The Porsche Taycan drew more than a few gasps when it debuted. Not only did it take people's breath away with its aesthetics, which looked largely unchanged from the curvaceous Mission E concept, Porsche's first electric car also hit people with a hard dose of reality by way of the window sticker, which at the time started with the $150,900 Taycan Turbo.
Whether or not you're comparing it to other well-equipped EVs like the Tesla Model S, the Taycan's price was certainly an eye-opener. But thankfully, the Turbo isn't the only trim in town. Following its initial debut, Porsche unveiled a much more affordable Taycan 4S, and after spending a day with this variant in the mountains north of Los Angeles, I'm of the belief that the $103,800 Taycan 4S is the one to get.
Lookin' like the damn future
I'm no stranger to seeing phones and thumbs-ups from passersby when behind the wheel of something new and flashy, but the attention directed at the Taycan 4S is on a whole 'nother level. Whether it's the dude in the Saab convertible who had about 100 questions in rush-hour traffic or the Audi Q3 driver behind me who kept subtly whipping out their phone, the Taycan breaks necks on the road. As it should -- the darn thing looks like a UFO, especially from the back, where a single unbroken taillight cuts across an otherwise featureless rear fascia.
The Taycan 4S' silky good looks confer both benefits and drawbacks. As the shape may lead you to believe, rearward visibility is not great, the rear glass offering but a sliver's worth of a view aft. It's also not the kindest in rear-seat space -- while the "foot garage" carve-outs in the battery do add some comfort to the car's low seating position, the roof can get a little tight for taller passengers.
That said, despite the car's roof-based limitations, overall visibility is exceptional, especially to the sides. Looking forward from the low-slung driving position, all I see is the road ahead -- and the trademark raised fenders on either side of the hood, something 911 and Panamera drivers will immediately recognize as a Porsche staple. My only other gripe comes from the center console, which has an opening on its underside large enough to store phones or a purse; however, the flat surface lacks any sort of lip on either side, so everything tucked away down there will spill onto the floor at the first turn.
Inside, the Taycan 4S is still very much a Porsche, albeit a forward-looking one. The general layout is the same -- a low, wide dashboard with screens, meeting a cascading center console -- but everything looks just a little more advanced. Nearly every button is gone, save for the physical hazard switch, a mandatory addition thanks to Europe's vehicle regulations. The 16.8-inch gauge cluster is one big screen, offering a traditional three-gauge layout with the option to switch to map-heavy displays when navigation is required, and it's pretty easy to swap around using the thumb control on the right side of the steering wheel.
The real meat and potatoes of the in-car tech is in the middle of the dashboard. The latest iteration of Porsche's PCM infotainment system, living on a 10.9-inch touchscreen. Everything is laid out simply, requiring just a couple taps to swap media inputs, engage Apple CarPlay or fiddle with vehicle modes. Right below that is another screen, which measures 8.4 inches and handles climate-control duties. It's a little tough to use at any speed other than zero, but the haptic feedback offers a nice little confirmation that my finger landed in the right spot.
In the middle of my Taycan 4S drive, I want to change the position of the climate-control vents, which brings me to my one major gripe about the Taycan's tech. The vents are entirely electronically controlled, which means diving into a menu to adjust how the air blows in the cabin. This is, again, quite tricky to do above a standstill, so I recommend fiddling with this stuff before setting off on a journey.
Drivin' like the damn future
Porsche will offer the Taycan 4S in two different flavors when it launches next year. The base 4S will use a single-layer, 79.2-kilowatt-hour battery mated to a pair of electric motors that produce 429 horsepower and 472 pound-feet of torque. Drop another $10,000 or so, and you'll be upgraded to a two-layer, 93.4-kWh battery and an output of 482 hp and 479 lb-ft. My tester for the day packs the larger battery, bringing its pre-destination price up to $110,380.
While many people might opt to drop all the dollars on the punchiest Turbo and Turbo S variants, my experience with the Taycan 4S proves that this configuration is plenty of fun in its own right. It still positively hustles -- no matter what number the speedometer is displaying, a quick smash of the accelerator (can't call it a gas pedal, can we?) shoves me back in my seat while motors whir with suitable volume. Whether utilizing launch control or just goosing it on the highway, the 4S is plenty fun in a straight line.
There's an option to add a bit of synthesized noise to the equation, and some of my colleagues like the extra theater it adds, but I find it just a bit too extra and opt to keep the fake sound off.
The world isn't just straight lines, though. I point my tester up California's Angeles Crest Highway, a state route filled with elevation change and curves galore, to make sure the 4S can handle some lateral what-for.
Even though the Taycan 4S weighs some 300-ish pounds less than the Turbo and Turbo S, it's still a portly thing, ringing in between 4,700 and 4,900 pounds depending on the battery chosen. Yet I don't find this weight to be an issue. Having a low center of gravity means this massive EV feels planted at all times, and its suitably sized footprint means that when the weight shifts, it does so slowly and predictably, never snapping or feeling prone to getting loosey-goosey. Taking a tight left-hand turn and immediately following that up with a right hairpin is no problem -- the Taycan 4S leans ever so slightly as the mass shifts, sailing through the corners with ease. Leaning on the throttle a little earlier than usual is no problem, as all four wheels (and the Pirelli P-Zero summer tires wrapped around them) claw at the asphalt to pull the car straight again. On-road comfort is decent, even with optional 21-inch wheels (19s are standard), thanks to Porsche's multi-mode air suspension.
There are multiple vehicle modes on offer, but I could take 'em or leave 'em. Personally, I enjoy leaving everything in the default Comfort setting, which is still stiff enough to have fun. Sportier modes do stiffen the ride and throttle further, but not in a way I felt was necessary, even in more spirited driving.
The rest of the Taycan's on-road experience wasn't as blissful, but it's still a good time overall. The steering has a good ratio, but it feels somewhat disconnected from the front end -- something that can be said of a lot of new cars. The brakes, though, are kind of a letdown, with a spongy feeling that only goes away when I reach into the depths of the pedal's throw. Regenerative braking is on offer, and it can be ramped up slightly with a setting in the infotainment system, but fans of one-pedal driving won't find it here.
Down to brass tacks
The Porsche Taycan 4S costs more than a Tesla Model S Performance, despite having a lower range and less straight-line performance. But a rote comparison of the two doesn't tell the full story. Does the Taycan feel flashy and futuristic? Yes. Yet it still feels very much like a Porsche, and that comes through in many ways, from the forward visibility to the way it tackles Angeles Crest.
The Taycan is less about building a Tesla competitor and more about building an electric Porsche that will appeal to the same people Porsche has been appealing to for decades -- Porschephiles. In that vein, it's already a success.
Editors' note: Travel costs related to this story were covered by the manufacturer, which is common in the auto industry. The judgments and opinions of Roadshow's staff are our own and we do not accept paid editorial content.