Panamera S E-Hybrid: Call it frugally fast

By PATRICK MAES | 27 May 2015

As stricter emissions laws and increasing environmental awareness sets in, many carmakers have pressed on with their efforts at giving the world clean and efficient cars.

Unsurprisingly, even performance carmakers have marked a shift, dabbling into the idea of incorporating green and eco-friendly technologies in their creations.

And the result is sometimes surprising as some of these technologies also allow the creation of even better performance cars.

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In Porsche’s case, the proof of point to this concept has to be the Stuttgart brand’s flagship 918 Spyder hybrid hypercar, and its 919 Hybrid Le Mans racer.

Both the 918 and 919 proved to be crucial test beds, leading to Porsche creating its E-Hybrid model range.
And, as we helmed the wheel of the Panamera S E-Hybrid, it became clear how special this range of high performance eco cars truly are.

For starters, the Panamera S E-Hybrid is in fact a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), coincidentally it is the first and only one of its kind in the grand touring saloon segment.

On first impression, this Panamera stands as Porsche’s answer on how to perfectly merge the qualities of a luxury performance saloon with the eco-friendly and green abilities of an eco-friendly hybrid car.

Porsche’s recipe to this is fairly simple, and frankly, very German.

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A technological tour-de-force, this Panamera infuses a lot of sophisticated and advanced technologies underneath, especially when it comes down to its powertrain package.

Tasked at propulsion is a supercharged DOHC 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine mounted up front, which works in conjunction with Porsche’s unique E-hybrid electric propulsion system.

On its own, the petrol mill generates 333hp and peak torque of 440Nm.

The E-Hybrid system, on the other hand, features what Porsche calls a ‘Permanently Excited Synchronous Motor’ electric motor system, a decoupling clutch unit, plus a rear-mounted set of lithium-ion batteries rated at 9.4kWh.

This then offers a further boost of 95hp and 310Nm of torque into the mix. Combined, the system offers a total of 416hp generated at 5,500rpm and 590Nm of maximum torque generated between 1,250rpm and 4,000rpm.

All this power is intelligently managed to power the rear wheels using an eight-speed Tiptronic S automatic transmission system.

Despite its near 2.1-tonne bulk, this is one fairly quick PHEV, capable of completing the century sprint in just 5.5 seconds before topping out at 270kph.

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What is mind-boggling here are the contrasting eco-car figures that goes with it, specifically the low combined fuel consumption rating of 3.1 litres/100km, matched by the ultra-low emissions rating of 71g/km.

Again, much of this is made possible thanks to Porsche’s brilliant engineered E-Hybrid system and its dynamic abilities via its selectable driving modes.

For drivers, there are four driving modes to select from, those being ‘Hybrid’, ‘E-Mode’, ‘E-Charge’, and ‘Sport’.

These modes can be engaged and toggled via three buttons located in the Panamera’s driver-centric transmission console layout.

However, this Panamera S E-Hybrid is unmistakably a PHEV, a fact proven by the car’s default ‘E-Mode’ engaging itself when the ignition key is turned.

This mode sees the Panamera powered solely by the electric motor’s silent yet direct torque delivery, capable of reaching up to speeds of 135kph on electric power alone.

E-Mode encourages its drivers to be more light-footed and frugal as the petrol engine only fires to life with 80% or more throttle pedal input.

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Don’t let the silence fool you, the Panamera hybrid felt surprisingly brisk when propelled under electric power.

It also has an all-electric travel range of 22km to 26km in our hot and humid climate.

Nevertheless, this is a feat matched by no other GT sports car of similar size and price, allowing the Panamera S E-Hybrid to stand out better than its stable mates.

Once the batteries deplete to a pre-determined level, the onboard system will automatically switch into its default ‘Hybrid’ mode next.

This mode is optimised to exploit the electric drive at any given opportunity, coasting when at steady speeds, and only firing up the petrol engine when deemed absolutely necessary.

Also, the E-Hybrid system works in parallel with the supercharged V6 engine to retain the charge levels of the batteries, with the transition between the petrol and electric systems feeling rather smooth and mildly noticeable thanks to the aforementioned decoupling clutch.

Next comes the ‘E-Charge’ mode, designed specifically to charge the batteries while on the move.

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At the price of fuel economy, the petrol engine is engaged more frequently, running at slightly higher speeds than usual in order to propel this near 2.1-tonne saloon and recharging the batteries simultaneously.

The battery can be fully recharged with just 50km of light cruising in this mode, and proved to be a rather convenient ability especially when a fast-charging station is nowhere in sight, and you simply don’t have the two and a half hours to spare to charge the system from a wall socket.

Of course, our test wouldn’t be complete without us hitting the buttons again to engage ‘Sport’ mode, and this Porsche doesn’t disappoint.

In Sport mode, the hybrid petrol-electric system’s sporting abilities come into its prime.

Predictably, the petrol engine’s throttle response is sharpened to become more crisp, with its vocals heightened as well while the electric motor works in tandem with it to offer assistance.

In this mode, the petrol engine is only deactivated when stationary, but returns to life at the slightest touch of the throttle in a more immediate, rapid, and louder manner.

What needs some getting used to here is the ‘silent’ torque boost from the electric motor in the low to mid-rev ranges.

Adding to this Panamera’s cool factor in this mode is seeing the needle on special EV dial indicating when the electric motor’s boost kicks in.

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Typical of Porsche, all the information you need about what the car’s powertrain is doing is promptly displayed in rich detail and colour via the multi-cluster driver’s instrument panel, and the central touchscreen infotainment unit as well.

All in all, it all works to let this Panamera S E-Hybrid exude a higher sense of purpose to its driver and passenger, reminding you once again that you are helming something fairly exquisite and totally different within the Porsche range.

Overall, we find that Panamera S E-Hybrid felt like a very refined driver’s car and lives up to the typical expectations one would impose on any of Porsche’s creations.

Despite the E-Hybrid variant’s added bulk, and the Panamera’s naturally wide and long dimensions, it doesn’t require much as far as handling goes as it inspires a lot of confidence should you feel the need to tackle corners and windy B-roads.

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What feels equally reassuring here were the brakes as they offer both adequate stopping power and regenerative braking abilities to replenish the batteries as well.

The throttle pedal felt rich and differs in feel from the typical two-step systems most other hybrids are primed with.

What needs some getting used to is the long pedal travel.

Undoubtedly, Porsche have shown that both high performance and eco-friendly abilities can be packaged into one, resulting in the creation of a truly unique and very capable performance grand tourer.

While it isn’t the fastest or the most nimble within the Panamera range, this S E-Hybrid variant does instead offer a lot of technology, luxury, and versatility over its siblings.

This makes the Panamera S E-Hybrid stand out, making it the only Panamera to offer guilt-free pleasures of eco-friendly motoring without compromising too much on performance.