The Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid is a two-tonne, four-seat luxury sports saloon that does 167mph and 91mpg. Really? Yes, it’s true – and there’s a £5,000 government grant towards its purchase.
To meet emissions targets, all car manufacturers will need to employ some degree of electric propulsion. Although Porsche has already had a Panamera Hybrid on sale, the difference this time is that this latest model is a plug-in hybrid, which dramatically lowers the emissions, whilst retaining a car that drives like a Porsche – albeit a bit heavier.
The Panamera S E-Hybrid has a 3-litre, V6 petrol engine with an 8-speed Tiptronic S transmission (which is a more efficient option for this powertrain than Porsche’s PDK gearbox), rear-wheel drive, and a 95hp electric motor and lithium-ion battery. It’s a plug-in hybrid, which means that you can plug it into your household electricity supply to recharge the battery. This can provide up to 22 miles of zero tailpipe emission electric driving, according to official figures. The car also acts like a normal hybrid, in other words it can recharge its own battery while driving.
Other than that, it’s mostly standard Panamera. This means a long, low and wide five-door body. Inside there are four seats, and a cockpit with lots of buttons. The boot is relatively shallow thanks to the batteries sitting underneath.
Most people won’t read the badging on this car and won’t realise that it is part-electric – even though the bright green brake calipers are intended to give a strong hint about the technology that lies underneath.
Don’t try this at home: for a photoshoot, because we were in the area anyway, we took the Panamera Hybrid up the Wrynose Pass and the Hardknott Pass in the (very wet) Lake District. We’re pretty sure that this is the first time that a Panamera Hybrid has attempted this route, and we discovered that there’s a good reason for this – the car is pretty much the same width as most of the roads in the area. Thankfully there’s a button that raises the ride height to help you avoid grounding the long, low car on humpback bridges. Despite the issues with the car’s width and ground clearance, it successfully negotiated the mountain passes and even provided some fun along the way on the more open sections of the route.
We took normal roads rather than single tracks back from the Western to the Eastern Lakes, and the Panamera was much more in its comfort zone. It was possible to access more of its performance (there’s a Sport button which provides more instant throttle responses, and with 590 Nm torque and a 0-62 mph time of 5.5 seconds it’s no slouch), and one thing immediately became obvious – the body control of this two-tonne car through corners was amazing. There was hardly any roll, and although such a vehicle is never going to be in the same league as a Cayman for agility, for such a large, heavy car it has impressively sharp reactions. It’s certainly more of a driver’s car than most other rivals in this class.
Although the 8-speed Tiptronic S transmission is good when left in auto mode, there are occasions in an environment such as the Lake District where you’ll want to override the automatic changes with the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters to keep it in the gear you want.
By the time we were back on the motorway, the whole point of the Panamera became clear – this is a car that loves to cover long distances in a very stable and secure way. The Adaptive Cruise Control stalk may not be the most intuitive of controllers, but when the system is working, it’s excellent. When coasting the revs drop to zero, signalling that the car is running on battery power (it can run on electric power up to 84mph), when it can also generate electricity by energy recovery, which does seem to result in improved economy in real-life driving.
Back in urban areas the electric powertrain is an ideal form of propulsion. The Panamera is a very refined car anyway, but this is even more the case in electric mode. Rather than relying on the default hybrid mode, which will switch between petrol and electric power, there’s a button to select electric drive – if you have sufficient charge in the battery – and there’s an e-charge button to run on petrol power in order to charge the battery.
The Panamera has adaptive air suspension with Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM). This offers three suspension settings – Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus, which gives everything you need for different driving requirements. Overall the ride is firm (not helped by its optional large 20-inch wheels), but the handling is excellent for a car of this size, and it avoids the bouncy sensation of some other large luxury sports saloons.
The interior of the Panamera is impressive to look at and is very high quality, but it has lots of buttons, and a touch screen, which we don’t believe is the best system for using in a moving vehicle; it would benefit from an iDrive-type controller. Our test car had a SportDesign steering wheel (a no-cost option), whereas the standard multi-function steering wheel would probably be more useful.
The whole point of the Panamera S E-Hybrid is to achieve official economy and emissions figures which generate a sharp intake of breath. The technology is designed to perform extremely well in the European test cycle, and with economy of 91.1mpg and emissions of 71g/km CO2, the Porsche engineers have succeeded in their aim. Of course these figures are achieved by plugging the car in to the mains to get a fully charged battery, and conducting the short NEDC test primarily on electric power.
After a recharge, which takes 3-4 hours via a normal domestic supply (or around two and a half hours if an industrial outlet is available), the Panamera has an official electric range of 22 miles. If you drive less than 20 miles between charges then theoretically you could come close to achieving somewhere close to 90mpg. However why would you spend £90,000 on a Porsche if you didn’t drive it beyond such limits, after all a Nissan LEAF could drive up to 100 electric miles per day. Of course, in reality, the Panamera S E-Hybrid owner will be doing much more than just short urban runs, and so the overall economy after 12,000 miles in a year is going to be substantially lower than 90mpg.
So after driving 1,000 miles in the car, what levels of economy did we achieve? For short urban runs, we used no petrol whatsoever. Our typical electric range was 12 miles before the battery charge reduced to a level where the petrol engine fired up. On long journeys, mainly on motorways, the Panamera was averaging 33.7mpg. Overall, because the vast majority of driving was on the petrol engine when the battery had been depleted, our economy averaged 35.3mpg. This is not bad for a 167mph two-tonne car, but not surprisingly it’s way short of the official 91mpg figure.
The Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid costs £88,967. It comes with a long list of standard equipment, probably the most notable of which is adaptive air suspension with Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM). In addition our test car came with options including 20-inch black Panamera Sport Wheels (£2,954), GT Silver metallic paint (£2,517), full LED headlamps including Porsche Dynamic Lighting System Plus (PDLS Plus) (£1,797), Adaptive Cruise Control including Porsche Active Safe (£1,497), espresso natural leather (£1,052), BOSE Surround Sound audio system (£919) – and more. All the options took the total price to £101,976. You can see why Porsche makes good profits.
A key issue is that the Panamera S E-Hybrid is a lot more expensive than other models in the range. For example, the 3.0 V6 S costs £63,893. This makes the Hybrid £25,074 more expensive – you could buy a Toyota GT86 for this difference in price.
If you want an economical Panamera and don’t want to pay £90,000, then there’s the diesel model, which has an official economy figure of 44.8mpg, and it could be yours for a relatively affordable £62,922.
The Hybrid isn’t the most expensive model in the range – this award goes to the 4.8-litre V8 Turbo PDK at £107,903.
The Hybrid is rear-wheel drive but many Panameras are four-wheel drive.
Well done to Porsche for coming up with a ‘fix’ to enable a 167mph Panamera to qualify for the £5,000 Plug-in Car Grant, also gain exemption from the London Congestion Charge, as well as being liable for only 5% company car tax. Porsche has followed the rules and this is the result. Will the typical owner ever see an average of 91mpg? No. But that doesn’t matter. This car is ideal for owners or prospective owners of a Porsche who don’t want to pay the London Congestion Charge, who don’t want to be penalised for having a luxury sports saloon through company car tax, and who are delighted at the thought of gaining a £5,000 government subsidy towards the car.
Is it likely that some owners will never actually plug the car in? Based on reports of various other plug-in hybrid and E-REV drivers, yes. But not using the plug-in capability is obviously missing a main pleasure of this car – regardless of the environmental reasons for buying a plug-in, driving a Porsche in pure electric mode is a refreshing and rewarding experience. Even better, for owners who have a commute of around 10 miles each way, and who can recharge their car at home and at work, there is the real possibility of enjoying 91mpg during the week. Economy at weekends for the trip to the second home in the countryside may not be as good, but this is the whole point of plug-in hybrids: zero tailpipe emissions for short runs, no compromises for long journeys. And with the Panamera you even get a Porsche driving experience in addition to the zero emissions. Of course at £89,000 this car isn’t cheap, and when it comes to our overall appraisal, that prevents it from maximum all-round scores; apart from this it’s a welcome new entrant in the plug-in car world, and it gets a Green-Car-Guide rating of 9 out of 10.