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2021 Porsche Taycan first drive review: The cheaper option is just as good

Porsche's Taycan EV is every bit as compelling in its entry-level spec.

2021 Porsche Taycan
You should definitely order your Taycan in pink.
Steven Ewing/Roadshow

There's more to the 2021 Porsche Taycan than its new Frozen Berry Metallic paint option, but sweet cuppin' cakes is that a good place to start. This awesome shade of pink is one of several new colors available for Porsche's EV, but it's really just a small part of a big update for the Taycan's second year in the US.

Frozen Berry also happens to be the star color for the new entry-level Taycan, which, at $81,250 including $1,350 for destination, undercuts the Taycan 4S by more than $20,000. That makes this EV more accessible to a larger swath of buyers, and with hardly any compromises in performance, luxury and tech, the base Taycan is as compelling as any other.

The main difference between this Taycan and all the others is that it uses rear-wheel drive instead of all-wheel drive; the base model has one electric motor mounted at the rear axle while the more expensive versions have a dual-motor setup. Yes, this means the entry-level Taycan is less powerful and not as quick as its costlier siblings, but it doesn't make this EV any less good to drive.

The standard 79.2-kilowatt-hour battery is the same one used in the Taycan 4S. So equipped, the single-motor Taycan produces 321 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque, or 402 hp and 254 lb-ft on overboost during launch control on cars fitted with the optional Sport Chrono pack. The base Taycan will launch to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds, which sounds slow in a world where a Tesla Model S can give you whiplash in less than half that time, but any level of acceleration feels like a thrill when it comes from instant electric torque.

For an additional $5,780 you can spec the Taycan with Porsche's upgraded 93.4-kWh battery -- the same Performance Battery Plus that's optional on the 4S and standard on the Turbo and Turbo S. This ups power output to 375 hp but keeps torque the same at 250 lb-ft, and with launch control, you get 469 hp and 263 lb-ft. But because we're really just talking about torque thrust through a single motor, Porsche says that even with the bigger battery pack it'll still take the rear-drive Taycan 5.1 seconds to hit 60 mph. Oh, well.

Porsche Taycan, that's my name. That name again is Porsche Taycan.

Steven Ewing/Roadshow

The base car with the larger battery pack should be the range queen of the Taycan lineup -- in theory, anyway; final EPA estimates are still TBD. When equipped with the same 93.4-kWh battery, the 2021 Taycan 4S is rated at 227 miles, which is a nice improvement over the 2020 model. Yeah, Tesla still takes the cake as far as driving range is concerned, but I'll be curious to see what the Taycan's real-world number ends up being. After a day of driving the Taycan through the greater Los Angeles area, including a quick run up a canyon, I found the trip computer showed an indicated 149 miles and 60% level of charge remaining. Some quick math equates that to a 248-mile overall range, but again, that's just a scribbled-on-a-napkin guesstimate. The base car's charging times are consistent with the other Taycan variants, at least; on a DC fast-charger, Porsche says you can go from a 5% to 80% state of charge in 22.5 minutes.

You'd think the rear-drive setup might noticeably change the Taycan's on-road behavior, but it really doesn't feel all that different. Sure, the base car lacks the outright shoot-you-out-of-a-corner torque of the Turbo or Turbo S, but even compared with a 4S, the handling differences are negligible. 

This purple/gray interior scheme is so cool, and the base car's cabin is just as comfortable and techy as the more expensive Taycan models.

Steven Ewing/Roadshow

Jettisoning the second drive motor saves 205 pounds of weight, all of which comes off the front axle, but the front end doesn't lose any precision while cornering. The steering tune is unchanged from the other Taycans, so it's quick and direct, with lots of feedback. The batteries are positioned low in the center of the chassis, both of which are boons for handling. This also makes it a lot harder to get the rear end to break loose despite the rear-drive architecture, though make no mistake, the Taycan will definitely drift under the right conditions.

Porsche doesn't restrict what kinds of options you can add to the base Taycan, so even in this least-powerful spec, you can snag all sorts of performance upgrades. This test car has the adaptive air suspension and rear-axle steering, both of which definitely help with that aforementioned agility. You can add Porsche's torque-vectoring tech, too.

Oh, and you aren't stuck with the dumpy 19-inch wheels seen here, thank god. These are the Taycan's standard aero wheels, but larger 20- and 21-inch options are available. Behind those wheels, you can fit Porsche's often finicky Surface Coated brakes, but I have to imagine that if you're buying the base spec, you don't really need that extra stopping power. My one big complaint is that Porsche doesn't offer enough regenerative braking power to allow for true one-pedal driving. I know I'm not alone in saying I love one-pedal EV driving and it's a shame the Taycan doesn't offer this experience, even as a setting you can turn on and off, like in the Ford Mustang Mach-E.

The base 19-inch wheels look so bad. Ugh.

Steven Ewing/Roadshow

All of the Taycan's exterior design, interior furnishing and onboard tech options are offered on the base model, so like, go wild. I already mentioned the Frozen Berry exterior, but also check out the Blackberry (purple!) leather inside this car's cabin. Seriously, this spec is so, so good. 

Every Taycan comes standard with Porsche's latest infotainment tech on a touchscreen in the dash, as well as a digital gauge cluster behind the steering wheel and an additional screen for climate controls on the center console. This car has the optional passenger display, too, bringing the total number of screens up front to four, which sounds like it might be distracting, but is actually totally fine. The Taycan's cabin tech is easy to learn and master.

You can order the base Taycan with Porsche's full suite of driver-assistance niceties, though as usual, all the best stuff costs extra. A surround-view monitor, lane-change assist, head-up display, night vision and adaptive cruise control are all costly add-ons. Porsche's great InnoDrive tech that bundles adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist is available, as well, and it works great.

The base Taycan with the bigger battery option could be the range queen of the lineup.

Steven Ewing/Roadshow

So yeah, the base Taycan might start at $81,250, but no one's driving one of these home without a bunch of stuff added on. Playing around on Porsche's configurator suggests my German-spec pink pal has an as-tested price between $120,000 and $125,000, which is actually more expensive than a Taycan 4S with the Performance Battery.

But does that matter in the grand scheme of things? Not really. In its first year on sale in the US, the Taycan proved to be a total hit for Porsche, outselling the Panamera, 718 Boxster and 718 Cayman -- and keep in mind, that's without being able to get in one for anything less than six figures. The base Taycan is simply the same great EV in a more affordable package.