Northern Finland is brutally cold this time of year. In Levi specifically, a sleepy ski town nestled 100 miles within the Arctic Circle, temperatures regularly linger in the negative digits. But it's not skiing that draws us to this town. Hiding in the woods of this winter wonderland is Porsche's ice driving facility. Home to more than 75 acres of driveable surface, the brutal locale and makeshift circuits provide the perfect environment to push the outer limits of the brand's latest vehicle: the Taycan 4S.
Driving the Taycan:
For the record, Porsche's Finnish ice driving experience is open to all customers of the German brand. It features a handful of the latest Porsche products and full lodging, as well as three days of ice-driving with instructors – though, it is costly. The most basic experience costs €3,300 (about £2,780 at today’s rates). But there's no limit on what you can do. Want to put a 911 Carrera S sideways on an oval ice rink? You can. Care to carve up a snowy track in a 718 Cayman? Porsche’s got you covered.
In our case, Porsche ushered us to its Finnish ice facility to fling around its new electric vehicle. Our compacted one-day lesson included an on-road drive portion in the Taycan 4S, as well as an icy slalom, laps around the hourglass circle, and unabashed, all-out drifting on the circular ice rink. And did we mention lots of hot chocolate?
But first, Porsche highlights the Taycan 4S battery pack’s ability to maintain charging levels in cold climates such as this. Our Euro-spec tester gets up to 463 kilometres (approximately 287 miles) on a single charge on the WLTP scale. The lesser Performance model, meanwhile, gets 407 kilometres (approximately 253 miles).
Porsche says anywhere between 25 and 35 degrees Celsius (77 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit) yields the best charging results. In those conditions, the Taycan 4S can recharge from five to 80 percent in just 22.5 minutes via 270-kilowatt fast chargers. Finland’s freezing temperatures are less than optimal for charging, obviously, and lead to serious degradation in most cases. But Porsche engineers took these factors into account, knowing the Nordic appetite for EVs.
The Taycan mitigates extreme cold in more ways than one. The first is a thermal preconditioning system that uses waste heat from the liquid-cooled high-voltage components to warm the battery ahead of charging. Otherwise, the Taycan knows when it needs to charge and sends more heat to the battery while driving. Tesla implements a similar on-route battery warmup technique in its cars.
But Porsche also actively warms the batteries as they charge, not just while driving. An optional heat pump system also uses waste heat from the motors and battery to warm the cabin. It’s an advanced setup that Porsche engineers say allows for “very little” range loss in even the coldest temps.
There is some perceived loss on our 90-mile-or-so drive, though. Our Taycan 4S tester leaves the hotel in downtown Levi with a readout of about 85-percent range on the dash. Porsche suggests that the number will drop to 48 percent once we arrive at the destination. Instead, the readout tells us the battery is at 42 percent. Our very unscientific test, though, doesn’t provide a whole lot of details on real-world range.
Located further north of the Arctic Circle than the city of Levi, hidden behind a pine tree forest and mounds of snow, is Porsche's not-so-secret 75-acre ice driving facility that features a circular ice rink, figure-eight tracks, an icy oval, and more. After a two-hour drive on-road (which you can read more of in our first drive review), we get our go at pretty much all of the obstacles in the Taycan 4S. First up is the slalom.
Take it easy into the initial few cones and the Taycan displays tremendous grip. It's difficult to get this car sideways, though our instructor encourages us to do so. Pushing the car vigorously and turning traction control completely off (rather than just flicking it to Sport Plus mode) gets the Taycan loose, though. It's still controllable, and the grip of the specially designed (though non-studded) Goodyear tyres, as well as the availability of the Performance Plus package's rear-axle steering, lead to little dramatics. At least, in this exercise.
The Taycan 4S shows us it can get a bit more wild in the “hourglass” circuit. As our car brushes snow off the circuit with each lap, revealing more of the ice underneath, there's less grip and lots of understeer. We cautiously navigate into the first tight corner as, our instructor tells us to “flick” it instead, and prod the accelerator with a heavier foot. Doing so results in a more controlled drift and decent carrying speed. For what it's worth, the car looks fantastic flying sideways with a snowy roostertail spitting out of its rear.
Pushing the car vigorously and turning traction control completely off (rather than just flicking it to Sport Plus mode) gets the Taycan loose.
But Porsche's instructor puts our basic snow drifting abilities to the test on the toughest exercise of the day: the icy oval, as we call it. This flat, perfect circle of ice is practically designed for drifting. Controlled drifting, that is. One wrong move and you'll put the Porsche into a snowbank, as we did later in the drill.
The key is to “keep your foot in it,” our instructor yells over the in-car walkie-talkie. Overcome early fears of ending up in deep snow and the Taycan 4S moves sideways along the ice sheet gracefully. Our wheel speed reads off 150 kilometres per hour (approximately 93 miles per hour), though we're almost entirely sideways, moving laterally at a much slower pace. The Taycan's instant torque moves the car parallel around the circuit in a damn-near perfect icy drift, something we found more difficult in a petrol-powered car like the Kia Stinger GT, for example.
It takes multiple laps to perfect – or at least, somewhat perfect – an icy drift. But once mastered, the Taycan 4S provides a sensation few other cars can. Specifically cars with petrol-powered engines under the bonnet. Instant torque, impressive body control, and perfect steering make the Taycan 4S the perfect vehicle for waltzing in a winter wonderland.