2021 Porsche Taycan First Drive | Mmm, electric snow donuts

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ANN ARBOR, me. - For Porsche, the fully electric Taycan is a fantastic first step towards an electric future. Now in its second model year, it has seen both recognition and sales success, and for good reason. The Taycan 4S to the hottest Turbo S can clearly feel like Porsche. So far, however, two things were missing from the formula: rear-wheel drive and some semblance of affordability. The 4S, Turbo, and Turbo S all have all-wheel drive and price tags starting at $ 100,000. The new model year changes that with the base 2021 Porsche Taycan, period, no alphanumeric or "turbo" appendix. The name is simple. Purely.
The Taycan base could itch purists. For someone who prefers the traditional feel of a rear-wheel drive sports car - as one might avoid any 911 labeled 4 - there is now a Taycan for you. Even better, it starts at $ 81,250 (after target fees but before a $ 7,500 tax credit or local incentives). This basic Taycan lowers the entry barrier by 23,900 US dollars compared to the Taycan 4S.
Without a motor to drive the front wheels, the performance is lower compared to the AWD stable mates. Equipped with the standard 79.2 kilowatt-hour power battery, the output reaches 321 rated power, 402 peak power with take-off control, and 254 pound-feet of torque. It can also be charged with up to 225 kW using a powerful DC fast charger that can only be beaten by Tesla at the moment. The range has not yet been announced at this point, but whatever it is is likely to be underestimated.
With the Performance Battery Plus you get 93.4 kWh, 270 kW (according to Porsche, 5-80% charged in 22.5 minutes), up to 469 PS with start control (402 without) and 263 lb-ft of torque. It also gains 170 pounds so the 0 to 60 mph time stays the same for any RWD Taycan. At 5.1 seconds in a RWD Taycan, it basically takes twice as long to reach 60 miles per hour from a stop with start control as with the Taycan Turbo S, which does this at 2.6 seconds. But look at these numbers again: 5.1 is fast enough; 2.6 seconds is just ridiculous.
Sure, this basic Taycan has run out of electricity, but it's still strong and powerful. In fact, Porsche states that the Taycan is the most powerful base version of a car ever sold. It's quiet, but it jumps with the swiftness of a jungle cat when prompted. With plenty of torque available from a low rev range, the Taycan kicks you in the back if you press your foot down from a stop - or from 20 mph or from a cruise at 25 mph. Even at freeway speeds, hurling you past traffic comes to life, although the top end flare effects wear off.
The different modes include (from mild to hot) Range, Normal, Sport and Sport Plus. There is also a custom mode where you can choose your own settings. Normal and exercise are pretty easy. The range noticeably dampens the responsiveness of the gas pedal, prioritizes the efficiency of the climate control and brings the suspension to the lowest setting. However, Sport Plus is the one that takes into account both your ears and your sense of movement. Its "sport sound" adds a bass line to the high-pitched whine of the electric motors and makes you feel like they're driving the muscle car version of a UFO.
It's easy to forget that unlike most electric vehicles, the Taycan has a two-speed gearbox on the rear axle. For most drivers, it is imperceptible to both sound and feel. At least until you put it in Sport Plus mode. A few times during our ride, when we slowed over 60 mph or so, we could hear the sound of a crisp downshift. It's easy to believe that this is just a completely made-up simulation, but then remember that the Taycan actually downshifts, and when it does, it's an audible treat.
We were a little concerned that all of the power just getting transferred to the rear wheels could result in a suboptimal first ride considering we got a few inches of fresh snow overnight to add to the few inches that we had had already accumulated. That, and the freezing temperatures, could have meant it would go sideways at the very thought of stepping on the right pedal. Luckily, our tester came with wheels wrapped in Pirelli P Zero winter rubber, and Porsche's stability control management was up to the task too.
With all the nannies, the rear-wheel drive Taycan makes a decent impression of a four-wheel drive car. In normal driving and with some explosions in some of our favorite turns, the difference is imperceptible. In tight, fast corners you still get a little dizzy without the front wheels pulling your nose around the corner, but the electronics don't keep the car too smart even in the snow. Stability on snow depends of course on the speed you can get with the traction of an AWD vehicle, but getting the Taycan to misbehave is just difficult. Usually.
That doesn't mean there isn't an option to hoe. Towards the end of our time with the Taycan, we found an empty, unploughed parking lot and pulled up. We thought it was a good sign if we didn't get stuck and staked traction control with a long press of the Taycan button on the dashboard. Then we enjoyed the thrill of a baker's dozen of all-electric powdered donuts.
Now there are obviously a few situations in which the Taycan's drive train makes a practical difference. Tell me, if you absolutely have to drift, this basic Taycan is the right one. Or if you live in the snow belt, AWD will give you that extra confidence when it really comes down. Otherwise, what's really different here isn't a big issue of handling. It boils down to performance and price. If you can do without blazing speed and get by with exhilarating acceleration, you have just saved yourself tens of thousands of dollars.
That doesn't mean that you can't spend more on your basic Taycan. There are still plenty of options - it's still a Porsche. Our tester had the larger battery, 21-inch wheels, the Sport Chrono Package, improved suspension, brakes, torque vectoring and air conditioning, a Bose sound system, an infotainment display for passengers and much more. In the configurator you can choose from countless visual options, from the color of the model name to upholstery material and ambient lighting. Even any color other than black or white will cost you extra. The attempt to recreate our Euro tester in the Porsche configurator brought the price well above that of the US $ 104,825 Taycan 4S before we gave up the seemingly endless box checking.
What is important, however, is that you can and should get in well below $ 100,000. If you opt for the basic Taycan for the sake of purity, are you really opting for the ionizer ($ 350) or high-pile floor mats with Race-Tex edging ($ 1,070)? No. You'll get into your clean, poorly-equipped Taycan and, if you're lucky, find an empty parking lot for some rear-wheel-drive electric snow donuts.
Similar video:
Porsche Taycan Walkaround
A tour of the Porsche Taycan during its official unveiling in Niagara Falls.
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