Review: 2014 Porsche Panamera S e-Hybrid
Can a $113,000 hybrid EV become new status symbol at the country club or track?
Plug-in Porsche is all about performance
Fifty miles to the gallon in a full-size Porsche? Yes, I did it.
Of course, it?s not just any Porsche, but the Panamera S e-Hybrid. And I guarantee people will give you a strange look when you plug your supercharged car into the wall ? not to mention having your ?Green Vehicle? license plate framed by four massive exhaust pipes.
Porsche introduced the Panamera S Hybrid for 2013 but it?s now become a plug-in hybrid (PHEV). The hybrid operation is the same as before, running on gasoline, electricity, or a combination of the two, but after the battery is charged via a wall socket, the new e-Hybrid also runs on that stored power.
That?s not just low-speed puttering about, either; you can toss it on a track at up to 135 km/h on battery only. Aggressive driving cuts down on the range, of course, but it?ll do about 18 to 36 km on battery-only in regular driving.
Other PHEVs are much lower-priced than the Panamera, including the Toyota Prius Plug-In or Ford C-Max Energi, where the fuel-free driving is touted as saving money at the pumps.
It?s a little harder to imagine Panamera drivers worrying about a few extra dollars, given that the e-Hybrid starts at $113,300. Instead, this being a Porsche, performance is paramount.
The e-Hybrid?s electric motor and battery are more powerful than those in the S Hybrid it replaces. The gasoline engine is a supercharged 3.0-L V6 that, on its own, creates 333 horsepower and 325 lb.-ft. of torque. But when gas and electricity work together, it jumps to 416 horses and 435 lb.-ft. That twisting power kicks in at just 1,250 r.p.m. and holds in right to 4,000 r.p.m.
In layman?s terms, it goes like a bat out of hell.
Now, when the S e-Hybrid was introduced, I couldn?t figure it out. What was the point of turning a very expensive, sports-oriented four-seater into a plug-in EV? And, if I can use the word for such advanced technology, a conventional PHEV at that?
(Porsche?s PHEV system is unique in this segment, at least for now. BMW has its i8 plug-in sports car, but its battery-driven front wheels and gas-powered rear ones are nothing like Porsche?s configuration. The other alternatives in this luxury/sports category are also different: Tesla is all-electric, while the Cadillac ELR uses its gasoline engine to generate more electricity, not to power the wheels.)
But after driving one, I came to appreciate the e-Hybrid as the best of both worlds.
It takes 2.5 hours to recharge at 240 volts or 9 hours at 110 volts. You can program it to charge at a specific time, or to pre-heat or pre-cool the cabin using auxiliary electric systems that work off the wall socket, instead of eating up battery power.
Depending on my driving, I got 18 to 24 kilometres on electricity alone. The stuff?s intoxicating: it was actually disappointing each time the charge ran out and the gas engine kicked in.
You can accelerate fairly hard and it stays on hydro, but if you sharply put pedal to metal, the gas engine kicks in for combined maximum punch.
Once that stored charge is gone, the car works as a regular hybrid, switching seamlessly and automatically from gasoline to electricity when appropriate. The gas engine does more of the work when the car?s in Sport mode, where the electric motor tends to be more of a power booster.
As with other hybrids, the battery recharges not just through the wall outlet, but via regenerative braking. But it?s also got a neat E-Charge feature, using the gas engine for maximum recharging, especially on uninterrupted highway drives.
It will use a bit more fuel, but it gives you battery reserve once you?re back on city streets. After about 14 km on the highway, I?d accumulated enough power for about 7 km of battery-only.
The e-Hybrid uses an eight-speed automatic transmission. Several non-hybrid Porsche models include a start-stop function, which shuts off the gasoline engine at idle. But because the e-Hybrid starts up again with the electric motor, instead of a conventional starter as the others do, it?s ultra-smooth.
Who is the target audience? I can see this resonating with people who appreciate the technology of alternative powertrains, but who also want a Porsche. Drive it to the office silently and fuel-free on battery power, take it anywhere without worrying about range, while still knowing you could chew up a track with it.
Once this becomes the new bragging-rights vehicle at the country club, we should see more performance/luxury manufacturers adding cords to their cars.
The new status isn?t going to be just how fast you can go, but how little fuel it?ll take you to do it.
2014 Porsche Panamera S e-Hybrid
Price: $113,300 base, $126,635 as tested
Engine: 3.0-L supercharged V6 with electric motor
Power/torque: 333 hp/325 lb.-ft. (gas only), 416/435 (gas-electric combined)
Fuel consumption L/100 km: 10.4 city, 8.0 hwy (gas only); 1.4 (gas/electric combined); 5.6 (as-tested combined)
Competition: Nothing else is exactly the same.
What?s best: Seamless operation, fuel-free driving.
What?s worst: The brakes are grabby.
What?s interesting: The calipers and gauge needles are hybrid-specific ?Acid Green?.
The Toronto Star for Wheels.ca