Sparky, the first FWD Porsche, and our maiden voyage together across the Rockies.

Touching down at YLW in Kelowna BC, a quick 52-minute flight from my home base in Alberta’s capital,i my familial travel companions and I were greeted by a black Maserati SUV waiting just past the baggage carousel at the Arrivals door. Just the bit of misdirection I was hoping for.

Had I bought a Mazer? Or what? They hadn’t the faintest clue, nor, it must be admitted, were they even that inquisitive about it. They were just happy to join me for our first boys’ trip together in five years. Gliding away from the regional airport, and unbeknownst to my father and younger brother, we were headed Porsche Centre Kelowna where my new-to-me electric buggy awaited.ii There, in the middle of the showroom, sparkling like nearby Sparkling Hills, was the well-optioned Taycan 4S that I was impulsively adding to my garage.iii

Sparky The Porsche Taycan Kelowna to Edmonton - 8After a few minutes of paperwork, my backpack was in the frunk, and I was in the driver’s seat, nursing the low-slung sports sedan through the sliding glass doors of the dealership, incognito and sans license plate, back from whence we came.iv A quick photo opp, a minute fiddling with menus and mirrors, and off we went in sumptuous serenity towards our first charging point, 348km away, in Golden BC.

Three-hundred-and-forty-eight kilometres might seem like an inconsequential journey for a vehicle that showed 498km of range as we left the dealership, but from my past experience in the Tesla Model X on a highway trip, and adding the X-factor of elevation, colder temperatures, snowy roads, and additional passenger weight, I knew that we didn’t have a kWh to spare. Brushing off my best hypermiling skills from 15-years-ago, back when I was a frugal student squeezing out 600km+ between fill-ups from my rust-prone Protege5, I plunked the Porsche in “Range” mode and we set off in the first ever FWD P-car,v henceforth known affectionately as “Sparky.”vi

LSparky The Porsche Taycan Kelowna to Edmonton - 1est my first lengthy road trip in an ‘leccy whip involve waiting for a flatbed trailer on a narrow-to-non-existent highway shoulder on a winding mountain pass in the middle of a moon-lit, snow-blanketed forest with semi-truck trailers whizzing past, I was content to embrace the 110kph speed limit enforced by “Range” mode, as well as lowered ride height and “Eco Plus” air-con setting. My feet were a little on the cool side but I didn’t mind. It reminded me of driving my old 560SEL on the highway, barely five years ago. My modest sacrifice was about to pay off too. Because with 90km to go until Golden, we had just 110km of range.vii It looked for all the world like we were juuuust going to make it.

Then, of course, came my first encounter with the demon known as “Range Anxiety”viii as the uphill mountain road to end all uphill mountain roads starting eating dangerously large chunks out of our range estimates. Before we knew it, we have 80km to go and only 80km of range. WTFBBQ!!! With the ambient temperature hovering just below 0°C and with range-oriented Goodyear Eagle Touring all-season tires equipped, the road/car conditions were as optimal as they were going to be for late October in the Rocky Mountains, but could the sedan from Zuffenhausen be about to meet its match? Just when I thought that EV tech had finally made the leap from being narrowly useful for some people some of the time (eg. Nissan Leaf) to a more optimistic world-beater (with just a little extra planning), it looked like the Taycan was all but doomed to fail. And I couldn’t even entirely blame it! With its low-mounted radar sensor covered in dirt, salt, and snow and rendered inoperable for the last 80km,ix it was just yours truly and the throttle pedal left to judge the nearly pitch-black and slightly slick conditions.x With each uphill kilometre travelled, we lost 2-3 kilometres of range. Then, with 70km to go and 60km of range remaining, as we stared down both barrels of perilous misfortune miscalculation, the seemingly relentless ascent suddenly denouedxi into descent. Over the next 20km, we used only 5km of range as I turned the regenerative braking on and we juiced up the 93.4kW battery for all the electrons it was worth.

CSparky The Porsche Taycan Kelowna to Edmonton - 5oasting confidently into Golden just before 7pm, we pulled up to the Petro-Canada station featuring a newly installed EV Fast Charger. With a 200kWh speed limit and 7% battery remaining,xii our 800V steed charged up pretty effortlessly while we walked across the parking lot to Tim Horton’s for a bowl of chilli and a bathroom break. Thirty-odd minutes and a very reasonable C$9.99 later, we had 70% charge and more than enough juice to make it the next 140km to Banff, where we planned to charge overnight at our hotel. Arriving at the Fairmont Banff Springs and parking in one of the “EV stalls,”xiii we realised that we needed a Tesla-to-J1772 adapter, which we didn’t have, but it was after 10pm and we had more than enough range to make it to Canmore the next morning, so we checked in and headed straight to the newly renovated Rundle Lounge. We cracked a couple bottles of Moet and took part in a few rounds of “We’re Not Really Strangers” before retiring to our separate rooms. After 600km of flying and 500km of driving, we’d made it through the toughest and most uncertain part of our journey.xiv We were pretty beat. But we did it!

Day Twoxv began at 6:45am for yours truly, which was more than two hours before my sleepy-headed travel partners, but I took advantage of the extra time to catch up on neglected work emails from the day before. Checking out of the hotel around 10am, we walked back to the parkade, threw our bags in the frunks and trunks,xvi and headed for Canmore, about 20 minutes away. Plugging into the 350kW CCS fast charger at the Petro-Can just off Highway 1, my younger brother and I left the car and walked towards the Rocky Mountain Bagel Co. for breakfast and a stretch of the ol’ legs. My father stayed behind at the Petro-Can/McDonald’s.

Sparky The Porsche Taycan Kelowna to Edmonton - 7Returning an hour or so later, we had 98% charge, probably enough to make it the full 400km back to Edmonton but I hadn’t heard any updates from my electricians so I didn’t know if I’d be able to charge at home upon return.xvii To play it safe, we set our sights on the Petro-Can station at CrossIron Mills just north of Calgary. Since my bladder is the size of an acorn anyways, that 90-minute jaunt would be well-timed, so off we went in “Sport Plus” mode just to make sure that the 4S was the right choice after all and that I shouldn’t have splurged harder on the Turbo. After the first hard launch, I had no regrets! It’s as trite to compare an electric sports car to a rollercoaster as it is to compare a regular sports car to a go-kart, but unlike the latter comparison, the former is actually apt!

Before we knew it, we were at the entirely unphotogenic CrossIron, plugged in, back up to 75% battery, and on the road again with 280km to go. A quick stop at the halfway point in Red Deer for ice cream, then another 120km to the south end of Edmonton to pick up my Jeep at YEG airport,xviii and just like that were right where we started 32 hours earlier, and with 150km of range to spare.xix

With bodies in respectable shape, legs and backs all present and accounted for with no serious injuries to report,xx the air-suspension’d limo dressed up as an “electric sports sedan” crushed its maiden voyage under my ownership. Only my slightly sore forearms betrayed the Porsche’s typically direct steering and gave it away as anything other than a pure luxury car. (Unlike my old LS460L, there was no one-finger steering here.)

And that’s all for this travelogue!xxi Turns out electrification is closer than we thought, and more fun too, so here’s to many more miles of emissions-reduced motoring.xxii C’mon Sparky!
___ ___ ___

  1. And only an hour behind schedule due to plane de-icing.
  2. This particular vehicle is a “YouTube famous” demo car that was more highly optioned than any other landed 4S in the country, so once I’d sold myself on “needing” a T4S, it was either take home this hardly-tired 5,000km example or wait 6 months and pay an extra $20k for the priviledge of speccing a car that was 98% the same. Easy choice!
  3. While I’ve long admired the Porsche brand, not least of all for its motorsports accomplishments, and while I have several 911-focused books on my shelf, and while I’m of the opinion that the 987 Cayman S is one of the sweetest handling cars ever developed, I’ve never needed, or even particularly wanted, the badge and associated baggage in my life. With that soup of intellectual curiousity and practical reluctance out in the open, here’s hoping that EV greenwashing is enough to overcome the douchebaggy assumptions. I’ve been eyeing electric cars for a couple of years now but I really had my blinders on in equating Tesla===Electric only to find myself continually disappointed and not entirely convinced. And then this year’s Yom Kippur fast had me all woozy while watching YouTube (Marques Brownlee in particular) and the next thing you know I’m utterly enthralled with the Taycan to the point that I had a deposit on one within the week. And how not? Porsche’s first foray into the electric car space is truly a driver’s car, tolerant as it is of endless abuse, and it’s also a pretty swell luxury vehicle / family appliance, all-in-one. The gorgeous, functional, and frankly luxurious cockpit just seals the deal, and I’m now even looking forward to Taycan 2.0 (remember how fugly Panamera 1.0 was compared to Panamera 2.0? now imagine a similar leap forward for T2.0!), to say nothing of the Mercedes EQS. This electric thing finally works!!
  4. Drivers registering vehicles in Alberta have 14 days to visit their local registry offices with bill of sale, proof of insurance, and out-of-province inspection in-hand. Until then, no transit stickers or plates are required. Also, here was our route:

    Sparky The Porsche Taycan Kelowna to Edmonton - 9

  5. Exclusively in “Range” mode does the Taycan power the front wheels alone, which you can sort of make out on the dashboard diagram blurrily depicted below:

    Sparky The Porsche Taycan Kelowna to Edmonton - 3

    In the other four driving modes, the rear wheels provide the lion’s share of the thrust.

  6. For those who have the tragic habit of naming their cars, you can imagine that something like 40% of electric vehicle owners choose “Sparky.” It just works!
  7. The only detour we took from our bee line to Golden was a 15km excursion to Predator Ridge for lunch. Other than that, we didn’t waste a Watt!
  8. “Range Anxiety” isn’t to be confused with the more general anxiety found so broadly in this un-parented era and I can’t say that I was really all that “anxious.” Seriously, worst case scenario is you call a tow truck. Also, manufacturers of electric cars build in pretty conservative tolerances to their range estimates so you can often squeeze an extra 20km+ out of the vehicles before they well and truly die. Plus, when there’s a Petro-Can EV station in Revelstoke, that trip across the Rockies will be no sweat even with winter tires and -20°C temps.
  9. The radar “eye” is placed thoughtfully below the “grille” so as to leave the slippery body lines unadorned, but like the the DLO FAIL (as noted by Sajeev Mehta for Hagerty – archived), the lower location leaves the “eye” is a compromise of function to form that leaves the sensor more susceptible to dirt and debris. Design, like life, is all about trade-offs!

    Sparky The Porsche Taycan Kelowna to Edmonton - 4

  10. Sparky is equipped with Porsche’s InnoDrive system, which is supposed to help with fuel efficiency, but I didn’t get a chance to try it out yet. Next time!
  11. For reasons beyond me, English doesn’t seem to quite recognise this word, but it really should be in the dictionary. From the French dénouer: 1) to undo (a knot), to unknot, 2) to untangle, to unravel (a situation). I mean, denouement is in English, why not the other derivatives of the same word? Because it sounds too much like “denude?”
  12. This first charge took place with no battery pre-heating because Sparky’s nav system doesn’t yet recognise that Petro-Can stations exist and so isn’t “prepped” for them in advance. This will be resolved soon enough. OTAU FTW!
  13. Doesn’t that rear light just look the business? Finding the light indeed!

    Sparky The Porsche Taycan Kelowna to Edmonton - 6

  14. On Day One, over 6h09m of driving, we covered 489km at an average speed of 80kph, consuming 22.9kWh/100km.
  15. “Day Two” here is not to be confused with Bezos’ Day One. Only at Amazon is it always Day One.
  16. In addition to being the first FWD Porsche, did you know that the Taycan is also the first Porsche with a trunk? Every other one has a hatchback. True story!
  17. As I galavanted across the hills, the fine folks at Kuby Energy were working away in my garage to install a new sub-panel and wiring for the 50kW Porsche Mobile Charger Connect and optional Charger Dock units, a C$2`800 outlay that would more or less pay itself back after the first year of gas savings, at least compared to the 94-octane bills racked up by my Renntech-tuned G550.

    FWIW, on the first go, the 50kW home charging system “filled the tank” with 74.8kWh, or about C$12.39 worth, in 9h06m. Given that I rarely leave the house before lunchtime (sleep ad libitum!), this arrangement all but guarantees that I’ll never have to charge anywhere but home unless I’m taking Sparky on a road trip.

    You might also be interested to know that electricity rates in Alberta are ostensibly cheap, like bitcoin-mining-cheap, in the range of 4.827¢/kWh, but all the usual monopolistic utility co. bullshit cranks the rate up to an effective 16.566¢/kWh rate for lowly residential consumers like yours truly. Still, it’s better than Petro-Can, which charges 33¢/kWh, though that’s not an unreasonable price given the 4-7x speed vs. residential set-ups. Still, maybe solar isn’t such a terrible workaround

  18. With this new addition to the Contravex Garage, is my beloved Jeep on the chopping block? After all the work I did on it this summer (H&R lift springs, 33″ Grapplers, 463 wheels, Akropovic exhaust, Renntech chip, murdered out), I have to say that it’s almost too beautiful to let go of. I’m not sure how much I’ll be using it now, but just as having more than one pair of shoes is pretty sweet because it allows each pair to specialise, so too is having choices in your garage each morning. So for now, we let it ride!
  19. On Day Two, over 4h52m of driving, we covered 421km at an average speed of 87kph, consuming 19.4kWh/100km across the much flatter Prairie landscape.
  20. For the backseat passenger, namely my little bro, the rear footwells carved out of the battery pack made all the difference in the world for this longer trip. It was worth losing a smidgen of battery capacity for a smidgen more comfort. Trade-offs!
  21. If you’re more interested in a “proper review” than my rambling travelogue, here’s my stream-of-consciousness thoughts jotted down after my first 45-minute test drive of the Taycan:

    The most incredible ride quality I’ve ever experienced. Even on 21″ rubber band tires, it literally floated across the ground. Primary and secondary ride on air suspension were utterly superlative. Like RR Ghost good. Super low CoG. Handles with remarkable precision. Doesn’t feel huge by any stretch but the rear 3/4 view is sharply limited given the size of the vehicle so the driver needs to be mindful of traffic. Sit quite low but don’t feel intimidated by other vehicles. Gas/diesel-powered vehicles belching exhaust fumes seemed utterly primitive and polluting by comparison. Felt like the first iPhone, making previous phones seem barbaric. There’s no going back. I could care less about Tesla’s charging infrastructure. I can charge this thing once a week at home. The G-Wagon is just too useful as a family hauler to send packing, but the seventh letter feels like an absolute tractor by comparison. How have I tolerated such insipidly truckish ride quality for so long? I could honestly live with the Taycan and a minivan. The Porsche rides like a dream, like a saturated sponge soaking up the road. Even River Valley Road was ironed out into the background. Like the LS500 and S550 should’ve. Like the Phaeton did, but without feeling as mechanically and electronically fragile as the VW. Front visibility is excellent. Sound deadening isn’t bad but the acoustic glass and smaller tires would be a good idea. 19″ wheels would be cool but 20s are probably a fair compromise between aesthetics, range, and ride quality. I’ll get the 19s for winter. Very quiet overall around town and on the highway. The additional Jetsons sound effects are cool sometimes but not for very long. The motors sound plenty cool enough on their own. The Bose sound system was surprisingly poor. I’m don’t exactly identify as an audiophile but I guess the G’s Burmester has spoilt me. I could live with the Bose though. The dark-coloured interior and dark-coloured exterior do the compact design zero favours though. Silver Dolomite is the exterior colour to have along with a non-black interior. The all-glass roof is sexy af. ACC works a million times better than the G’s. The 0.22 Cd and lack of “one pedal driving” is immediately apparent. The thing just wants to coast, meaning that more braking is required when regen is turned off, but I kinda liked that. The 4S is plenty fast for the streets. It doesn’t melt your face but it’s certainly exciting enough. Turbo/Turbo S would just be silly. The reviews from Matt Farah and Chris Harris back this contention up.

    My similarly “serious” thoughts on the Taycan’s competition (ie. Phaeton W12, LS500, S550) can be found here.

  22. Carbon is still the scapegoat, it’s true, and I can’t say I’m particularly fussed about it, but I’m also quite fond of clean air and water where I live, recognising full well that the embodied environmental impact of EVs is definitely non-zero, though it appears to be less than that of ICE vehicles