As complex as the Panamera S E-Hybrid’s driveline may appear – and, make no mistake, it is at the very cutting edge of automotive technology - the big four-seater is remarkably straight forward to drive. Which is exactly what Porsche says its customers demanded when they sat down with them to discuss what they expected of the world’s first plug-in petrol-electric luxury car.
Porsche has conceived its latest hybrid to offer four different driving modes: E-Power, Hybrid, E-Charge and Sport. The driver can override the system and choose to select a particular mode via buttons on the centre console, but the system is so intuitive it is better to leave it to its own devices for the best possible fuel savings.
The default mode is E-Power; as long as there is sufficient charge in the battery it will always use the electric motor to set off. Refinement levels in this mode are spectacular – every bit as impressive as a pure electric car, with only the sound of the tyres rolling across the bitumen to spoil the silence.
Just how long it continues like this depends on how much charge is in the battery and how much throttle you use. In press-on driving or when electric energy levels run low it automatically switches out of E-Power mode into Hybrid mode.
A string of information can be called upon to keep tabs of factors such as battery charge, remaining electric range and to ensure the highest possible efficiency and charging possibilities.
The E-charge mode allows the battery to be charged on the run, but it involves a firing of the petrol engine, which acts in part like a range extender by providing a small charge to the battery on top of the kinetic energy recuperated under braking and periods of trailing throttle.
On a 32 mile route mapped out at the launch of the new car in Germany this week, we managed to get the Panamera S E-Hybrid to remain in E-Power mode for almost 31 miles at an average speed of almost 30mph over a variety of roads, including city driving conditions, leaving us with indicated fuel consumption of 1413mpg.
On the return leg, with the battery charge depleted and less favourable topography, the petrol engine was in continuous operation, providing an overall figure of nearly 86mpg at roughly the same speed.
They’re impressive figures. But in real world driving conditions it is a rather different story, with overall consumption that is close to the Panamera Diesel, which now returns a combined cycle figure of almost 45mpg.
The big advantage over the old Panamera S Hybrid is the scope provided by the on-board charger to top up the new lithium ion battery using mains power, say overnight or during working hours. This provides it with the ability to run in pure electric mode for extended periods - something that makes the Panamera S E-Hybrid particularly well suited to everyday commuting.
Fortunately, there’s more to this latest Porsche model than pure electric driving. Switching into Sport mode unleashes the full potential of the driveline, in which the petrol engine and electric motor combine to provide more than adequate levels of performance.
At 2095kg, there’s significant mass to shift. But with solid low end torque, thanks in part to the inherent properties of the electric motor, there is a good turn of speed out of the blocks and through the gears, as revealed by Porsche’s own performance claims. The Panamera S E-Hybrid undercuts the Panamera Diesel’s 0-62mph time by a full 1.3sec and 0-124mph time by a full 11.4sec. Part throttle cruising qualities, meanwhile, are hard to fault, with subdued engine noise, low levels of wind buffeting and excellent longitudinal stability.
The additional weight brought on by the hybrid system is only really noticeable on more challenging roads, where you find yourself backing off in corners where you’d still be pressing on in the more inherently sporting Panamera S. The brakes, however, are superb, with excellent feel and massive stopping power. The modifications to the suspension also help improve low-speed ride, bringing greater levels of comfort without any detriment to the way it absorbs irregularities at higher speeds.