Why can’t all hybrids be like this?
Words by: Adam Allen
There are no words for how much better this generation Panamera looks over its predecessors- exponentially so in Sport Turismo trim.
We try in earnest to avoid the first generation Panamera if only it didn’t drive so well. As many have pointed out, you didn’t have to look at its polarizing styling while you were seated behind the wheel. This time, Porsche has righted all the wrongs with the Panamera- it now looks much closer to the ‘911 sedan’ motif they were going for originally, and it is undeniably handsome. Our tester featured the new Sport Turismo body style which, to our eyes, makes the Panamera unexpectedly stunning. Call it a wagon, a shooting brake or a long roof, or just call it awesome. Seriously, stuff like this usually never make it across the Atlantic with overseas markets typically getting to horde all the good stuff. We should consider ourselves lucky.
It’s long name contains the word ‘hybrid’, but we’d guess this is no Prius…
Porsche’s 918 hypercar showed us what is possible when you utilize hybrid technology to accomplish not only efficiency targets but also to cut loose and have fun…OK, a mind bending amount of fun. While the 918 is the ultimate expression of this concept, the trickle down to all Porsche’s E-Hybrid models is the same, if not on the same weapons grade plane. Check out the numbers on the spec sheet- they read more like a dedicated sports car than a Patchouli redolent fuel sipper. The amazing thing is that our Panamera 4 tester isn’t the range topper of Panamera hybrid offerings- that distinction goes to the Turbo S version, which makes an almost incomprehensible combined 680 horsepower and 626 pounds feet of toque that give it enough muscle to allow it to reasonably hang with a 918 on a race track. These things are almost hilariously complex- leave it to the Germans to design a dizzying amount of technology to work harmoniously. In Hybrid Auto mode its brains decide when to use electrical power alone or a combination of that and the 2.9 litre turbo V6 as the situation may warrant. The Porsche E-Hybrid program shows enthusiasts that while this technology is guaranteed to be part of the future, it is a future to be embraced rather than feared. Again we ask: why can’t all hybrids be like this?
Like the exterior styling, the interior is a huge departure from before.
One thing remains a constant- build quality is beyond reproach. The old Panamera featured a console teeming with buttons, and it’s now been replaced by a haptic feedback touch panel that…teems with buttons, this time of the virtual variety. That said, it is a much better setup, and once you get used to everything the intimidation factor disappears, even becoming intuitive once you get the hang of things. Some may feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of information the E-Hybrid has available at your fingertips. Want to know where the power is being sent relative to each axle? Do you want to consult your Boost Assistant to see how much juice you’ve got to fill in the torque valleys of the engine? Perhaps you just want a good old fashioned voltmeter or even what radio station you’re currently tuned into? Yeah, the Panamera will tell you all that and more, and the sheer amount of stuff you can see going on with the car immensely pleased our inner car nerd. The cockpit conveys a general feeling of being austere, but the Anthracite Birch Interior Package ($1,140) on our tester was not only welcome over the de riguer carbon fibre or aluminum accents you might expect in this class but was also properly exquisite. It’s easy to find the perfect relationship between driver and controls, and once you do covering multiple provinces in a single day is not only entirely possible but would be enjoyable. The seats do an excellent job of treading the line between sumptuous comfort and sporty characteristics to hold you in place during enthusiastic maneuvers.
This hybrid is quite capable of enthusiastic maneuvers, isn’t it?
We were serious when we said that this hybrid isn’t like any other. The Porsche crest it wears means that despite its zero emission and stingy fuel economy goals, this baby can dance. That’s no small feat when you consider it weighs a lot- 2,265 kilos, to be precise. The E-Hybrid tames this prodigious mass with a long list of sophisticated hardware and technology. First, the obvious- in Sport Plus mode, all 462 horsepower and 516 pounds feet of torque are on full alert, ready to be deployed to the tarmac through Porsche’s excellent, rear biased all-wheel drive- most hybrids aren’t even close to this powerful. The gold standard of dual clutch gearboxes the world over- known as PDK in Porsche parlance- is its usual brilliant self and gains a ratio for a total of 8 speeds and will respond instantaneously whether you choose to use the shift paddles or leave it to its own devices. Air suspension is standard kit, and simply eliminates body roll entirely to the point where it’s kind of eerie how flat it remains and yet it still delivers luxury car ride quality- this, on 21” wheels and performance rubber with hardly any sidewall. Lastly, Rear Axle Steering (frankly, a steal at $1,840) endows the big Panamera with almost balletic athleticism. Something this big and heavy shouldn’t drive the way it does, but you just ask it to go around whatever corner you encounter it obliges with zero protest. Another surprise is just how brisk the E-Hybrid is in electric mode. Plant your right foot and the Panamera gets up to speed briskly and can easily keep up with your average family sedan. And, when you select E Power mode which keeps the 2.9 litre turbo V6 dormant, you can reach speeds much higher than is legal across Canada until the engine is summoned to step in. That V6 provides more services than just helping to augment the electrons flowing through the drivetrain and delighting ears with the quintessential Porsche snarl when you ask it to (The Sport Exhaust system, that while not cheap, is a must at $4,400- and they throw in quad tailpipes finished in high gloss black.) It proves itself a worthy generator to power up the batteries when you’re driving along in E Charge mode. We would diligently plug in the Panamera at night to replenish the battery as much as possible, but when we saw how effective it is at charging itself we stopped lugging the charger out each night. Perhaps we just got lazy. That said, in summing up, it doesn’t matter if you’re driving along in full electrical mode, a combination of that and petrol power (it’s truly amazing at how seamless the E-Hybrid system is in this context) or full red mist where both engine and batteries are ready to give their all depending on your throttle inputs, it all just works. We haven’t driven the 918 or the Turbo S version of our E-hybrid, but suffice to say this car delivers on what you’d expect from Porsche and will be more than fast enough for most.
What might go wrong?
This is about the time we we’d note that fun is nixed from the hybrid experience in favor of efficiency and frugality and environmental stewardship, but it’s clear that Porsche has a different agenda for the Panamera E-Hybrid. So there’ll be none of that bellyaching. We will, however, call out the one dynamic blight on an otherwise unblemished resume, and that is the brake feel. Porsche is well known for equipping its cars with some of the best brakes in the business, including micrometer precise feel. Because the E-Hybrid’s brakes are tasked with scrubbing off speed and providing regenerative energy to the battery pack, they have a slightly wooden feel to them. Sure, they are incredibly effective at slowing the car down, but we miss the excellent feel we’re used to from Porsche. We would also like to see the Panamera E-Hybrid shrug off its stoicism and adopt a more playful nature- BMW figured that out with new M5 and it’s a much more engaging car to drive than its predecessor. Lastly, and we’re not sure this will matter much to Panamera Sport Turismo shoppers, but we would happily accept a little more cargo capacity- this is a wagon, after all.
Should I buy a Panamera 4 E-Hybrid Sport Turismo?
If you’re asking us which body style to go for, it is hands down the Sport Turismo which gets our vote. The sedan is significantly nicer that it used to be, but c’mon- doesn’t the wagon silhouette look spectacular on this car? As for the hybrid drivetrain compared to the good old gas fired engine- as good as the hybrid is, we’d look to the new GTS model across the showroom, which starts at roughly $3,200 more than our tester but has all the stuff we’d want, save for the loud exhaust and four wheel steering. But, if your shopping criteria demands a hybrid, your choices are the BMW 740e, the Mercedes Benz 560e, Lexus LS 500h and bupkis from Audi- they don’t currently offer a competitive offering in Canada. All of these are nice cars, but they can’t touch the Panamera for driver fulfillment or styling- it’s a full size luxury wagon folks! But seriously- if you haven’t experienced Porsche’s hybrid technology first hand, you need to check it out. The Panamera 4 E-Hybrid is a Porsche first, and hybrid second, but the amalgamation of the two will leave you very impressed.
2018 Porsche Panamera 4 E-Hybrid Sport Turismo– Specifications
- Price as tested: $151,520
- Body Type: 5-door, 5-passenger Sedan
- Powertrain Layout: Front engine/all-wheel drive
- Engine: 2.9 litre turbocharged V6, DOHC, 24 valves
- Horsepower: 330 @ 5,250- 6,500 rpm
- Torque: 332 lbs/ft. @ 1,700-5,000 rpm
- AC electric motor producing 134 horsepower/295 lbs/ft.
- Total System Power: 462 horsepower/516 lbs/ft.
- Transmission: 8-speed PDK Dual Clutch Automatic
- Curb Weight: 2,265 kg (4,993 lbs.)
- Observed fuel consumption: 12.7L/100 km (19 mpg)