When: May 2013
Where: Frankfurt, Germany
What: Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid
Occasion: Passenger ride and technology workshop
Porsche's first generation Panamera Hybrid really only suited markets where diesel power wasn't accepted, but the new plug-in version, called the Panamera S E-Hybrid, changes all that, marrying 416hp with a 71g/km emissions rating and genuinely usable electric-only range and speed. Our first taste was from the passenger seat, but it holds a lot of promise.
Model driven: Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid
Pricing: estimated at less than £90,000
Drive system: parallel full hybrid with plug-in technology, internal combustion engine and hybrid module with electric motor and decoupling clutch
Engine: 3.0-litre supercharged V6 petrol
Electrical system: 12-volt vehicle electrical system; battery capacity 75Ah. High-voltage system / Traction battery: 384-volt; lithium-ion battery; 9.4kWh; 24Ah; charged from electrical mains via standard Porsche Universal Charger (AC) and on-board charger (3.6 kW)
Transmission: eight-speed Tiptronic S automatic, rear-wheel drive
Body style: five-door hatchback
Rivals: Audi A7 Sportback, BMW 6 Series Gran Coupé, Mercedes-Benz CLS
CO2 emissions: 71g/km (Band A1, €170 per annum))
Combined economy: 91.1mpg (3.1 litres/100km)
Top speed: 270km/h (135km/h on electric power)
0-100km/h: 5.5 seconds
Power: 416hp at 5,500rpm
Torque: 590Nm at 1,250- to 4,000rpm
In the Metal: 4/5
In fairness, the point of this launch was not to assess the base Panamera, but it did give us the opportunity to see the facelifted model in the metal in daylight. It's a successful update, if modest, and though the car still splits opinion, most people we asked about it admitted that they now like the look. The E-Hybrid model appears to be visually differentiated by fluorescent green brake callipers and 'e-hybrid' badges on the wings.
The cabin is as special as ever, with good space for four adults. The E-Hybrid version gains green instrument needles, plus a set of new readouts such as the electric range, how far the car has driven on electric-only power and the E-Power Assistant, which clearly shows the driver the stage at which petrol power will kick in - amongst other things. The centre console houses a handful of new buttons too for the various modes of hybrid operation.
Lest there's any confusion, we have not, at the time of writing, driven the Panamera S E-Hybrid. We spent the day listening to various technical presentations and then half an hour in the passenger seat of a development car. The latter was instructive though, as the route took in urban roads and motorways, and we even hit 200km/h on the autobahn.
Before setting out, our driver unplugged the car from its socket and there appeared to be an electric-only range of nearly 20 kilometres (Porsche quotes up to 36 kilometres on a full charge, in ideal circumstances). We set out in E-Power mode. This is the default and leans towards as much electric-only driving as possible. The driver didn't hang about, but even so the car remained in electric-only mode for the majority of our 30-kilometre journey. Acceleration is brisk. Porsche quotes 0-50km/h in 6.1 seconds on electricity alone, and 5.5 seconds for 0-100km/h with both engine and electric motor combining. Once the driver pushes the throttle beyond 80% open (as neatly indicated in the dashboard, so you can avoid doing it if you wish) the Sport mode is automatically selected and both engine and motor combine to give maximum acceleration.
The engine start-up is audible, but not unpleasantly so, and there is no vibration or step in the power delivery to signal its presence. The rev counter eerily reads 0rpm a lot of the time, and quickly flicks into life when needs be. Like when we accelerate hard up to 200km/h. That 416hp peak power figure is a combination of engine and motor and it's backed up by a considerable combined 590Nm of torque produced between 1,250- and 4,000rpm. It's possible to cruise up to 135km/h using electricity alone, though we wouldn't expect the battery to last very long at that. However, there's a coasting function too, where the petrol engine is switched off at high speed and the car essentially free-wheels. The shift to this is imperceptible, signalled only by the rapid movements of the rev counter needle.
We returned to base with about five kilometres of electric-only range remaining, having used electricity alone for about 23 kilometres of our route. The trip computer revealed an average fuel consumption figure of 5.5 litres/100km (51.4mpg), which is impressive given the eagerness of our driver to push on.
However, it must be remembered that the battery was fully charged before we set out. If we continued driving without recharging the battery then the average economy would drop.
What you get for your Money:
Porsche is yet to confirm the price of the Panamera S E-Hybrid, but it's expected to be in line with the outgoing non plug-in Hybrid model. The specification should mirror that of the regular petrol-powered Panamera S. On top of that, the hybrid model comes with a slim charging wallbox as standard and the Porsche Car Connect app (for Apple and Android devices) is free to download - though requires a data contract for the SIM card in the car.
The 71g/km emissions rating means the Panamera sits in Band A1 for tax and Porsche quotes 3.1 litres/100km (91.1mpg) on the combined cycle, but that would have been made possible by a fully charged battery and won't be reproducible over longer journeys.
Along with the default driving mode, E-Power, there are the Hybrid and E-Charge options. The former effectively freezes battery charge where it is (within a band of operation) and the Panamera acts much like any other hybrid mode. If that battery charge state is deemed insufficient (perhaps the driver wants to drive through a city or town with zero emissions towards the end of his journey), the E-Charge mode can be selected. This alters the strategy so that the battery is charged up to full capacity and held there until the mode is changed again.
Most buyers in this part of the world will still favour the Porsche Panamera Diesel, but the new S E-Hybrid model makes a much more compelling case for itself then the first generation hybrid model ever did. It attracts really low tax and is brilliant for use in an urban area. Other than that of course it's stuffed with technology that'll appeal to early adopters. We look forward to driving the finished product.
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