► Panamera has hybrid tech from 918
► V6 bi-turbo + electric motor = 456bhp
► 0-62mph in 4.6sec, 30-mile EV range
Once upon a time, the Porsche Panamera was the mighty answer to a question that few people raised. But thanks to careful development of the second-generation Pan-am, and a comprehensive extension of the model range, there’s now a version for just about anyone – assuming they want a 170mph-plus coupe-style saloon.
The Panamera range is well served with V6-engined models, with petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid options to choose from.
The 4 E-Hybrid tested here gains a 135bhp electric motor, shared with the 918 Spyder, which on a full change (that takes 5.8 hours on mains electric) is claimed to provide up to 30 miles on battery alone. It’ll also do 87mph in whispering EV mode – presumably for far fewer than 30 miles.
Porsche claims it has overcome PHEV range anxiety, though. The 4 E-Hybrid comes with two modes which will alleviate the need to plug in: the E-Hold setting maintains the charge roughly at a constant level, and E-Charge uses the V6 engine to recharge the battery. Guess what that does to the fuel consumption...
Just how clever is the new Panamera 4 E-Hybrid?
Well, it’s at the cutting edge of PHEV technology right now. And it’s a good platform to be based on – as we’ve detailed extensively before, the second-generation Panamera makes great use of VW Group’s adaptable MSB chassis.
From a driver’s perspective, the electric motor integrates beautifully with the V6 internal combustion engine. There’s no step in torque as the electric motor wakes up – as before, where it only kicked in when there was more than 80% throttle – just what Porsche engineers describe as waves of creamy-smooth power, and a side order of fun.
Let’s get the claimed figure of 94mpg out of the way first. Yes, it’ll do that on the official lab test, but in the real world, where you’re less likely to keep it fully charged, expect something in the low 30s – if you’re being gentle. As to how much fun it is, we’ve driven the E-Hybrid on some very challenging roads in South Africa.
Hybrids just want to have fun. Can they?
Yes and no. The official figures only tell part of the story of the Porsche Panamera 4 E-Hybrid's outright performance. Its bi-turbo V6 is potent enough in isolation, but when combined with that 140bhp electric motor driving the rear wheels, it’s quick enough to keep the brilliant 4S Diesel in sight.
Its claimed 0-62mph time of 4.6 seconds is rapid enough to be interesting, even if the method of its delivery lacks outright drama. You just mash the throttle and go. If you must, you can blame the four-wheel drive system managed by Porsche’s 4D Active system for how unruffled it is. On quick getaways, this quells wheelspin and any sign of unruliness, and just gets on with the job. But it does so much more, as we’ll find out in our 4 E-Hybrid review...
Quick driving is made so much easier by its eight-speed dual-clutch PDK. It’s the transmission set-up used in conventionally powered Panamera models. And it’s exceptionally good here, too, changing gear smartly – missing ratios if it’s the most efficient course of action. We rather like that.
Come on, is the hybrid as good to drive as a ‘normal’ Panamera?
In a word, yes. All the best bits of the standard car have been maintained, despite being packed with so much planet-saving tech. The handling and ride are as sublime as ever, and here is a car with incisive handling, pliant damping, and all the communication through the wheel and pedals you could ask for.
And given this is effectively a two-tonne supercomputer on wheels, that’s as much as you could ever hope for. Porsche’s 4D Active system incorporates very clever traction management, which spoon-feeds all four wheels with just the right amount of torque to quell any trace of understeer or oversteer. It’s less dull than it sounds, distilling any corner into a place where you can play, while marvelling at what it can do at insane speeds.
Before you get too carried away, it’s not perfect. The hybrid system clonks and whines in traffic, and the braking system is noisy in town. You’ll never be allowed to forget just how big this car is. It feels – and is – wide, and at five metres long, it’ll take up a lot of road if you’re really cracking on.
But on the motorway, the Pan-am's natural stamping ground, it’s comfortable, settled, and absolutely magnificent. As for B-roads – yes, it’s fun, but give yourself space, and learn to turn it in smoothly, and shift its enormous bulk around with finesse.
Counting the details
To let the world know you’re a tree-hugging (tax-efficient) kind of car owner, the Porsche Panamera 4 E-Hybrid has plenty of green details. There are special green badges and eye-searing green brake calipers. Inside, it’s business as usual, with exquisitely-designed (and crafted) seats and steering wheel fighting for attention with the trio of screens.
A big improvement inside is the 12.3-inch touchscreen in the centre of the dash, and that’s complemented by a pair of seven-inchers in the instrument pack. They’re easily navigated using the steering wheel scrollers, which is just as well. We won’t detail all their functions – life’s too short – but you’ll never get bored of playing with the menus, and analysing the data this car throws up, especially when it comes to that hybrid set-up.
But don’t let any of that take it away from the 4 E-Hybrid – it’s a very special place to spend time in.
Aside from having the ability to bring out your inner geek – thanks to the Porsche Advanced Cockpit’s endless information stream – this is a fabulous car. It is fun to drive, just as Porsche promised, and it is blessed with all the dynamics of its conventionally-powered brothers, as well as a goodly amount of silken punch.
It's big inside, wonderfully crafted, and now the controls have been tidied up, easy to navigate around. The boot isn’t very big if you’re cruel enough to compare it with a Mercedes-Benz S-class or Audi A8, but at least the hybrid drivetrain doesn’t rob it of any more room.
But here’s the thing – it is a bit too clever for its own good, a Porsche for the head, and not the heart. And if you want a fiscally-effective version, it’s hard not to ignore that elephant in the room, the brilliant 4S Diesel. But with the 4 E-Hybrid, you get the added appeal of silent running in town, and potentially good (urban) fuel consumption, assuming you can keep it charged up. It’s a good choice, but then, so are many other Panameras.
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