The Porsche Panamera 4 E-Hybrid promises all the luxury of a regular Panamera, all the performance, too, but with economy and emissions to both salve your conscience and keep the bills sensible - once you've actually bought it, of course. While the reality of the plug-in hybrid powertrain does bring a few compromises, it's still a great idea in practice.
In the metal
A good-looking Porsche Panamera? You'd better believe it, as the second-generation Panamera is now a car to covet. The 911 design signatures are there, but the surfacing, dimensions and detailing all work, which wasn't something that was entirely true with the previous model. For the E-Hybrid those good looks come with some dayglow highlighting straight out of the '80s, as the brake callipers are acid green and the e-hybrid badging on the doors and the Panamera 4 badge on its neater rump are also highlighted by the lurid colour. If you're going to go green, then, Porsche thinks you should shout about it; after all, badging aside, you'd be none-the-wiser that this is a Panamera that not only consumes petrol but electricity, too. There's a plug-in socket, a battery pack and an electric motor combining with its 2.9-litre biturbo V6 petrol engine to allow some semblance of economical motoring. The 56g/km emissions rating and quoted 2.5 litres/100km fuel consumption underline that, but being a Porsche, the combined output of that hybrid is 462hp, allowing a 4.6-second 0-100km/h time.
The interior follows that of the exterior, which means it is all but identical to that of its conventionally-powered relations. There are a few extra screens worth of hybrid-specific information in the instrumentation and centre console and a small dial underneath the rev counter highlighting energy use or recovery in electric drive. The steering wheel's mode dial adds some functionality, too, with E-Mode followed by Auto Hybrid settings, then the more familiar Sport and Sport Plus modes - the additional hybrid modes have necessitated the moving of the Individual, configurable setting onto the transmission tunnel. There's a pair of other modes within the centre screen that allows E-Hold or E-Charge, should you wish to do either. The controls, a mix of touchscreen and haptic surfaces around the transmission tunnel, look sensation, though their operation isn't always the most intuitive, or clear, as it takes some practice, and the high-gloss black surfacing is a magnet for grubby fingerprints.
If all those drive modes sound pretty involved, you'd be right. Like any plug-in hybrid you'll spend a fair bit of time managing how you use the available energy, as one element of the car's performance isn't as simple as pulling in at a petrol station. It'll charge quickly with all the correct gear, and there's always that E-Hold mode if you want to save some volts for gliding around at your destination on electricity, or, if you're desperate for some charge, you can use the engine to help fill up the batteries. Do that and you'll be punished at the pumps.
Default starting mode is E-Power and this new 4 E-Hybrid is now able to cover a more useful 50km on electricity alone. It does so convincingly, too, up to 140km/h, though you'll be doing well to get anywhere near that range if you reach that speed regularly. The E-Hybrid setting is the best compromise in real-world driving, as it defaults as often as possible to electricity alone, kicking in the petrol engine whenever it's needed.
Porsche's integration of the two motors is largely successful, smooth most of the time, though there's the occasional jolt through the transmission that upsets the otherwise impressively managed juggling of outputs. The other trade-off for that clever hybrid system is a reduction in feel and engagement, robbing the Panamera 4 E-Hybrid of one of the core elements of its conventionally powered relatives.
The brakes, tasked with both stopping and reclaiming any possible energy, feel odd, the initial push of the pedal coming with a disconcerting disconnect, it needing a firm shove to really feel like you're working the disc at all. It's something that you adapt to, but it never feels natural, or in any way welcome. That's true of the accelerator as well, which also feels strange, as it needs to be pushed through an initial deadness - both the brake and accelerator lack the sort of reassuring response you'll have, enjoy even, in the regular Panamera models.
Ignore those, if you can, and the 4 E-Hybrid does a credible job of being a sports saloon; certainly it's quick, the combined drivetrain allowing a 0-100km/h time of 4.6 seconds, the combined might of both motors being utilised from the first press of the accelerator, not the 80 per cent push that was required in the old hybrid Panamera. Step-off acceleration is impressive, then, the full torque output helping, and useful against the additional weight all that technology adds.
That bulk is apparent at the wheel, and though Porsche has done a decent job of masking it, there's no denying the hybrid's responses aren't as sharp as in other Panameras. Forget you're in a hybrid for a bit and dial up Sport Plus and it's quick; it even sounds good, though burn through that battery and it sees the engine labouring a bit to sustain that performance - despite Porsche claiming it'll always retain a bit of battery power to allow full power. On E-Power mode, within the limitations of its range, it's quick and quiet, working particularly well around the city, without feeling confined by it. As a nod to fully electrified Porsches promised in the future it's an enticing one.
What you get for your money
Given the masses of technology it's hauling around its price doesn't seem too unreasonable, as it costs a few hundred Euro less than the regular Panamera 4. Equipment levels are decent too.
A sports saloon and economical, tax-efficient luxury car mixed into one, Porsche's Panamera 4 E-Hybrid is a clever car. Though for its parsimonious goals some driver appeal has inevitably been sacrificed. That'll not bother most buyers, but if you're buying a Panamera because you want a four-door Porsche then you're better served elsewhere in the line-up.