of flexibility on equipment when you’re saving anywhere from $7,300 to $24,000.
We doubt most Model S shoppers or experienced EV owners will consider buying this version of Porsche’s first EV. But as a gateway vehicle for people buying an EV for the first time, the Taycan’s performance is ample without being alarming, the real-world range is adequate (and for the rest, the charge speed is exemplary), and the price tag is nearly approachable for the upper-middle class. Pair those facts with the same style, comfort, quality, and technology as its more powerful siblings and you’ll start to understand why Porsche brought over this less powerful, more affordable EV.