2021 Porsche Taycan RWD First Drive Review: Is Less More? Yes and No
The Porsche Taycan is many things—fast, stellar through bends, and stunning to look at—but the model so far hasn’t been particularly efficient, even for an electric car. Porsche aims to improve that for 2021 with the new base-model, rear-wheel-drive 2021 Porsche Taycan we tested recently. Priced at $81,250 to start—that’s $23,900 less than the next cheapest Taycan 4S—this new Taycan has on-paper appeal, but does less power, fewer motors, and fewer driven wheels make for a less compelling Porsche? And is it possibly a more compelling Tesla Model S alternative?
2021 Porsche Taycan RWD Test: What’s New?
The new base 2021 Porsche Taycan RWD shares much with its big-brother Taycan 4S. Riding on Porsche’s J1 electric vehicle architecture (also shared with the Audi E-Tron GT and an upcoming Bentley), the 2021 Taycan RWD forgoes the 4S mode’s front/rear dual-motor setup in favor of just a single rear motor. In its base form, the motor produces 321 horsepower and 250 lb-ft of torque (or 402 hp and 254 lb-ft for brief spurts with launch control), and it’s paired with a two-speed automatic transmission.
The Taycan’s base battery pack, called the Performance Battery, has a 79.2-kWh capacity; an optional, 93.4-kWh battery, called the Performance Battery Plus, is available for $5,780. Equipped on our Frozen Berry Metallic 2021 Taycan test vehicle, this battery pack boosts both range and performance, upping horsepower to 375 (torque remains the same 250 lb-ft) under normal operating conditions, and 469 hp and 263 lb-ft when you activate launch control. Porsche isn’t talking range yet, but we expect Taycans with the larger battery will provide around 250 miles of range once the feds get around to rating it. Taycans with the smaller battery will likely return a range somewhere in the high 220s.
How Does the 2021 Porsche Taycan RWD Drive?
The new Performance Plus-equipped Taycan is down 54-93 hp (and two driven wheels) to the Taycan 4S, but in most respects it doesn’t feel like a significant loss. Put to the test while driving around town, on the freeway, or at a brisk pace on a good road, you don’t miss the extra power and performance of the Taycan 4S or Turbo models. The Taycan RWD’s single rear motor delivers its power quickly, and neither it nor the two-speed transmission is ever caught out of sorts.
You’d expect the base Taycan’s rear-wheel-drive configuration to provide an advantage over its all-wheel-drive siblings on a good winding road, but in reality it’s sort of a wash. Armed with four-wheel steering ($1,620 extra) and an air suspension ($2,200 on the 2021 Porsche Taycan RWD, standard on other models), the rear-drive Taycan is just as capable, communicative, and composed as the all-wheel-drive versions. It’s perhaps slightly easier to get the rear-drive electric Porsche’s nose pointed with throttle input, but the torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive systems in the other Taycans negate any potential RWD advantage.
Where the Taycan RWD most communicates the power imbalance is under hard acceleration. I’ll never forget my first quarter-mile launch with the Taycan Turbo S: Even though I was well prepared for a hard, Tesla Model S P100D-like launch, I didn’t quite expect my laptop, water bottle, and walkie-talkie to sail past my face and into the back seat as the car rocketed to 60 mph in 2.4 seconds.
The 2021 Porsche Taycan RWD lacks the sort of excitement we’ve come to expect from performance EVs. Even with launch control engaged, the Taycan doesn’t blast off with the same sort of violence or aggression as the Taycan 4S or Turbo, or even rivals like the Tesla Model S and Model 3. It’s difficult to say for sure whether this is because the Porsche actively manages traction at the rear wheels (where there’s no detectable slip during a hard launch), or if it’s just a matter of the power gap, but I suspect it’s a little of both. Nevertheless, Porsche claims the base Taycan can zip from 0 to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds with either battery; I expect we could knock that number down to 4.8 seconds or so in the real world.
2021 Porsche Taycan RWD vs 2021 Tesla Model S
The question everyone has whenever a new electric car, truck, or SUV hits the streets is, “How does it compare to a Tesla?” The 2021 Porsche Taycan RWD splits the size gap between the Model 3 and Model S, but its price and performance are far more in line with the flagship Model S.
Performance-wise, the rear-drive Taycan has its work cut out for it. It’s less powerful, most likely less efficient, and almost certainly has less range than the recently refreshed 2021.5 Tesla Model S. It’s also more expensive; the refreshed Model S Long Range (which offers an unverified 412 miles of range and a 3.1-second 0-60 mph time) now undercuts the base Taycan’s $81,250 starting price by a slim $60 margin.
So how can the Taycan compete?
Well, look at it. Seriously. Our test car offers up Frozen Berry Metallic paint (one of 17 available Taycan colors), admittedly terrible-looking 19-inch wheels (the worst of seven otherwise stellar wheel options), and a gorgeous, well-put-together Blackberry and Slate Gray leather interior (one of 20 interior options). And that’s not counting the endless SportDesign exterior and interior trim choices a buyer can make, or the long list of Porsche’s other individual options and accessories. Meanwhile, Tesla Model S buyers get five color options, two wheel choices, and three different interior color schemes. That’s it.
This may sound like a silly point to make, but it’s easy to forget the fact that early Tesla adopters were just as excited about the Model S’ luxury as they were about its revolutionary powertrain. Yet although the Model S remains one of (if not the) most compelling American luxury sedans on the road, it doesn’t exactly offer customers the customization and personalization you expect. Nor does it offer the materials and build quality of the Porsche, let alone the sheer luxury of choice.
2021 Porsche Taycan RWD Test: The Verdict
Do those final points make the base-model 2021 Porsche Taycan RWD a better car than the Tesla Model S? It depends upon what matters most to you as a buyer, but the base Taycan is, regardless, an enticing alternative for those who don’t mind trading a Tesla’s range for something a lot more unique. And, more important for all EV buyers, the subtractions applied to make the 2021 Taycan 4S RWD the cheapest Taycan available now don’t make this Porsche any less compelling.
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