(Bloomberg) — Let’s hit this off the bat: The 2021 Porsche Taycan Cross Tourismo is a station wagon.
Porsche isn’t calling it that, and fans of the versatile form are eagerly awaiting future EVs that will officially be labeled “station wagons.” But what Porsche did to differentiate the Cross Turismo from the regular $79,900 Taycan sedan (which we’ve already seen and approved) is add a shooting brake-style rear end and a flatter roofline, with some additional ground clearance, off-road settings, and cargo capacity.
In other words, it made a wagon.
Porsche has been hyping this new car with stylized renderings of a “Cross Turismo” concept since as early as 2018, and I wondered myself if there would really be that much difference between it and the Taycan as I picked up the base version—the $90,900 Taycan 4 Cross Turismo—earlier this month from an empty warehouse in Glendale, Calif.
The loan was for a single day. In order to figure out if this electrified new wagon is worth considering as a practical, capable tool for daily chores, wilderness adventures, and gentle, off-road exploration, I knew I needed to make the most of it.
So I took it straight to the only off-road inclines I knew in close proximity to the drop point. Hidden off the main roads in South Pasadena, these grassy knolls rise higher than any of the tall homes surrounding them, high enough to escape the sound of anything but breezes. I had attempted ascending the dirt paths up these hills once before—in a Porsche 928 from circa 1978—and had to abort the effort halfway through. The deep gullies, jutting boulders, and jaw-splitting angles on the shifty routes had proved too much for the silver coupe; they threatened to scrape and stymie it beyond any reward I’d get conquering those slopes. Anyway, the only other rigs I had seen up there were Jeeps.
I’m happy to report that Porsche’s newly kitted-out wagon proved capable and powerful enough to make it to the top of a hill, easily covering the worst of the terrain while its electric motor hummed away. I would not have attempted this maneuver in the Taycan sedan, or in any of the monster wagons I compared in a test last fall.
The Offroad Design Package ($1,780) raised the car 10mm above normal ride height (that’s a total of 30mm higher than the Taycan sedan, a whopping inch). This afforded the car additional body protection along the bottom of the front, sides, and wheel arches as I crawled through the scruff. As I crested a final summit and felt the tires sink into loose rocks and start to spin, “gravel mode” dug in and kept me going. I was rewarded with a sweeping 360-degree view ranging from downtown Los Angeles to Highway 2 and Angeles National Forest, a vista I shared only with a hawk. This electric Porsche is different.
Some minor gripes you’ll notice if you’ve already been in a Taycan, since the interiors are identical: While the 53 inches of touchscreen spanning in sections across the entire dashboard seem clean and minimal—they make the cabin of every Porsche that came before them, even recently, seem outdated—the air vents are frustrating. They look like simple holes punched out of the dashboard. You can direct, open, and close the venting hidden inside the hole only by way of several layers of commands in the touchscreen system. Such distracting and non-intuitive systems to do a single, simple task make me miss the old-school organ stops that used to adjust vents in every vehicle until now.
The volume control in the center console is also annoying to use—rather than a good old knob or dial, users must push + or – icons as if on a cell phone screen; the attempt at haptic feedback under the digitalized icons did nothing to mitigate the response delay and distracting nature of what should be the simplest thing to control: the radio.
On the way back, I enjoyed the same things I did in the Taycan: ample (469 horsepower here) performance and four drive modes on two “gears” (one for strong power under lower speeds, the other for sustained efficiency at high speeds). No variants of the Cross Turismo have been officially rated yet for their driving range on a single battery charge, but expect them to match the nearly 200 miles or so of the Taycan sedan. That’s 200 miles—unless you’re driving uphill, moving fast, blasting the air conditioning, or generally having fun inside the car, which will diminish the range at an exponential rate.
Acceleration in the Porsche Taycan 4 Cross Turismo is silky smooth and flawless, from zero to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds and with a top speed of 136 mph. The regenerative brakes grab hard and do wonders to regain battery life; the steering and balance of the car are dialed in as well as anything else from Porsche. Don’t believe what dudes in parking lots tell you about how driving electric cars is dull. (The fact that they haven’t actually driven this car doesn’t stop them from bludgeoning anyone nearby with their opinion, does it?) The Porsche 4 Taycan Cross Turismo offers instant driving engagement and thrilling performance at any speed.
Here’s the thing: A week after trying that base model of the Cross Turismo, I drove the Taycan Turbo Cross Turismo, which is a faster (zero to 60 mph in 3.1 seconds) and bossier variant in the Cross Turismo line. (The bossiest is the $187,600 Taycan Turbo S Cross Turismo.) As you’ll recall, Porsche has decided to use the label “Turbo” to denote the most expensive versions of any of its cars, regardless of whether the vehicle actually carries a turbocharger. Don’t be fooled; this is a case of words-don’t-mean-anything marketing. No electric car has need for a turbocharger hidden among its batteries.
The “Turbo” Cross Turismo costs considerably more than the base model; pricing starts at a whopping $153,500—almost double. But despite the 201 hp difference in max horsepower, and notwithstanding the additional speed, there was not enough difference between the base model of the Cross Turismo and the Turbo to warrant such an extraordinary price difference. Each have identical cabins, with a “shifter” the size of an old-school flip phone, vivid heads-up display, center console with cup holders, and calming ambient light throughout. They each have exaggerated fascias and sideskirts, improved passenger headroom from the Taycan sedan, and greater cargo and interior space as standard equipment. Each has seating for four or five, all-wheel-drive, and the optional motion-sensor rear tailgate perfect for people with their arms full of food to load into this mean grocery-getter. After all, this is a station wagon, not a supercar.
Saving what will be nearly $100,000 (after options) on a model just as capable, true to its purpose (hauling such things as bikes and tents and food and plants) and forward-thinking as its overpriced sibling? That makes sense to me. My drives in the entry-level and top-end versions of the new electric wagon from Porsche left me questioning why anyone with their ego in-check and/or half a brain would extend an additional $100,000 on the Turbo.
Those who must have a top-of-the-line Porsche should stick with the 911 Turbo. The smart money for wagon lovers is on the practical and (comparatively) humble Taycan 4 Cross Turismo.