Test Drives

Porsche Panamera 4 E-Hybrid Review: Plug Then Play

wr 2019The plug-in hybrid Porsche Panamera 4 E-Hybrid puts the ‘play’ in plug-and-play

Cape Town, South Africa –

The biggest misconception non-car people have about hybrids is that they have to be boring and slow, but it’s still tossed about to show how they’re in-sync with the latest automotive developments. To the uninitiated, the term ‘hybrid’ still conjures up images of the Prius and its ilk. 

But the eco car landscape is changing quickly. The Toyota Prius has been challenged by the less ‘on your sleeve’ and inexpensive Koreans like the Kia Niro and Hyundai Ioniq, the likes of which bring hybrid ownership to a sub-$120k audience.

Before that though, hybrids had already thoroughly penetrated the ‘maximum go from less’ mantra in high performance. For those in the know, that was the ‘old’ interpretation of ‘hybrid’, and while they do save gas, that’s hardly a concern for buyers of luxury sportscars; most importantly, their other party trick is to give your traditional petrol engine a huge boost in performance, much like a cocktail of illegal steroids to an athlete.

And Porsche broke new ground in Singapore by being the first brand to unveil a plug-in hybrid with the first-gen Panamera 4 E-Hybrid from 2013. It was so new, in fact, that it flummoxed the Land Transport Authority, which took eight whole months just to approve it for road use here. And as we’ve tested ourselves, a plug-in hybrid is, in real life, a great choice for Singapore. 

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The difference this time are that this is a whole new Panamera – as previewed in our tech feature on the car in 2016 – and the harbinger for a whole lot of new VW Group luxury-level technologies to come. The plug-in hybrid Panamera isn’t anything wholly new, not like the long wheelbase ‘Executive’ models that will soon be available in Singapore for the first time as both Turbo and 4 E-Hybrid.

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The controversial rear styling of the first generation has been tweaked and now looks altogether more balanced and resolved. Like before, the three-litre biturbo petrol engine has its oomph augmented by an electric motor, but there are several changes on this iteration.

Compared to its predecessor’s electro-hydraulic system, the hybrid module now features an electric clutch actuator, which translates to shorter response times in the transition from electric to petrol power, or both in concert. Another update on this latest car sees the use of Porsche’s eight-speed dual-clutch ‘PDK’ transmission, which boasts more dynamic responses over the earlier model’s eight-speed automatic with torque converter unit. Relating to the electric motor, although the energy content of the liquid-cooled, lithium-ion battery has increased from 9.4kWh to 14.1kWh, the weight remains the same as before.

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With both powertrains working together for maximum performance in ‘Sport Plus’ mode, the system total of 462bhp and 700Nm will see the car dispatch the 0-100km/h sprint in just 4.6secs before heading on to a 278km/h top speed. Even in full-electric mode, the Panamera can hit a top speed of 140km/h and cover a range of up to 50km on a full charge, which is more than sufficient for final-mile motoring, or for that matter Singapore/Malaysia’s highway limits. Don’t forget, the battery range isn’t something that depletes fully either, because stints on the motorway will see it recharge in no time.

It doesn’t just go like greased lightning as you’d expect from a Porsche, but the brand has also poshed-up the Panamera’s cabin, with a large 12.3-inch touchscreen taking centre stage and allowing you control the car’s myriad features. This particular model also features hybrid-specific displays, with a power meter tailored to hybrid operation, which gives the driver a sit-rep of the state of the electric powertrain – this was a novelty throughout our time with the car, because unlike an appliance, the occupants are constantly ‘interacting’ with the car, since it became a challenge of sorts to build up battery charge and to drive it serenely.

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Unfortunately, this author has a tendency to succumb to the thrill of the kill (mostly on a dinner plate – Ed.), so it wasn’t long before the we were driving it in anger again, which is just how it likes to be flogged outside the city limits. Like the rest of the Porsche range, specifying the Sport Chrono package adds a steering wheel mounted mode-switch to quickly engage the different driving programmes for either more leisurely or more frenetic pursuits, including ‘H’ for ‘Hybrid’ in the case of this model.

The materials feel the part of an expensive executive limo, and the brand has done away with most of the ‘hard’ buttons in favour of large touch-sensitive ‘rocker’ panels that are unbroken save for the feature icons.

Like the BMW M760Li xDrive we also feature this issue, the Panamera is one of those sport limos any passionate driver would have no qualms self-driving. The fact that it’s a plug-in hybrid which could turn a short commute into a zero-emissions, cents-per-km sort of proposition is just an additional ‘plug’ to the car’s considerable ‘play’.

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Porsche Panamera 4 E-Hybrid
Engine 2,894cc, 24, V6, twin-turbo
Power 330bhp at 5250-6500rpm
Torque 450Nm at 1750-5000rpm
Electric Motor 136bhp / 400Nm
Battery 14.1kWh lithium ion
System Power 462bhp at 6000rpm
System Torque 700Nm at 1100-4500rpm
Gearbox 8-speed dual-clutch
Top Speed 278km/h
0-100kmh 4.6 seconds
Fuel efficiency 2.5L/100km
CO2 56g/km (125g/km LTA)
Price $430,788 without COE

Availability March 2017

about the author

David Khoo
Contributing editor David Khoo helms CarBuyer's sister magazine, Top Gear Singapore. If it's rare, exotic, or smells like ham, he's probably touched it, driven it, and sniffed it inappropriately.