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There's nothing quite like the buzz and intrigue when road testing a car that's yet to be officially unveiled, never mind hit the road or appear in showrooms.
Especially if the lightening-fast car you are driving under-cover is the very same one that will be revealed live to the world, priced at £140,000, at the beginning of March in a global online launch from Germany.
So what better way to put a pre-production and lightly disguised version of the sizzling new all-electric Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo through its paces than to allow a select few motoring journalists to tag-team on a 2,000 mile - and completely Covid-compliant - intercontinental road trip taking in legs across deserts in the USA, snow, ice and autobahns of Continental Europe and, for my UK leg, the leafy lanes of Surrey. © Provided by This Is MoneyA behind-the-scenes Turismo: This undercover Porsche is the new electric Taycan Cross Turismo that's not due to be unveiled until next month. But we've already had a go in the zero-emissions off-road estate car
'While the car is nominally disguised, it's a thin disguise, and you'd be allowed to drive it, stick a dog in the boot, whatever!', said the invitation from Porsche.
The location of the test drive couldn't be any more different to the dark and menacing look of the test mule; an out-of-season visit and photoshoot at an otherwise deserted funfair at Chessington World of Adventure.
The new Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo shape is essentially a more rufty-tufty shooting brake, fastback or estate version of the highly successful Taycan saloon - or a blend of all three - aimed at owners who lead an active or sporty lifestyle.
The new derivative offers greater load space and flexibility, a larger battery, and all-wheel drive as standard, to appeal to more adventurous spirits with active lifestyles beyond the car itself. It will accommodate 4 people in individual sets or 5 with a rear bench.
Although length and width are broadly the same as the saloon, the Cross Turismo sits higher.
The Cross Turismo line-up mirrors that of the existing saloon version, with four models: the standard Taycan 4 Cross Turismo from around £75,000; the 4S Cross Trismo from about £85,000, the Turbo Cross Turismo from £120,000, and the top of the range Taycan Turbo S Cross Turismo which I was driving in pre-production mode from £140,000.
Our first drive included an out-of-season visit and photoshoot at an otherwise deserted funfair at Chessington World of Adventure © Provided by This Is Money
Car chiefs at Porsche HQ shipped this particular car from the German car-firm's research and development facility in Weissach, near Stuttgart, to the United States where it was driven down the West Coast and across the Californian desert where it picked up a fair bit of dust and dirt (more of which later), most of it still visible on the paintwork and beyond.
This was a working car and the muck was a badge of honour.
From California it was shipped to the snowy Norway - one of the most electric-car-friendly nations on the planet - and thence to the UK via the port of Grimsby and down to me on the Surrey fringe of London.
Here, the air con system was given a through clean-out and the car itself 'sanitised' to be Covid- compliant.
And I was off. I've driven the Taycan saloon extensively in the US and the UK so I know what a marvellously engaging and responsive electric supercar this is. The Cross Turismo makes it a bit more practical, though the black roof rails and larger panoramic fixed glass roof fitted to the car I was driving are both optional, so will bump up the final price.
If you're active on a bicycle or the snow-bound slopes, it features new rear-mounted bike carrier and ski carrier options.
Powered by a mighty 761 horse-power electric motor the new Taycan Cross Turismo accelerates from rest to 62 mph in just three seconds, and hits the 100mph in 6.5 seconds, up to a top speed of 160 mph.
Powered by a mighty 761 horse-power electric motor the new Taycan Cross Turismo accelerates from rest to 62 mph in just three seconds, and hits the 100mph in 6.5 seconds, up to a top speed of 160 mph © Provided by This Is Money
Propulsion is from two electric motors - one per axle - with a two speed gear-box on the rear axle.
In addition to the standard driving modes on the Taycan saloon - Range, Normal, Sport and Sport Plus - the Cross Turismo also has a Gravel mode for mild off-roading.
Gallery: The 10 best superminis to buy in 2021 (Motoring Research)
This comes as part of a new off-road package which gives the Turismo an extra 10mm of suspension height. This is on top of the 20mm of extra height and ground clearance the Cross Turismo gains over the Taycan saloon, giving a potential extra 30mm of added ride height.
There's also an extra 36mm headroom for rear passengers, a new hatchback tail-gate with power opening and enough room for luggage or a dog. There's up to 1,200 litres of luggage space in the rear - plus a removable load cover - plus an additional 84 litres in the front trunk or 'frunk'.
Air suspension is standard and there's a front nose lift facility to navigate bumps.
The 93.4 kWh Performance Battery Plus is standard on the Turbo S and Turbo and models with the 4S models and below expected to have a 79.2 kWh battery as standard with the larger size as an option © Provided by This Is Money
In a nod to its more rugged credentials, the Taycan's usual Sport Chrono clock that sits on top of the dashboard is replaced by a compass - which may prove helpful should you get lost in the outback, the badlands of the Home Counties, or the wilds of beautiful Northumbria.
Porsche Taycan Turbo S Cross Turismo: Will it fit in my garage?
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Price of model driven: £140,000 (est.)
Price of range: from £75,000
Official world premiere: 4 March 2021
On sale: from 4 March 2021
First delivery: Summer 2021
Length: 4,965 mm
Width (with mirrors): 2,145 mm
Height: 1,400 mm
Unladen weight: 2,300kg
Seats: 4 individual seats, or 5 with a rear bench
Propulsion: Two electric motors - one per axle - with a two-speed gear-box on rear.
Battery: 93.4kWh Performance Battery Plus
Power: 761 horse-power (PS)*
0-62 mph: 3.0 seconds*
0-100 mph: 6.5 seconds*
Top Speed: 160 mph*
Driving modes: Range, Normal, Sport, Sport Plus and Gravel
Range: 242 to 258 miles*
Charging time: 22.5 minutes to 80% on a fast charger
Rear luggage space: 1,200 litres
Front trunk or 'frunk': 84 litres
*Estimated subject to confirmation
A Turbo S model would normally have 21inch wheels as standard.
But as the one I was driving was on winter tyres, this meant it was riding on 20 inch wheels.
There are also new alloy wheel styles including Cross Turismo Design, on the car I drove.
The 93.4 kWh Performance Battery Plus is standard on the Turbo S and Turbo and models with the 4S models and below expected to have a 79.2 kWh battery as standard with the larger size as an option.
Range, like performance figures, is yet to be confirmed but is expected to average around 242 to 258 miles, mirroring that of the equivalent Taycan Turbo S saloon. Charging to 80 per cent takes 22.5 minutes on a fast charger.
The Cross Turismo's silhouette shows the shooting-brake styling cues taken from the concept Mission E Cross Turismo on which it is based.
As befits an adventure, and thanks to its owners, I made a scheduled pit-stop at nearby Chessington World of Adventure - closed for the duration because of lockdown - which was putting its new Croc Drop ride through its paces ahead of reopening when control of the virus allows.
And this is where I had a little adventure of my own.
Out on the road all was going well initially.
It's a very engaging and exhilarating clean, mean machine, with plenty of poke. The Cross Turismo styling makes it look more casual but also more practical.
But at low speed around town I sensed a mild and almost imperceptible vibration. Putting it down to road surface, I pressed on.
It wasn't until I put my foot down hard when entering a 70mph three lane carriageway that the vibration became intrusive. Playing around with the speed - and feeling like a test pilot in the vintage British black and white movie 'The Sound Barrier' - I determined the rumble was manageable up to 30, intrusive at 60 and really rocking and rolling at 70mph.
After one of my test bursts, a warning light flashed up on the dashboard, pinpointing a problem with the rear near-side wheel. A quick stop for a visual inspection showed the tyres looked fine so there was no puncture, slow or otherwise. But time to phone in and report, nevertheless, and head for home in a more sedate manner.
But the Porsche back-up team of masked technicians said they suspected a build-up of mud and grit inside the errant wheel from as far back as California may have imbalanced it.
Not such good vibrations from the Californian beach boys, then. But it was a pre-production car and NOT cleaning it was part of the fun.
After our drive, and post clean-up, the car was off to London before being shipped to the Netherlands and driven through Holland back to Germany ready for the official world premiere © Provided by This Is Money
Porsche told me afterwards: 'We did manage to get to the bottom of the wheels thanks to your feedback. 'It turns out the mud was far more persistent than we thought, the attached photograph is what we managed to remove from just one wheel when we stopped to charge. No wonder there was a vibration.'
After my drive, and post clean-up, the car was off to London before being shipped to the Netherlands and driven through Holland back to Germany ready for the official world premiere.
Of the 2,000 or so miles it covered, 491 miles were logged in the UK, one of Porsche's key markets. More than 20,000 Taycan saloons were sold worldwide last year including 3,000 in Britain making it the UK's second-best selling Porsche.
So far the 4S is the most popular saloon, accounting for two-thirds of sales, followed by the Turbo and Turbo S. A new rear-wheel drive version of the saloon was launched in January however the Cross Turismo is expected to remain 4-wheel drive only.
Next time you'll see the very car I drove is when the covers come off it at the world premiere on 4 March.
So far the 4S is the most popular saloon, accounting for two-thirds of sales, followed by the Turbo and Turbo S - both of which don't have a turbo, of course © Provided by This Is Money