Once a purveyor of sports cars alone, over the past few decades Porsche has greatly expanded its range.
In the process it has created a number of flagship products: the 911 is its prized sports car, the 918 Spyder was its supercar player, the Cayenne is the grandest SUV the company makes, and of course the Panamera is Porsche’s peak sedan.
As with any member of the Porsche range, the Panamera comes in a huge array of variants. The hottest of which used to be the Turbo S, now however Porsche’s fastest limo has to share the spotlight with the Panamera E-Hybrid range of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles as the brand turns its focus to no-compromise performance with a green tint.
The baddest of those good guys is this car. The 2019 Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid. It takes the ruthless running gear from the ‘plain’ Turbo S and twins it with additional electric hardware.
The result is a car that can be considered zero emissions (just), can be run for a lot less than a regular Turbo S (okay, just), and perhaps most enticingly can beat every other Panamera from 0–100km/h.
The Turbo S E-Hybrid touts impressive stats: 0–100km/h acceleration of 3.4 seconds, a combined 500kW and 850Nm from its twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 and electric motor, a remarkable 2.9 litre per 100km fuel-use claim (using Australia’s older NEDC consumption test standard), and a $467,200 price tag before options and personalisation.
By comparison that makes the Turbo S E-Hybrid $23,000 more expensive than a V8-only Turbo S, 0.4 seconds quicker from a standing start, 7.5L/100km more economical (based on claimed figures), plus it packs 81kW and 100Nm more.
There’s certainly something there to justify the extra expense. It’s also around 330kg heavier, too, in case you’d like to account for your ‘something extra’ by the scales.
The concept, as with other plug-in hybrids from prestige brands, is simple, novel (for now) and has merit. You plug the car into a wall outlet and charge it, which allows short-distance electric running for your commute to work or your weekend property.
Once that charge has depleted, the petrol engine allows you to keep on driving, be that for a week of touring away from home, or in any situation where the base range won’t cut it and there’s not enough downtime or infrastructure to facilitate a recharge.
Outside of Australia, some city centres have implemented charges for combustion vehicles, so running in EV mode allows the Turbo S E-Hybrid to avoid those, while also allowing it every ounce of performance should you wish to test its mettle on the track. Fascinating stuff.
According to Porsche, on the newer, more stringent WLTP consumption test, the Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid has 49km of zero-emissions potential enabled via an electric motor imaginatively titled the “e-machine” and a lithium ion battery pack of 14.1kWh capacity. From a 10-amp wall plug, the battery can be replenished in six hours, or as little as 2.4 hours with a dedicated 7.2kW, 32-amp charger.
WLTP also rates fuel use slightly higher at 3.0L/100km compared to NEDC’s 2.9L/100km rating as used in Australia.
There are drive modes aplenty, too. Normal, Sport and Sport + modes are usual Porsche fare, ramping up the aggressiveness of throttle, transmission, suspension and steering in the typical performance car fashion. There’s also E-Power, Hybrid Auto, E-Hold and E-Charge settings to consider, too.
Each respectively: prioritises electric power but can call on the combustion engine; automatically uses the best powertrain (or combination of both) to match the current driving style, or operates much like a Toyota hybrid system when there’s no battery charge remaining; can save electric power for later use; or uses the petrol engine to generate charge and replenish the batteries.
The e-machine itself is capable of providing 100kW and 400Nm, so even when it’s doing all the heavy lifting, the Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid feels anything but timid. In urban conditions, there’s enough urge to keep up with traffic, and the electric motor’s position ahead of the eight-speed dual-clutch PDK transmission allows it to cycle through the gears and best utilise the available power and torque.
For those adventurous with the accelerator, be that from a standing start or for more spirited overtaking, the petrol engine is quick to ignite and feeds in power without a trace of abruptness – the scenery simply surges from streaming to screaming by as the stout V8 rumble chimes in.
E-Power mode itself isn’t as impressively smooth running on electricity alone, however. Unlike dedicated EVs with single-speed transmissions, there are fluctuations from the PDK that create small flutters in power delivery through each gear.
Just like Porsche’s dedicated sports cars, there’s a Sport Response button accessible via the steering-wheel-mounted control for 20 seconds of all-in performance at your disposal, similar to push-to-pass systems available in high-level motorsports.
If you are rolling through town, a 2.2-tonne-plus limo accelerating through traffic without a hint of noise, except for the very faintest of electric whine, also manages to turn more heads than you might imagine. It’s just not something people expect.
As for Porsche’s 49km range claim, the Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid fell rather embarrassingly short in the real world. From a fully charged battery, the big limo claimed 42km of range, which is decently close.
Switching the air-con off (as it would be in official testing) added another 4km of indicated range – but who buys a half-million-dollar limo to sweat through summer? Within just a few hundred metres of leaving the CarAdvice garage, the trip computer had recalculated driving range down to 34km.
Using the car’s default E-Power mode and entering into mid-week, middle-of-the-day Melbourne traffic, the Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid had covered only 25.2km before its electric distance-to-empty readout had zeroed out, and 26.5km before the engine kicked in for the first time.
In low-volume start-stop and flowing traffic over an 81km loop that took one hour and 35 minutes, our zero-emissions driving accounted for 25m of that time. Average speed was 54km/h, fuel consumption averaged 8.2L/100km, and electric consumption sat at 23.4kWh/100km against Porsche’s optimistic 16.2kWh/100km claim.
While Porsche's plug-in aims to differentiate itself from the more mainstream single-engine Panamera Turbo S in local emissions-free driving, but falls short of the mark, its performance potential is much more accessible.
Find the right kind of flowing road, select Sport or Sport+, and the Panamera still behaves like a supremely powerful and sharply honed sports sedan. It lacks the outright punk attitude of something like a Mercedes-AMG S63, but still flexes its considerable muscle in a clear and concise way.
At no point does the Turbo S E-Hybrid feel agile or light on its feet, but with all-wheel drive channelling the available 850Nm to the tarmac, the Porsche feels much more secure than the two-wheel-drive Benz, with an adventurous streak if you’re willing.
Slingshot rolling acceleration and sharp steering make light work of stringing together a series of switchbacks. The engine, chassis and steering are pinpoint balanced between big and cosseting, while maintaining the feel and feedback needed for absolute enjoyment.
Only the brakes let the package down – devoid of feel and hard to balance as the car switches from electric regeneration to physical friction braking. Porsche’s legendary sweet pedal feel of cars like the 911 has been completely erased from this car. The hulking Panamera pulls up more like a generations-old Prius. Not lacking for ability, mind you, just short on control finesse.
The difference may not matter to some. Knowing they’re at the wheel of the biggest and baddest weapon Porsche has in its passenger-car armoury will be enough.
The interior of the Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid supports its flagship status. Sculpted seats wrap all four passengers, with a high-set console running front to back creating the same cockpit-like feel for passengers as the driver.
Despite fastback styling, there’s plenty of space within. The roof is high enough to ease entry and egress in the rear, and there’s enough leg room to allow rear seat passengers to stretch out. It’s not traditionally limo-like, yet still accommodating enough to fit the bill.
Due to the additional hardware onboard, boot space shrinks slightly. Already the Panamera is at a disadvantage compared to even some mid-size sedans with just 432L of luggage space. In the E-Hybrid version, this drops to a smaller still 405L, but with the huge powered lift-gate swung up there is wide-open versatility to pack with ease.
Interior themes are unmistakably Porsche, from the horizontally oriented dash to the five-dial instruments (which hide a TFT screen each side of a central tacho) and the race-framed three-spoke steering wheel.
There’s also a sea of touch-activated buttons arranged up and down the centre console. Unlike the Macan, and its physical buttons, the Panamera’s touch controls require long glances away from the road to activate functions that should be simple muscle-memory clicks.
As you’d expect, the standard features list is l-o-n-g. Four-zone climate control, heated front and rear seats wrapped in leather trim, electric front seats and steering column, keyless entry and start, app access to control climate preconditioning and charging, surround-view cameras, pop-up and fold-out rear spoiler, active air suspension and much, much more.
There are also included Porsche-centric features like carbon composite brakes – clamped by 10-piston front and four-piston rear calipers – dynamic chassis control with torque vectoring plus, dynamic light system plus, communications management, active safe, active suspension management and more. All of which list on Porsche’s official documentation with the brand name ahead to make them sound more impressive than they’d otherwise be.
Interior tech puts 14-speaker Bose audio at your disposal, accessed via a slick 12.0-inch high-res screen and loaded with LTE connectivity compatibility, Apple CarPlay, digital radio, connected app services and voice control.
As good as the system looks at a glance, plugging through menus can be a confusing and almost chaotic experience at times. Porsche packs a lot of detail into that available space.
There are, of course, options. From wheels to paint finishes, single- and dual-tone interior trims (naturally), not to mention the list of options on our test car including highlights like a sports exhaust ($7650), rear-axle steering ($4340), 18-way adaptive sports seats ($3190), interior carbon package ($1980) amongst others, adding over $23,000 to the order price.
Although it may be the most ferocious Panamera available, is the Turbo S E-Hybrid really the right choice?
The speed at which PHEV tech is moving now sees it a little short on range (actual range more so than claimed, of course), and without the need – legislated or otherwise – for zero-emissions capabilities, the additional spend makes the E-Hybrid hard to justify.
Though it may be quicker in a straight line, the real-world ability to take full advantage of that potential is rare. Headline figures for the non-hybrid model may not be as impressive, but as a whole it seems like the better, more Porsche-like choice for all but the most curious.