18.12.2014Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid review
A 168 mph Porsche with the fuel running costs of a BMW 320d? That will be the new Panamera S E-Hybrid. Itâ€™s a truly impressive machine and if this second generation Porsche hybrid, and the worldâ€™s first luxury plug-in hybrid, doesnâ€™t double its five per cent share of Panamera sales I will be surprised.
Itâ€™s expensive, even with the Â£5,000 Government grant for ultra-low emission vehicles and only makes true financial sense for business users seeking to reduce benefit-in-kind tax and avoid the London Congestion Charge and road tax, but technology wise it moves the game on. And, importantly, most of the time itâ€™s as good to drive as the regular Porsche Panamera on a daily basis. Porscheâ€™s ultimate hybrid is the new 919 Le Mans race car.
Even in electric mode only, using its 95bhp, 228 lbs ft electric motor the Panamera lives up to the Porsche reputation, reaching a top speed of 84mph and accelerating to 31mph in just over six seconds. With the 3-litre supercharged V6 petrol engine, sourced from Audi, in operation as well, the top speed rises to 168mph and 0-62mph acceleration drops to 5.5 seconds with a real shove in the back and more noise.
This is despite the new plug-in systems adding 115kg over the previous hybrid version and taking the total weight to 2095 kg, or 325kg more than the entry level Panamera model. The punchy engine produces 328bhp and 324 lbs ft of torque, but the computers only let you have a total of 416bhp and 435 lbs ft if you call for maximum performance in sport mode.
The big Panamera, goes round bends far better than logic says it should for such a heavy car though you are aware the tyres are working hard if you really start using the torque from the two motors.
Despite firm suspension there are times in bends where a non-hybrid version could still be accelerating but common sense tells you to come off the power in the hybrid. The battery pack has lowered the carâ€™s centre of gravity so motorway stability is exemplary. Switching between different driving modes (Sport etc) is instant.
While I doubt anyone would ever call the Panamera beautiful it certainly is imposing and has an efficient air about it. In silver it disguised its size well and the futuristic looking optional LED headlights and Day-Glo brake calipers behind optional 19in alloy wheels increased the carâ€™s presence without shouting too much.
The huge tailgate opens electrically at a touch of a key fob button. There is sufficient room in the two rear seats for people over 6ft tall and though I am taller that did not compromise an ideal driving position. The boot is close to VW Golf sized, though a big, heavy bag of electrical charging cables reduces space by about a fifth. The rear seats fold for extra carrying capacity if not in use. Length 5015 mm. Width1931 mm.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
With its button dominated dashboard, centre console and roof console, plus top quality fittings, there is never any doubt you are sitting in a sporting luxury car. Actually driving the Panamera is super easy though if you donâ€™t want to change the settings of the air suspension or other systems.
The electrically adjustable front seats are so well shaped 180 mile journeys were accomplished without aches or twinges and there were no complaints from two six-footers in the back for one trip.
You can leave the eight-speed gearbox in automatic but I preferred to change gears when needed using the paddles behind the steering wheel. Thereâ€™s more weight in the steering than with non-hybrid Panameras but I actually preferred that. The brakes are strong but feel a little odd at times, presumably because various systems are harvesting kinetic energy.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
The Porsche has four driving modes: E-Power, Hybrid, E-Charge and Sport. You can flick between them but we got the best fuel economy leaving the car to its own devices. With a full charge the Porsche can manage close to 20 miles and is good at recharging the batteries if you back off the accelerator and let the car glide to a halt rather than braking hard for traffic lights etc.
In Sport mode it will only coast at speeds up to 43 mph, but in Hybrid you can do 100 mph plus with the engine â€˜off.â€™ Official fuel consumption on the combined test is 91.1 mpg. Gentle cross country driving saw a best of 37.4 mpg according to the on-board computer. Over the previous 1,500 miles the car had averaged 25.2 mpg though one colleague says he managed 45 mpg â€“ about the same as the diesel Panamera â€“ over a pre-arranged test route. Carbon dioxide emissions are 71 g/km which puts the car in road tax band A which attracts no road fund licence fee.
Default mode is E-Power so if your journey is between 11 and 22 miles you might manage it completely on electric power. The car started in electric even after a very cold night outdoors. An E-charge mode charges up the high voltage battery during main road or motorway cruising and can save the electric power for no-emissions motoring when in towns.
You can top up the lithium-ion battery when parked or overnight using a domestic mains supply in about 3.8 hours. A more powerful industrial supply reduces this to 2.3 hours. This liquid cooled battery system replaces the older air-cooled nickel-metal hydride one. Porsche says the car is 95% recyclable but is designed for a long life. According to our calculations, the Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid has a Next Green Car Rating of 49.
Well equipped as standard, with features including leather upholstery, adaptive air suspension, climate control, electric windows, Porsche Communications Management with satellite navigation, heated front seats, front and rear park assist, cruise control, electric tailgate and Bluetooth phone connectivity.
The test Panamera was also fitted with impressive full LED headlights (Â£1,797), 19in Turbo wheels (Â£971), surround sound audio (Â£919), Rhodium Silver metallic paint (Â£851) and Sport Chrono pack (Â£542). The rear parking assist does not have a camera which would be useful as this is a big car to manoeuvre in tight spaces.
Model tested: Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid
Body-style: Fastback five-door saloon
Engine/CO2: 425bhp 2995cc six-cylinder supercharged petrol engine and 95bhp electric motor
Trim grades: S
On-road price: £89,401 before Government grant of £5,000
Warranty: Three years/ 60,000 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 4.5 STARS
Next Green Car Rating of 49