When I did a windswept, storm-wracked drive around Scotland’s rugged North Coast 500 in a Porsche Boxster T last January, I finished with the casual suggestion that the next time was likely to be in an EV. Which was the original plan here: to retrace steps in a Taycan 4S as an adventurous celebration of its five-star deification.
Then two things happened. The first was a realisation of just how busy the NC500 was likely to be a couple of weeks after Scotland’s stay-at-home restrictions eased, a point reinforced by a total lack of bookable accommodation when I investigated logistics. The second was the discovery of the North East 250, which takes in the eastern Grampians and much of rural Aberdeenshire. Yes, it’s a derivative idea – see also the South West Coastal 300 in Galloway – doubtless inspired in large part by the tourist-drawing success of the NC500. But the map confirmed it would offer both great roads and stunning scenery, plus the adventure-adding challenge of a limited charging infrastructure.
I reach the generally agreed NE250 start point, on the A93 at the Spittal of Glenshee, as a Taycan virgin: this is the first time I’ve experienced Porsche’s much-lauded EV. Photographer Max Edleston and I have a Taycan 4S, one up from the bottom of the range, but what must have been a wrist-spraining options workout has lifted its price from a basic £83,580 to a considerably more serious £97,908. In addition to some of the usual ‘Porsche tax’ jewellery – painting the badge to match the bodywork has cost £168 and the electrically deployed charger port adds £443 – this has brought various dynamic enhancements. The significant ones are the Performance Battery Plus for £3906, rear axle steering for £1650 and 20in Taycan Turbo Aero wheels for £1524.
First impressions are that the exterior looks stunning but that the cabin doesn’t feel up to the seriousness of its options-adjusted price. The line between minimalist and basic is a fine one, and the 4S’s combination of glassy touchscreens and gloomy plastics are lacking in warmth and tactile joy. But there’s no time to dwell on this before the more important, and much more visceral, second impression overwrites it: that even the second-from-bottom Taycan is ludicrously fast.
It doesn’t take long for the realisation to arrive. There is little reason to stop at the Spittal of Glenshee itself. The blackened ruin of the village’s hotel, destroyed by fire in 2014, still sits behind security fencing and there is a distinct lack of other diversions at 8.30am on a Wednesday. Not that the A93 heading north needs any distractions, this being road-as-destination itself. It is one of Scotland’s finest bits of Tarmac: beautifully surfaced, well sighted and with corners that range from tight and technical to the type that old-school rally co-drivers would call from the pacenotes as ‘absolute’, many laid over significant crests and dips.
Eradicate such concerns and the Taycan moves beyond pretty much all criticism. Yes, it is expensive, but it is also as well engineered as any other Porsche and – even in 4S guise – quicker in the real world than any except its most exotic siblings. The cabin could be more exciting, the steering richer in low-intensity feel – and the £354 option of fake in-car engine noise triggered a gale of laughter before being turned off forever. But beyond the need to actually pay for it, this is the closest thing yet to an excuse-free EV.
North East 250: What you need to know
There are several slightly different routes published online, an inexactitude that suits the more laid-back nature of the North East 250. We went Spittal of Glenshee, Braemar, Balmoral, Cock Bridge, Tomintoul, Ballindalloch, Craigellachie, Fochabers, Spey Bay, Buckie, Cullen, Banff, Rosehearty, Fraserburgh, Peterhead, Cruden Bay, Newburgh, Aberdeen, Peterculter, Milton of Campfield, Ballater, Balmoral, Braemar and Spittal of Glenshee.
That should have totalled 259 miles, but with toing and froing for photos and investigating both sides of the River Dee on the way back, we ended up doing 389 miles, with the Taycan consuming 41.2kWh per 100 miles, according to its trip computer.
If we were doing it again, we’d probably cut out the northern coast from Spey Bay to Banff and take what’s probably a more interesting cross-country route. While the NE250 lacks the variety of scenery of the North Coast 500, it has a higher percentage of grade A driving roads and is likely to be far quieter.