Describe the sound of gravel ricocheting off the underside of a rally car. A tinkle? A rattle? A flurry?
A small noise anyway, something soft and gentle, lost behind a wall of sound from a furious four pot. Now remove the petrol soundtrack. Treading on the Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo is akin to engaging an instant and very aggressive hailstorm. A bombardment. A barrage. A machine-gunning. These are the words I’d use – and so would Chris the videographer, who did not describe the pea-sized impact to the back of his head as a ‘dink’. It damn near dropped him to his knees.
Gravel is hostile, it sprays around like bullets and when the weapon being used to fire these plentiful projectiles develops 774lb ft of torque at a standstill, it has what a ballistics expert would probably term ‘a good range’. The crew should have come in bomb disposal suits.
But the Cross Turismo has a Gravel mode. This lifts the air-suspended body by 30mm, adapts the torque distribution, throttle response and, in Porsche’s words, gives the Cross Turismo “increased Bad Road Capabilities”. The capitals are Porsche’s, so it must mean it. I’m not sure Porsche meant it as much as I did. You can also spec an £1,161 Off-Road Design Package which gives you those little flicks fore and aft of each wheel. Planning on doing what we did? Get them. You need all the protection you can get.
But of course you’re not, are you? We know the recipe here, and it’s alarmingly similar to the one used for the standard Taycan. The same motors developing the same power, the same 93kWh battery pack, chassis and underpinnings, the same four-strong model range with this Turbo S at its summit, even the same suspension with adaptive air springs and four-wheel steering. The changes are limited to new wheel mounts, strut supports and a revised self-levelling system. Plus the body cladding and estate back, obviously.
This is emphatically one of those cars that’s more than the sum of its original parts
So I thought I knew what to expect from Porsche’s take on an Audi Allroad. Nothing more than a high-rise Taycan with a bigger boot. Which it is. But it’s also more than that. Much more. The best electric car of the past 12 months.
Of course it should be seeing as this range-topping Turbo S is also probably the most expensive electric car to go on sale for the past 12 months (although actually I don’t think this is the range sweet spot – the £87,820 4S would be my tip). But although it cannibalises parts from its sportier, lower slung sibling, this is emphatically one of those cars that’s more than the sum of its original parts.
It rides beautifully. Beyond beautifully. Like a Rolls-Royce or Bentley, in its softer modes the Cross Turismo is unafraid of its weight. The springs sigh with the roads, you get float, sag and cushioning over crests, unruffled movement from the suspension. This is the most important and – in many ways – impressive aspect of the car. The standard Taycan always feels taut. This one knows how to relax. Silence comes not only from the motors, but from everywhere. Noise, vibration and harshness have been banished. With the single exception of tyre noise, the Cross Turismo is remarkable for its comfort.
It’s one of those cars that sweeps along effortlessly, carrying speed easily, lightly and deftly, the sort of speed that leaves passengers clueless as to how quickly they’re travelling. There’s no heave around corners, no loss of body control and, most remarkably of all, no tension in it. I literally can’t think of another car that blends speed and comfort as well as this, another car that you could load four people into and drive so rapidly yet serenely. It’s a world away from the stomping Mercedes-AMG E63, way ahead of even an Audi RS6 or Porsche’s own Panamera.
Does it matter that it lacks their rousing V8s? Less and less, I reckon. I quite enjoy the Porsche’s propulsion sound, but more than that I enjoy the precise, proportionate throttle response. Drama, that’s what’s lacking. But do you really want that from a car with the Cross Turismo’s remit?
Don’t mistake lack of drama for lack of reward though. There is something beguilingly engaging about this car’s steering and the way it goes down a road. Firm up the suspension and that float disappears. In its place you get quicker control but still no tension or harshness. Having used its considerable weight in its favour, now it seems to have performed the trick of making it disappear. Push the Taycan four-door hard and eventually grip will give out and you’ll get a sudden lurch that, although instantly controlled, reminds you of the weight involved and how hard the car is working. Here that boundary is blurred more successfully.
In short it’s a wonderfully fluent car on any road for any type of driving. Two flies in the soup, one easily managed, the other less so. The acceleration can be distressing. The kind that has passengers gulping and gurning while making sudden uncontrolled grabs for handles. Better, more in keeping, to ease into that powerband. I’ve said it already, but you do not need your Cross Turismo with 750bhp and a 2.9secs 0–62mph time.
Because this one’s capable of that, Porsche has also fitted it with some of the biggest brakes it has ever fitted to a road car – 420mm ceramic composite discs grabbed by 10-piston calipers. It bucks the trend for electric cars having oil tanker stopping distances, that’s for sure, but when they get warm they can bite hard. But to do that you have to actually use them, and for 90 per cent of the time you won’t be – up to 0.39g the braking is all through the electric motors. You do have to use the pedal though, as Porsche doesn’t believe in heavy lift-off regen.
In short it is a swift, sure-footed, smooth, silent and enormously satisfying way of getting about the Elan Valley.
And the next day we went to Sweet Lamb Rally Complex. And it completely blew me away. An electric crossover should not be able to do what this one did to a gravel rally stage. It took it apart. Stability control disabled I could play with the brakes to Scandi flick it into corners. It seemed to glide over the surface, yet find formidable traction for its Pirelli P Zeros. P Zeros for heaven’s sake, not mud or gravel tyres.
The Cross Turismo turned in the performance you’d expect of a genuine rally car
The one drawback with electric power is that it is hard to tell how much of it you are using. Especially when the wheels are spinning. The signals you get from a petrol that indicate how hard it’s working, what traction it has, just aren’t there. But with that small exception the Cross Turismo turned in the performance you’d expect of a genuine rally car.
Let’s call this extreme research. We did it so you don’t have to. It spent a whole day doing this, all the battery we could give it before hypermiling back to the 50kW rapid charger 30 miles away at Llandrindod Wells. Barring one solitary puncture wound in the cladding and a few wheel scuffs, it came through unscathed. A day of pounding impacts, flying shards of slate, wheels in the air, skating on the loose and downright dirty abuse – and it cruised home as easily as it cruised there. Had a belter of a drive actually. Gave it an extra 20 minutes at Llandrindod so I could drive the next 100 miles properly. It just feels completely and utterly over-engineered for anything it’ll ever need to do.
Let’s talk practicality, then. If you want this car you’ll make it cope. The 420-litre boot is deep, but lipped and narrow and the tailgate’s slope and load height means it’s not so dog friendly. There’s 34mm of extra headroom over the Taycan for passengers and that makes a world of difference, doubling the sense of space even though there’s no more legroom. Simply cannot fault the driving position, seats, quality or layout up front. It’s attractive and easy to use and that seems to be an increasingly rare commodity these days. And the cabin’s enclosed by superb design. I thought it looked stunning clean, but dirty? Way better.
Think 200 miles of range and hope you don’t have the same three-strikes charging experience I had. My home charger was serviced two days before the Taycan arrived. Naturally that meant it now no longer worked. The Ionity at Chippenham refused to recognise the car for several increasingly fraught minutes, the BP Pulse at Llandrindod wouldn’t recognise any of my credit cards.
I sighed when I first saw the Cross Turismo’s Gravel button. “There we go,” I thought, “a sop to owners to show them this is more than a Taycan.” But behind it lies a greater truth – the Cross Turismo is further distanced from the Taycan than I expected and has a wider range of talent and ability. The standard car, as a sports car, is brilliant, but also reminds you of what you miss from a conventional sports car. This, with a more outdoorsy family remit, treads more gently, has a broader horizon, and yet can deliver 99 per cent of the Taycan’s handling prowess. And in places a standard Taycan can never go. What a thing.
Specs: £139,910/£164,452/Twin e-motor/750bhp/774lb ft/4WD/2spd gearbox on rear axle/2.9secs/155mph/2,320kg/93.4kWh/241 miles
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