Could this be the car that truly has it all? Imagine, a full-size prestige sedan that really does handle like a sports car. That much is true of any Panamera. But how about a really fast four-door sedan that can also get you to the office and back without using a drop of gasoline?
Yes, all that and more is also true of the Tesla Model S. But the Tesla is still a pure electric. At some point, you need to find a charger or call a tow truck. The 2018 Panamera E-Hybrid is a plug-in hybrid (PHEV). Like most others of its ilk, it has a plug-in-rechargeable battery that can handle daily-driver duties as a pure electric. When the volts vanish, a gas engine kicks in for another 550-600 kilometres of range in hybrid mode.
The Porsche Panamera was completely redesigned for 2017, launching first with the all-gas 4S and Turbo models, so this is Gen-2 of the E-Hybrid. Besides adopting the Panamera's shapelier new body, the new E-Hybrid's gas-electric powertrain combines a new-generation 2.9-litre V-6 turbocharged gas engine worth 330 hp with an electric motor fortified from 95 to 136 hp. The battery has 50 per cent more electromotive capacity with virtually no change in its weight or size. A new eight-speed dual-clutch transmission displaces the previous torque-converter automatic and all-wheel drive is standard.
Porsche borrowed from the 918 Spyder for the Panamera's hybrid strategy. In hybrid mode, the electric motor now contributes to acceleration all the time, instead of only assisting at high throttle openings; it also leans a shoulder to the wheel at maximum speed. However, the car always sets off in E-Power mode (assuming there's charge in the battery), unless you override it with one of the other hybrid-specific settings on the Sport Chrono switch: Hybrid-Auto, which automatically alternates between electric and/or gas propulsion for maximum efficiency; E-Hold for conserving the current state of charge for later use; and E-Charge for using the gas engine to recharge the battery on the move.
Porsche claims a fully-charged electric range of 50 kilometres. Our experience in Cape Town – warm weather, hilly terrain, urban/suburban driving – suggested 35 to 40 kilometres would be more realistic. One 25-kilometre drive starting with a fully charged battery showed 20-kilometre range remaining at destination – but the gas engine did fire up for a minute or so after a brief burst of acceleration. Gas consumption for the 25.6-kilometre trip: 0.8 litres/100 km.
Getting into another Panamera that had been previously driven by others in H-Auto mode, the displays showed 69 kilometres driven at an average 7.6 litres/100 km, with 14 kilometres of electric range remaining. I headed out in E-Power and the battery expired after only 9 kilometres, at which point average gas consumption had dropped to 6.8 litres/100 km. But even in H-Auto, the car still ran periodically in electric mode; after an additional 22 kilometres, the average gas consumption had edged back up to 7.2 litres/100 km. The next day, 300 kilometres of mixed urban, rural and freeway driving netted an overall consumption of 9.2 litres/100 km. As with any PHEV, the further you drive between recharges, the heavier the gas consumption. But 9.2 is still remarkable for a fast, full-size luxury sedan.
The Panamera E-Hybrid is due mid-year. Minuscule sales means it will never save the world from climate catastrophe, but for buyers with the wealth to match their environmental awareness, the Panamera E-Hybrid delivers a striking blend of space, speed and potential frugality.
- Base price: $113,400
- Engine: 2.9-litre turbo V-6/100-kW electric motor
- Transmission/drive: Eight-speed dual-clutch automatic/all-wheel drive
- Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 2.5 (EU NEDC test cycle)
- Alternatives: BMW 740Le xDrive, Cadillac CT6 Plug-in, Tesla Model S
- Looks: The new-last-year shape is clearly evolved from the original, yet now channels styling elements of the 911. Porsche’s metal sculptors cunningly eliminated the former bulbous look by lowering the roofline at the rear. Overall height is actually up, but the Panamera is still lower-slung than typical full-size prestige sedans.
- Interior: The cockpit is dominated by a 12.3-inch touch screen integrated into the centre dash. Touch-sensitive switches replace most conventional buttons, although at least there’s a welcome reduction in the sheer number of buttons. Thick pillars and lofty door mirrors compromise sightlines.
- Performance: With all powertrain hands on deck, Porsche claims a 0-100-km/h time of 4.6 seconds for the E-Hybrid. Less impressive is the 0-60 km/h of 5.7 seconds (with a top speed of 140 km/h) in pure EV mode. The finer points of the drive need more refinement, though: Rather grabby brakes, sundry driveline shunts and abrupt gas-engine interventions together conspire for less-than-seamless progress in Hybrid mode.
- Technology: Porsche claims a world first for InnoDrive, a version of adaptive cruise that not only has a stop-and-go function, but also predicts and autonomously adjusts speed for upcoming hills, corners and changing speed limits.
- Cargo: This $100,000-and-up prestige sedan is … a hatchback. Deal with it.
Impressive numbers, but the powertrain, transmission and brakes need to play together a little more harmoniously.
The writer was a guest of the auto maker. Content was not subject to approval.
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