28.12.2017Porsche Panamera 4 E-Hybrid review
Now in its second-generation, the Porsche Panamera E-Hybrid has come on a long way from the original model. The styling has improved, and an increased range of E-Hybrid PHEV models mean that the plug-in Porsche is a popular pick amongst Panamera buyers. Tested is the Panamera 4 E-Hybrid, to discover how much of a difference an electrified powertrain makes to the four-door grand tourer.
Review by Chris Lilly
There are two core powertrains available for the E-Hybrid buyer - 4 and Turbo S. The Panamera 4 E-Hybrid is the entry level option, though each of the two are available as both long-wheelbase Executive and Sport Turismo estates too. Under the bonnet of the Panamera 4 E-Hybrid sits a 2.9 litre 330hp twin-turbo V6 petrol engine, which is pretty far away from the traditional specification of a green car. However, bringing things back into respectable NGC territory is a significant electric powertrain, with a 100 kW electric motor supporting the engine, comfortably capable of powering the Porsche by itself. Performance figures are as quick as you might expect from a Porsche producing more than 460hp, with a huge 700 Nm of torque helping proceedings too. As such, the Porsche will accelerate from 0-62mph in 4.6 seconds - and this the slower car in the Panamera E-Hybrid range. Those really requiring more performance can pick the Turbo S E-Hybrid which will complete the same sprint in just 3.4 seconds. What is noteworthy though is just how accessible that performance is. The Panamera 4 E-Hybrid will pick up quickly in just about any of the eight gears found in the PDK double clutch automatic gearbox. Grip available is excellent in almost any weather, even wintry conditions, thanks to all-wheel drive, and the Panamera 4 E-Hybrid is both easy to drive, and easy to drive quickly. The instant pick-up of the electric motor helps here, and in fact the pace available in electric-only mode is comfortably good enough for most drivers. When the engine does kick in, it is certainly noticeable, but thatâ€™s what you might expect from a sportier PHEV. Thanks to the combination of electric motor and automatic gearbox, the Panamera 4 E-Hybrid is as comfortable pottering about town as it is stretching its legs on a motorway run. The gearbox offers quick changes and never seemed in the wrong gear during my time with it, and the brakes were extremely strong, combining both energy recuperation and friction braking. The balance and blend between the two isnâ€™t as good as in other PHEV models, but after a brief time getting used to it, the braking experience is no issue. In short, the Porsche is quick, easy to drive, and versatile.
The Panamera 4 E-Hybrid is a big, heavy car; the Porsche weighs in at more than 2.2 tonnes, with a weight penalty of more than 300kg over the non-electrified Panamera 4. All things considered then, the Panamera handles very well for a heavy car, helped in part by the weight of the batteries being low down in the vehicle, dropping the centre of gravity. Itâ€™s got none of the pin sharp agility of a 911 or 718 for example, but the Panamera is no disgrace to its fellow Porsche stablemates - just a different prospect. The ride is comfortable and relaxing even, and the handling is composed. It feels like a Grand Tourer in the traditional sense, capable of transporting the driver, occupants, and luggage across long distances with little effort required. Body control is kept well in check, and the Panamera 4 E-Hybrid feels more agile than a car like this has any right to. There isnâ€™t the same feedback as previous Porsche drivers may be used to, with a precise action to the steering, but little in the way of communication. The Panamera then is a car for bludgeoning roads into submission, rather than sweeping along them with the agility of a particularly nimble cat. In more common situations, such as running around town, the Panamera makes use of its surprising agility in tight corners. Itâ€™s no supermini to spin around a car park, but equally there is nothing unwieldy to the Porsche to make running into town a worrying prospect.
Although very much an evolution in design - typical Porsche in approach - the Panamera is a significant improvement over the previous modelâ€™s style. Itâ€™s a more well rounded package, with sharper looks, and a number of features to attract the eye. The bar across the rear which connects the lights for example is noteworthy, breaking up what would be a large amount of metal towards the rear. The flared arches give the Panamera a muscular look, while lime green brake calipers give a hint as to the electrified elements hidden beneath the surface. These brakes and a few discreet badges are all that separate the E-Hybrid from the rest of the Panamera range - that and the twin â€˜fuel flapsâ€™ at the rear; one side for petrol, the other for electrons. With a long wheelbase, the car looks in proportion, despite being wide and relatively tall. Itâ€™s not a car that you have to climb down into like other, more famous Porsches. That translates to an interior that is very practical if you donâ€™t need to use the central seat in the rear bench - there isnâ€™t one. For four adults though, there is leg and head room aplenty, along with plenty of shoulder space since there are only ever up to two occupants in the rear. Boot space is similarly impressive, with a large hatch opening up onto a spacious load area, and one that is easy to access. A car of this size should have a good amount of practical space available, and the Panamera doesnâ€™t upset. For those that want more room, the Sport Turismo estate should keep them happy.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
The Panamera has been designed to soak up long trips while keeping occupants comfortable, and as such, is very relaxing, both to drive and be a passenger in. The seats are large and supportive, and the driver can easily get a good position with a huge range of adjustment options available. The dashboard looks great, with a large widescreen unit sitting at the top of the centre console the dominant feature. Just below this though, on a high transmission tunnel, are a number of controls surrounding the gear stick that are all set behind glass and are touch sensitive. Itâ€™s a cleanly designed system, and one that works very well once you learn where everything is sited. The driver gets one central dial, with two digital binnacles on either side of this to display a range of different information - much of which is customisable. The whole set-up is excellent, and one of the best interiors around at the moment. Even little features such as the driving mode dial on the steering wheel mean that the driver is the centre of attention, and switching between profiles is easy to do without taking your eyes off the road. Thereâ€™s also a button in the middle of this dial - a â€˜push to passâ€™ if you will - that gives the driver everything the car has in an instant for up to 20 seconds of support; ideal for overtaking opportunities. The build quality throughout is very impressive, and the design helps give the impression that you are in a car worthy of its price tag. Those in the rear are likely to agree, since they will be feeling as though they are flying in first class, thanks to the four-seat configuration.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
The Panamera 4 E-Hybrid either performs brilliantly, or decidedly disappointingly, depending on how itâ€™s used. This is true of all PHEVs really though, and isnâ€™t a comment specific to this Porsche. The official fuel economy figure for the Panamera 4 E-Hybrid is 113 MPG, with CO2 emissions of 56 g/km. As always, those figures can bear almost no relation to what you might find in real world driving. If you keep most of your driving within the 25-27 miles I found available on electric only - the official figure is 32 miles - then you will comfortably beat that 113 MPG figure. Those that decide not to recharge will be hit by fuel economy of around 38 MPG according to official figures, with no support from the battery other that gained by recharging via the engine and/or brake regen. In actual fact, I found the fuel economy from a non-charged battery was 38.9 MPG after a run of around 50 miles. I ended up with a fuel economy figure of more than 80 MPG, driving normally, and charging when possible - but not going out of my way to search for charge points, or delaying journeys to charge. It's a perfectly reasonable - in fact a very good - figure to live with, and would be improved with increased short runs on a charged battery. To tax, the Panamera 4 E-Hybrid benefits from the Alternative Fuel Discount, though this is only worth Â£10 each year. The first year rate - included in the OTR - is just Â£15 thanks to the low CO2 figure, though years two to six will cost Â£440 because of the Premium Rate applied to cars costing more than Â£40,000.
Naturally the primary green elements of this Porsche come from the PHEV powertrain. With an official range of 32 miles on a single charge, the Panamera has one of the longer electric ranges on the market. That even translates to the real-world range available, which was 25 miles on a cold winterâ€™s day, and 28 in warmer conditions. The Panamera starts up in electric mode by default, and there are various modes to maximise the carâ€™s efficiency. Hybrid Auto will run electric motor, engine, or a combination of both, depending on what the car thinks is best. Drivers can also hold the car in EV mode until the battery runs out, hold the charge until a later time, or charge the battery from the engine. The Porsche is charged via a Type 2 inlet that accepts up to 3.6 kW as standard, or 7.2 kW as an option, and there are the usual suite of pre-conditioning and charger timing systems found on the majority of plug-in cars. According to our calculations, the model tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 46.
For a car costing as much as the Panamera 4 E-Hybrid, you would hope for plenty of kit over and above the PHEV powertrain. Fortunately, Porsche is duly obliging, with the Panamera far from scrimping on equipment. Fitted as standard to the Panamera 4 E-Hybrid is the Sport Chrono Package - which includes the rotary drive mode selector on the steering wheel - adaptive air suspension, 3.6 kW on-board charger, park assist front and rear, cruise control, 10 speaker stereo, Porsche Connect Plus infotainment system including navigation, DAB, Bluetooth, USB & smartphone connectivity, and remote connectivity. Also standard are LED headlights, automatic wipers, drivers instruments with two digital displays, electric seats front and rear, and multi function steering wheel. This comes in at a smidge under Â£80,000, so it is worth selecting options carefully. Those fitted to the test car included â€˜crayonâ€™ colour paint, two-tone leather trim, surround sound park assist, Porsche dynamic LED headlights, night vision, sports exhaust, 21-inch alloys, four-zone climate control, 18-way electric front sports seats, lane keep assist, 7.2 kW on-board charger, Bose stereo, adaptive cruise control, insulated glass, and tinted LED tail lights including light strip - amongst other things. All told, the bill rose to almost Â£107,000.
The Porsche Panamera 4 E-Hybrid is far from a cheap car to buy. It is exceptional though, and would be all the car most people would ever need. The electric powertrain is very good and helps keep running costs down, its good to drive, comfortable, and nice to both sit in and look at. The advantage is most clear for company car drivers, with BIK costs significantly lower than a diesel Panamera - weâ€™re talking annual savings of more than Â£8,000 in BIK alone for a 40% tax payer. For those that can afford the Panamera no matter what their buying background though - consumer or business - the Panamera 4 E-Hybrid is a superb all-rounder. Itâ€™s not perfect, but if someone told me to pick one car to drive for the next 12 months, the Porsche would be a real contender. Itâ€™s a car that can be picked with the head and the heart.
Model tested: Porsche Panamera 4 E-Hybrid
Body-style: Executive saloon
Engine / CO2: 2.9 litre twin-turbo petrol and electric motor / 56 g/km
On-road price: From £79,715. Price as tested £106,804
Warranty: Three years / unlimited mileage
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 4.0 Stars