- Facelifted Panamera now rocks improved hybrids
- Bigger battery pack means more electric range
- Clever tech improves the experience, too
A hybrid Porsche Panamera has been a feature of the luxury model’s range for a long time now – culminating in the superpowered (and slightly overkill) Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid.
Nowadays, though, you’ve three flavours of hybrid Panamera to choose from – Turbo S E-Hybrid, 4 E-Hybrid and a new mid-range variant, the 4S E-Hybrid. The three models introduce Porsche’s latest generation of hybrid tech alongside it. The result is a more appealing attempt at a hybrid super-saloon than before, with less pretence and more ability.
We’ve driven the mid-range 4S and explosive Turbo S E-Hybrid variants here.
Best hybrid cars and PHEVs
Give us the numbers…
The Panamera’s update in 2021 included some powertrain tweaks.
With the 4S E-Hybrid, it pairs Porsche’s 2.9-litre 434bhp twin-turbo V6 with a 134bhp electric motor. Total system output is a ‘mere’ 552bhp and 553lb ft. Performance figures are as ferocious as you might expect, with 185mph possible given a long enough autobahn and 0-62mph dealt with in 3.7 seconds.
As for the Turbo S E-Hybrid, there’s a 563bhp 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 (from the family of V8s that Audi and Lamborghini also use) paired with the same 134bhp e-motor. Total power here is a ballistic 690bhp, making it one of Porsche’s most powerful cars on sale. Bafflingly, this executive four-door is also more powerful than Audi’s R8, McLaren’s new Artura and Lamborghini’s Huracan STO. Performance specs include a 3.2-sec 0-62mph time and a top speed of 196mph.
The other number of interest across the hybrid variants is the battery capacity – it’s grown from 14.1kWh to 17.9kWh, extending the 4S E-Hybrid’s all-electric range to a WLTP-certified 33 miles and the Turbo S E-Hybrid’s to a claimed 31. And those numbers are legit – during our time with the Turbo S flagship, we saw a total of 30 miles of e-range used on one trip.
Is it any good as a hybrid, though?
On its own, the electric motor has plenty of shove for short journeys. It won’t pull off any Tesla trickery at the traffic lights, as putting your foot down far enough to elicit acceleration inevitably causes the petrol engine to join in, but drive gently and you’ll enjoy smooth, silent driving that’s rapid enough. It’s not just for quick schleps to the shops either, as it’ll keep going up past 80mph on electric power alone.
Longer journeys are where Porsche’s deployed some clever thinking. A typical plug-in hybrid will start up on electric power, and exhaust it completely before automatically moving on to petrol. The Panamera E-Hybrids keep it back for use in towns – set a route on the nav, and it’ll figure out where to best use those kilowatts for maximum effect.
The effect is quite seamless, cutting the engine out as soon as we hit city limits and firing it back up once we were out of them. It’s conceivable this could be of use once electric-only clean air zones are introduced into cities, but for now at least it’s very relaxing and well-integrated. This is a hybrid you can leave to its own devices, and it won’t need nannying to return the best figures.
When the battery is depleted, though, things can get a little jerky. Push the pedal and there’s a very short surge of e-power to get your rolling but the Panamera’s software then quickly realises there’s not enough juice to keep going, so the engine and gearbox belatedly kick in – adding an unwelcome (if gentle) lurch at low speeds.
The WLTP maximum economy of 128.4mpg for the 4S E-Hybrid is meaningless to most and will depend entirely on your journey type. However, the 51g/km CO2 figure at least ensures low rates of company car tax.
What about when the engine kicks in?
Performance befits a Porsche – both the 4S and Turbo S E-Hybrids are absurdly fast, with the added boost of the electric motor contributing to what feels like limitless torque wherever you are in the rev range and filling in the gaps while the eight-speed auto changes gear.
Naturally, the Turbo S E-Hybrid is the power broker here; having so much power available is a feast for the senses with instant reactions to your throttle inputs and what feels like a never-ending surge of shove no matter what speed you’re doing. The V8 also sounds fantastic when coupled with the sports exhaust system, burbling at low speeds and howling at higher ones – it’s scintillating, even if it seems rather unbecoming of a hybrid. Put your foot down with the V6 4S and the engine note is more muted than the Turbo’s V8 roar, though that pays dividends for refinement, which is excellent even when burning petrol.
Overall comfort is as much a strong point as ever – it’s all too easy to put the suspension into its softest setting, lay back in the comfortable and supportive seats and revel in the near-perfect driving position and just cruise around. The biggest trade-off is the wheel and tyre combo; while the air suspension’s performance as a pothole destroyer is remarkable, our test car’s massive wheels and Pilot Sport 4S tyres introduced jolts at low speeds and remarkably high tyre noise for something that’s designed to be an executive express.
But thanks to four-wheel drive and Porsche’ usual spectacular traction, it’s not at all intimidating to drive quickly. You can’t ignore the fact the Panamera is a long and wide car, and the added weight of the hybrid system (200kg or so heavier than the flagship Turbo S) makes itself known in the corners; the E-Hybrid models regardless of power output give up some delicacy and requires you to lean more on the numerous electronic aids.
Anything else I should know?
Regardless of what Panamera shape you go for (there’s the regular one and the estate-like Sport Turismo model), you’ll have something that’s supremely well-built inside with good-if-not-great rear legroom and a large boot area.
The driving position is fantastic, allowing you to sit slammed to the floor with a classic analogue rev counter flanked by two screens ahead of you. The centre console’s haptic touch panel can take a little while to get used to, as there are so many settings to play with, mind you.
Porsche Panamera hybrid: verdict
While its performance is utterly addictive, the Turbo S E-Hybrid model feels a little isolated when you compare it to the 4S E-Hybrid. While you’ll miss the evocative V8 rumble when the Turbo S E-Hybrid’s engine is engaged, the lesser-powered model is around £40k less expensive (before you add any options, of course) for a minimal power and performance and power deficit.
The 4S E-Hybrid, then, occupies a slightly more pragmatic position underneath it. No longer expected to offer the epitome of driver involvement, it’s developed into a really convincing hybrid limo for those who want to keep one eye on the environment but maybe don’t want to fully convert to a battery electric car. Accomplished, genuinely clever, very comfortable and still enjoyable, the Panamera 4S E-Hybrid could prove to be just what many are looking for.
Specs are for a Panamera 4S E-Hybrid