Review: 2018 Porsche Panamera E-Hybrid
Green and Mean
THE PROS & CONS
- What’s Best: Impressive cabin, rock-solid stability, mega speed without a mega fuel penalty.
- What’s Worst: Heavy
- What’s interesting: The Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid comes standard with 10-piston brake calipers clamping 16-inch carbon ceramic rotors.
Sit in the supportive sport seats and twist the pseudo key fob on any Porsche Panamera E-Hybrid and there’s absolute silence.
One old-fashioned physical gauge remains—smack dab in the centre—dedicated to displaying engine revolutions per minute, and nothing else. Perhaps as a vestige to an era quickly fading away, a simpler time when everything was more analog. More raw.
The rpm gauge is flanked by two customizable super high-res, seven-inch screens that display everything from your speed, to navigation instructions, to system settings, and power distribution, while the main 12.3-inch central screen controls most of the car’s functions.
It is a brilliant place to spend time in, with impeccable build quality and perfectly stitched leather tightly stretched over virtually every touchable surface. Details, like real carbon-fibre, and real metal fit precisely together. There is a solidity to everything that gives the impression of something long-lasting, which is nice considering our dispose-of-everything society.
Now, back to that silence. A Panamera is car that can shout about a bit, making pleasant noises that can stimulate the senses. But this Panamera is not shouty at all. It doesn’t make a sound. And even after you pop it into drive and whoosh away, it will continue its silent march all the way up to 140 km/h.
Actually, this lack of noise is all just a sign of the times and indicative of the direction modern automobiles are heading. The Panamera E-hybrid is Porsche’s new plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) that is part electric car, part gasoline car, and part ‘bahn-storming’ luxury sports sedan.
The PHEV category continues to grow as more and more manufacturers add these partially electrified cars to their lineup, enticing customers to try electric power without the range anxiety associated with full-time electric cars.
Because the Panamera is a Porsche there is a level of performance and driving enjoyment that’s expected. Most PHEVs on the market quash any thoughts of spirited driving with their lifeless steering and dimwitted responses. They promote gradual acceleration and lack any meaningful connection with the driver, making them seem more like an appliance rather than something that is appealing to own.
It’s safe to say that my expectation of a sporty drive was more than met with this new plug-in Porsche.
But first a little on the new E-hybrid: it is the third variant in the Panamera lineup, which consists of the regular Panamera, the Panamera Turbo, and all of their sub-variants. An electric motor sandwiched between the combustion engine and transmission produces 136 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. Electrons are supplied by a 14 kWh liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery pack that resides under the floor of the cargo area. With a fully charged battery an electric range of 50 km is possible at speeds of up to 140 km/h.
Once the batteries are depleted, the gasoline engine will automatically take over and supply the necessary motive force.
Every E-Hybrid model comes with AWD and is available in the regular or Sport Turismo body style, the latter of which I am partial to.
Where the differences occur is with the gasoline engines, of which there are two: The Panemara 4 E-Hybrid couples a 2.9 litre twin-turbo V6 making 330 hp and 331 lb-ft of torque; the Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid ups the ante with a 4-litre twin turbo V8 with 550 hp and 567 lb-ft of torque. Both engines feed power to the ground through Porsche’s new PDK (Porsche-Doppelkupplungsgetriebe) 8-speed dual clutch automatic transmission.
The combined power rating on the Panamera 4 E-Hybrid is 462 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque and the Turbo has, wait for it, 680 hp and an earth-rotating 626 lb-ft of torque. Neither of these models have anything resembling turbo lag as the electric motors fill in the gaps during turbo spool up, making for unrelenting acceleration every single time the throttle pedal is pushed towards the carpet.
I was lucky enough to experience both of these cars on a long drive that started in Montreal, meandering its way around the North Eastern Seaboard of the US and then back to Toronto.
Spending most of our time on interstates, trying to make the next destination on schedule, left us little time to explore how the car would behave on tarmac with twists and turns. We took the opportunity instead to sample the handling on the myriad of on and off-ramps along the route, and it’s here where you discover how buttoned down and focused the Panamera really is, if only for a brief moment.
These are not light cars. The Turbo S E-Hybrid weighs in at a porky 2310 kilograms that you can feel at low speeds, but bury the throttle and the gasoline engine snarls to life bringing an extra 550 hp to play. Suddenly all that weight doesn’t seem like much as this two and a half ton vehicle rockets down the road like a crazed jackrabbit.
If you mash the throttle from a standing start, you’ll be doing the Ontario highway speed limit in 3.4 seconds. But 100 km/h for this car is barely scratching the surface. The acceleration is constant and un-ending all the way up to a put-me-in-jail 310 km/h. The 4 E Hybrid Panamera with its 6 cylinder is no slouch either able to do the 0-100 km/h dash in a very respectable 4.6 seconds.
Pulling over for a brief pit stop I notice that this car has Ontario’s Green license plates adorning its bumpers, and I can’t help but chuckle a bit. I bet you if the MTO drove one they would strip those plates right off.
Ok, so full-throttle acceleration is not the only thing that the E-Hybrid does well. If you’re just using this car to commute back and forth from the office (face it, that’s what most customers will do anyway) you might never know it has all that crazy speed.
Borrowing drivetrain technology from the 918 Spyder hypercar, the Panamera E-Hybrid always starts up in E-Power mode. As mentioned earlier this mode will favour battery power provided there is enough charge left in them. If more power is needed the gasoline engine will automatically cut in and provide it.
Hybrid Auto mode intelligently blends gasoline and electric together for the utmost in efficiency. E–Charge will charge the batteries as you drive along using the gasoline engine, and E-Hold will preserve the current battery level for use at a later time.
Familiar to other Panamera owners are Sport and Sport plus modes that call up max power and the stiffest chassis settings making this car a blast to hustle quickly.
It’s no 911, but then you don’t expect it to be and if you want 911 agility, then a 911 is the best choice for that job.
The best part of Sport Plus mode is its ability to rapidly charge the batteries while you zip down the freeway. In about a half hour we went from a nearly depleted battery to one that was fully charged. Switching between E-power, Hybrid, and Sport modes is easily done using a small knurled rubber dial on the steering wheel.
Also playing a role and worth mentioning are the gigantic 16.5 inch 10-piston Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes (standard on Turbo E-Hybrid) that haul the car down from illegal speeds in the blink of an eye while feeding large amounts of recovered heat energy back into the battery pack. The pedal can feel slightly wooden but it is a small price to pay for all that stopping power.
Painted in a bright acid green, the brakes on this car took up way too much of my attention as I gawked at them any chance I could get.
Entering the downtown core of Philadelphia, I switched out of Sport Plus and back into E-Power. The sonorous V8 growl fades away as the electric motor whisks us through the crowded rush hour streets to our stop for the night.
The silence is back and this time I welcome it, especially after that long drive.
Covering just over 500 km mostly in Sport plus, with the fuel consumption gauge showing 10.5 L/100 km and a quarter tank of gas still left, I can’t help but come away impressed with this car.
I have a heavy foot and in most plug-in hybrids I find myself having to really concentrate to get the most efficiency out of the system. But with the Panamera E-Hybrid, I didn’t concentrate on efficient driving. I just got in and drove, effortlessly obliterating mile after mile of interstate using much less gasoline than I should have. And that right there is a beautiful thing.
Photos © Kunal D’souza
2018 Porsche Panamera 4 E-Hybrid Sport Turismo and Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid
BODY STYLE: 4-5 Passenger Large Premium Sports Sedan
DRIVE METHOD: Front-engine + Electric Motor, All-Wheel Drive
ENGINE: 2.9 L twin-turbocharged V6 (Power: 330 hp @ 5250-6500 rpm; Torque: 331 lb-ft @ 1750-5000 rpm)/ 4.0 L twin-turbocharged V8 (Power: 550 hp @ 5750-6000 rpm; Torque: 567 lb-ft @ 1960-4500 rpm) + Electric Motor (Power: 136 hp; Torque: 295 lb-ft)
COMBINED POWER: 4 E-Hybrid (462 hp and 516 lb-ft) Turbo S E-Hybrid (680 hp and 626 lb-ft)
TRANSMISSION: 8-speed dual-clutch automatic
CARGO CAPACITY: 405 litres/Sport Turismo (425 litres, 1295 litres with rear seats folded)
FUEL ECONOMY: (Premium Gasoline) 4 E-Hybrid (5.1 Le/100 km) Turbo S E-Hybrid (4.9 Le/100 km)
OBSERVED FUEL ECONOMY: 10.5 L/100 km
PRICE: $113,400 (Panamera 4 E-Hybrid); $118,600 (Panamera 4 E-Hybrid Sport Turismo) $209,800 (Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid)
AS TESTED: $151,520 (Panamera 4 E-Hybrid Sport Turismo); $231,690 (Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid)
WEBSITE: Porsche Panamera E-Hybrid
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