► Facelifted Panamera now rocks an improved hybrid variant
► Bigger battery pack means more electric range
► Clever tech improves the experience, too
While the Porsche Panamera range was formerly topped off by a flagship hybrid model – the Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid, to give it its full (and awkward) name – things have switched around for the 2020 facelift.
Now, the upper echelons are occupied by a new Turbo S model with no hybrid trickery whatsoever, leaving a gap just underneath it for this model – the new Panamera 4S E-Hybrid. It splits the difference between the previous range-topper and its lower-powered sibling, the Panamera E-Hybrid, but introduces Porsche’s latest generation of hybrid tech alongside it. The result? A more appealing attempt at a hybrid super-saloon than before, with less pretence and more ability.
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Give us the numbers…
The previous Turbo S E-Hybrid boasted a ballistic 671bhp, but this model’s rather more toned down than that. Instead it pairs Porsche’s 2.9-litre 434bhp twin-turbocharged 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.
The other number of interest 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. That may not sound like much of an increase over the Turbo S E-Hybrid’s 31 miles, but that was under more forgiving NEDC tests.
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. The claimed 33 miles might be pushing it, but certainly you’ll be able to complete a 20 mile commute without ever troubling the petrol engine should you want to.
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 4S E-Hybrid keeps 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 and worked beautifully on our test route, 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.
Speaking of figures, the WLTP maximum economy of 128.4mpg 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 – it’s very quick indeed, with the added boost of the electric motor contributing to what feels like limitless torque wherever you are in the rev range.
Put your foot down and the engine note is more muted than the old car’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.
But thanks to four-wheel drive and Porsche’ usual spectacular traction, it’s not at all intimidating to drive quickly, though the added weight of the hybrid system (200kg or so heavier than the flagship Turbo S) makes itself known in the corners, where the 4S E-Hybrid gives up some delicacy and requires you to lean more on the numerous electronic aids.
Now that the top of the Panamera range is occupied by a good old-fashioned petrol once again, the 4S E-Hybrid can occupy 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 electric mobility a la Porsche Taycan.
We’d find it difficult to discount the Taycan at all, but there’s no denying that it’s easier to live with a plug-in hybrid at the present moment if you undertake many long journeys or don’t enjoy off-street parking wherever you go.
At just over £100,000 it’s also a fairly natural stepping stone above the likes of the Mercedes E 300 e or BMW 745e, for those who are accustomed to plugging in but want something less traditional still. Accomplished, genuinely clever, very comfortable and still enjoyable, the Panamera 4S E-Hybrid could prove to be just what many are looking for.