SANTA ANA, Calif. – 2020 Porsche Taycan 4S Test
I must admit that I was a bit nervous when I began my EV test loop in the 2020 Porsche Taycan 4S, the ink barely dry on its EPA range rating of 203 miles. I’d run this very same test some two months ago in a 2020 Porsche Taycan Turbo, and the result of that prior test was remarkable. Perhaps too remarkable.
The Taycan Turbo, which had been rated at 201 miles, not only completed my 209.2-mile course but did so with 78 miles left over. Those two numbers added up to a projected range of 287.2 miles, which represented a 42.9% shellacking of its official range number. Numerous past runnings of my EV test loop had confirmed the validity of the course and test methodology, but nevertheless, the prospect remained in the back of my mind that the Taycan’s result was somehow a fluke. Would this second test let the air out of the balloon?
I became more uncertain as the test unfolded. Road closures forced me to double back and extend my route slightly. Damp weather moistened the course to the point where tire spray was present for about 10 miles. Abnormally light traffic raised my average speed by 1 mph. And the Taycan 4S test car was fitted with the Turbo’s wider tire package, negating the potential rolling resistance benefits of the standard 4S rubber.
As it turned out, I had absolutely nothing to worry about. The 2020 Porsche Taycan 4S covered 213.5 miles this time, and it finished the day with 87 miles left over. Those figures add up to an astounding projected range of 300.5 miles — a full 48% and a whopping 97.5 miles better than its rating. This doesn’t just back up my prior result, it underlines it and makes it bold. The Taycan, be it the Turbo or now 4S, can grossly exceed its EPA ratings while driving in a normal manner.
This result in the Taycan 4S is possible because all early-build cars are being made with the larger 93.4-kilowatt-hour (kWh) battery option that is the standard offering on Turbo models. These early 4S cars also come with a glass roof and an intelligent home charge cord, bringing the starting price up to $114,340 with destination included. The true base 4S and its 79.2-kWh battery won’t be built for some time, so we won’t know its official range (172-175, I’m guessing) until later. But we do know it’ll have a normal steel roof and will start at $105,150.
That base 4S also rides on 19-inch wheels and slightly narrower tires, it comes with good-sized six-piston Brembo front brake calipers and has a lower grade of LED headlights. But to look at it, my glass-topped 4S test car is almost indistinguishable from a Turbo. It’s fitted with the aforementioned Turbo-spec 20-inch tire-and-wheel combo and LED Matrix headlights, and it could just as easily have had the Turbo’s humongoid 10-piston calipers if someone had ticked another box on the options sheet.
Underneath, both share the same double-wishbone front and multilink rear suspension, with the same adaptive air suspension that can vary both suspension height and firmness. You can fit either one with the same performance options, from Sports Chrono to rear-wheel steering to the PDCC active stabilizer bar system known as Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control. Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus (PTV+) comes standard on the Turbo and is optional on the 4S, though. My test car was fitted with all of it except PDCC.
What no 4S could ever have is the Turbo’s larger rear motor, as that’s the one thing you can’t option your way out of. Both do share the exact same direct-drive coaxial front motor, however, and they both use the same two-speed rear transmission and offset rear motor design. The motor case even looks the same from the outside because it’s the motor elements hidden inside the housing that makes the difference.
And that difference is indeed dramatic if you just stare at numbers. But I would not begin to suggest that the 4S is deficient, because it’s not. It can deliver as much as 482 horsepower on a continual basis and 562 hp in Overboost during launch control escapades if you opt for the Sport Chrono package. So equipped, Porsche says the 4S can accelerate from 0-60 mph in 3.8 seconds. Even if you don’t buy Sport Chrono or never engage launch control, this car feels properly quick. It can put the power down with effortless aggression and precision.
Yes, the Turbo can kick out 616 hp, or 670 hp with Overboost, and lunge to 60 mph in 3.0 seconds. But the starting price for that is north of $150,000, and last time I checked we don’t have any unlimited autobahns over here. There’s no place to fully appreciate the difference at any location that doesn’t make you sign a waiver upon entry and strap on a helmet. The 4S is just fine, in other words.
It’s also fine out on my test loop, wherein Range mode the rear motor barely enters the picture. The rear motor helps get the car moving (its two-speed transmission locked in high gear, I might add), but that’s about it. It disengages entirely once the car gets up to 25 mph or so, at which point you’re essentially cruising along in a front-drive Porsche. Speed is capped at 70 mph in this mode, but it doesn’t matter at all on my test route.
The car certainly does feel livelier in Normal mode. It’ll start in first gear if you’re being aggressive and the rear motor stays involved more of the time. Sport mode starts off in first gear as a rule, and the throttle response is palpably sharper. Sports Plus is where Launch Control and Overboost enters the picture, but that mode and the cool steering wheel knob that enables easy changes only exists if you buy the Sports Chrono package.
Twiddling the knob doesn’t just alter the motor and transmission strategies. It also sets the adaptive air suspension’s height and damping force. Range mode drops the car to a low setting, but the damping calibration isn’t necessarily sporty. It feels utterly agreeable, but on rare occasions, I was aware that I was riding closer to the bump stops. Normal is an excellent set-and-forget mode that runs at standard ride height and is easily the smoothest choice, but the car still feels responsive and willing through turns. Sport tightens things up to deliver sharper handling and a firmer ride, and things get more one dimensional if you notch it up to Sport Plus.
The Taycan’s steering is frankly brilliant regardless of whether it’s a 4S instead of a Turbo. You can feel it when attacking a mountain road, but also when motoring casually around town or even cruising dead straight on the highway. The response is direct, and the effort seemingly builds up in exact proportion to tire loading. My test sample had the rear steering option, so it was also quite maneuverable in parking lots and could cut a mean U-turn.
The brakes are equally as responsive and consistent, which is more amazing because this is a blended system in which a computer analyzes the driver’s input and decides between magnetic “regenerative” braking and the traditional pads and rotors. The 4S is finely equipped on both fronts. Like the Turbo, its drive motors can deliver a stunning 265 kilowatts of regenerative braking power. That translates into 0.39 g of deceleration, which is enough to cover most of the stops you’ll make short of a surprise yellow light or an emergency situation.
The sizable six-piston front calipers and ventilated rotors may have slightly less outright capacity than the 10-piston oversized monsters on the Turbo, but they’re absolutely up to the task. The main thing they lack is the long-wearing and mirror-like “surface finish” rotors that come with the 10-piston binders. You can upgrade if you have an extra $3,490 laying around (and given the $114,340 starting price, “you” probably do), but it hardly seems worth it when most braking is going to happen within the electric motors anyway.
The 4S and the Turbo look very much alike inside. The main difference comes down to seats, standard audio, and some contrasting trim. The Turbo comes with leather, 14-way adjusters and a 14-speaker, 710-watt Bose Surround stereo. The 4S has leatherette, eight-way seats, and a 10-speaker 150-watt system. My test car had a Bose upgrade and 14-way seats, so the only 4S vestige was the leatherette. The faux-leather seats look the part but didn’t feel as conforming as the real thing had after seven-plus hours in the saddle.
But the 4S’s seating position is excellent, and the generously adjustable steering wheel has just the right tactile feel in your hands. A spectacular curved instrument panel sits dead ahead, with three virtual gauge pods visible within the rim and controls for lights and drive settings located on arcs just outside. Familiar stalks and levers are present, and the steering wheel controls explain themselves.
There’s plenty of head, leg, and shoulder room, and the view out the front and to the sides is generous. But the view straight out the back is slotlike because the rear package shelf is abnormally high. As for the back seat, it offers tons of headroom under the soaring glass roof, but getting in and out can be awkward if you’re tall and have big feet, like me. It all boils down to the “foot garage,” a cavity in the underfloor battery in which you park your feet. This feature enables the low seating position that makes the Taycan’s gorgeous 911-esque roofline possible, but it’s not going to please everyone.
I never came to grips with the unavoidable touchscreen fiddliness of the infotainment system, but there’s lots of capability here. I bypassed all that and took matters into my own hands by using Apple CarPlay (sorry, no Android Auto). It’s not wireless CarPlay, but there are four USB-C ports. There are no standard USB slots, though, so you may have to buy yourself a USB-C Lightning cable. The HVAC controls reside in a touchscreen of their own, but they are considerably more straightforward. What’s more, the system operates so well in full Auto mode that I never needed to dig into the details. Good thing, too, because re-aiming the front vents is an overcomplicated touchscreen-based process.
The Taycan has two trunks (show in greater detail in the video below), and here the 4S has a slight advantage over the Turbo as its lack of a subwoofer hanging beneath the package shelf makes the trunk both larger and easier to load. It’s nice and deep in any case, and roller bags can be laid on edge three across between the rear wheels, with room for another and a duffel or two closer to the bumper. The frunk can also swallow yet another roller bag.
As much as I’ve enjoyed the time I’ve spent driving the Taycan Turbo, the Taycan 4S is the one to get. It costs tens of thousands less, and it gives away little more than bragging rights because losing the comical 10-piston brakes and a reduction of rear motor power doesn’t add up to anything you’ll miss this far from the autobahn. Steering and handling are pretty much identical, and the interior doesn’t give away anything important. Everything that made me fall in love with the Taycan is still here.
On the logistics front, the 4S doesn’t give up anything on the charging and range front either. It has the same dual charge port locations, and its onboard charger is sizable enough to max out most 240-volt home charge stations. It also has the same 270-kW DC fast charging capability that can lift the battery from 5 to 80% in as little as 22.5 minutes on the ever-growing Electrify America fast charge network.
Yes, the EPA’s 2020 Porsche Taycan 4S rating of 203 miles was disappointing, but so was the 201-mile rating assigned to the Turbo. But this new 300.5-mile result tells me that my first result of 287 miles was no fluke. It’s time to move past all that this rating hand wringing. EPA range ratings are not equally believable, and Porsche’s Taycan numbers are very conservative. File that under “noted” and take the 2020 Porsche Taycan 4S very seriously.