Test Drives

Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid review

STUTTGART, GERMANY – Some brands just have it in their DNA. What is ‘it’ you ask? Well, it’s that unquantifiable ‘fun’ factor about a car, although some might arguably say that this is in precious short supply in most cases these days. It’s not about the outright speed either, since we can think of cars that aren’t stupendously fast in a straight-line that possess this said ‘it’ quality. Engineering this somewhat nebulous quality into cars is truly the blackest of arts, and cannot easily be emulated by simply ticking boxes off a checklist – you’d be surprised at the number of brands that, to varying degrees of success, continue to rely on ‘benchmarking’ to achieve what in their minds is a sporty car…

However, if like the case of Porsche, and your every model’s default template is already sporty, the ‘chore’ is arguably a happier one of sprinkling the requisite premium amenities and luxury appointments on the car, since nobody is questioning its performance pedigree. Into its second generation, the Panamera is a contentious model that has polarised opinions the world over, especially the purists who conscientiously object to everything new, never mind the fact that the Panamera grand tourer and Cayenne SUV have helped improve the brand’s fortunes in a huge way, especially when they were first launched in the Middle Kingdom.

Visually, the styling differences between this latest incarnation and its predecessor are of the blink-and-you-miss-it variety, but then what was that about fixing something that isn’t really broken in the first place? The new model has an altogether sleeker silhouette from the side-profile thanks to the swept-back windscreen, as well as a re-designed rear-end, which includes a widened rear windscreen.

Although there was a Panamera Hybrid before, this is the brand’s first plug-in hybrid, dubbed Panamera S E-Hybrid, which is distinguished by Acid Green outlines around the ‘e-hybrid’ script down its flanks and the ‘Panamera S’ model name on its rump; also visible through the wheel spokes are Acid Green brake callipers.

Like last generation’s Panamera Hybrid, the S E-Hybrid sees the service of a supercharged 3.0-litre V6, but features a 9.4kWh lithium-ion battery compared to the former’s 1.7kWh nickel metal hydride (NiMh) battery. The electric drive now generates 94bhp, more than twice its predecessor’s 46bhp, and 310Nm from 0 to 1700rpm. In real-world performance terms, all this translates to a 135km/h top speed and a range of 36km in zero-emissions electric mode (versus its predecessor’s 2km full-electric range and 75km/h top speed).

With both the supercharged gasoline engine and electric motor working in tandem, the total system power is rated at 416bhp and maximum torque at 590Nm from 1250rpm to 4000rpm, which will take the two-tonne kerbweight grand tourer to the 100km/h mark in 5.5 seconds. Most impressively perhaps, the S E-Hybrid achieves an average of 3.1l/100km and emits only 71g/km of CO2, but the S E-Hybrid isn’t just about the tree-hugging credentials, since it proves to offer the stellar dynamics the brand is renowned for.

There’s the same smattering of Acid Green accents inside the cabin, such as the needles of the Sport Chrono stopwatch and the other meters, including a Power Meter specific to the S E-Hybrid under the instrument cowl. The S E-Hybrid also sees the addition of ‘E-Power’ and ‘E-Charge’ buttons to the Vertu-esque rising centre console.

Start her up and the default driving mode is full EV (E-Power), not that you’d ever find yourself in wanting for performance in town with its 36km range and 135km/h top speed – depending on one’s driving style, it’s apparently even possible to see a 50km range in full-electric (Singapore is only 40-odd km from East to West, with a highway speed that tops out at just 90km/h – just about ideal for the S E-Hybrid’s operating range).

On the expressways around Singapore, switching to E-Charge optimises the petrol engine’s charging capabilities, so there will be ample juice available for zero emissions motoring again once you hit the city limits. Needless to say, the full complement of features typically found in such vehicles are present, such as coasting on the highways with the combustion engine switched off, as well as brake regeneration.

And if you ever need to stretch its legs, there are always the highways up North in Malaysia, not to mention the various circuits that can be booked for more private sessions. If you think that sounds a little too hardcore for the average Panamera owner, the S E-Hybrid acquits itself admirably even on the smaller winding roads, especially driven in anger with both the supercharged V6 and electric working in concert.

Some brands like to gloss over the performance boon of a hybrid engine, but not Porsche. It’s all about an instant access to torque, with close to 600Nm available from 1250rpm. Porsche has engineered a discernible pressure point beyond which the gasoline engine engages – in ‘Sport’, additional boost kicks in at more than 80 per cent accelerator pedal position, perfect for overtaking or during red-mist driving.

While not as aggressive as a dual-clutch, the eight-speed automatic does a good job of serving up smoothly slurred and swift shifts that allow the car to be driven briskly, especially with proper steering wheel mounted shift paddles. Driven back-to-back with the Turbo, the S E-Hybrid doesn’t have that same blistering, incisive pace as the latter, but boasts a natural enough steering feel and balanced enough chassis (despite the additional hybrid hardware) that creates a genuinely engaging package that offers the performance of a V8 without the corresponding carbon footprint.

The only question that remains is one of price. Our back of the napkin calculations are: A standard Panamera 3.6 costs about 64,000 pounds in the UK, while the S E-Hybrid will set you back close to 89,000 pounds, or a price increase of 57 percent.

Engine 2,995cc, 24v, V6, supercharged
Power 333bhp at 5,500-6,500rpm
Torque 440Nm at 3,000 – 5,250rpm
Electric Motor 94bhp
Battery Lithium ion, 9.4kWh
System Power 416bhp at 5,500rpm
Max Torque 590Nm at 1,250rpm-4,000rpm
Gearbox 8-speed automatic
Top Speed 270km/h
0-100km/h 5.5 seconds
Fuel efficiency 3.1L/100km
CO2 71g/km
Price To Be Announced
Availability To Be Announced

Also Consider: BMW ActiveHybrid 5, Lexus GS Hybrid

Pictures by Porsche

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