What is it?
The Porsche Panamera 4 E-Hybrid is more fresh meat for the lower end of the Porsche Panamera range – which is a confusing enough place to negotiate as it is.
There’s the entry-level Panamera, the Panamera 4, the 4S and the 4S Diesel to choose from down here already: sub-£100k options all, powered by no fewer than three different engines and offering the choice of either one driven axle or two.
Into that mix now enters the four-wheel drive Panamera 4 E-Hybrid, adding V6 petrol-electric power to the existing choice of V6 petrol or V8 diesel engines – and that’s not counting the V8 petrol or V8 petrol-electric options on offer if you’re prepared to spend upwards of £100,000 on a car with that ever-alluring 'turbo' badge on the bootlid.
The hybrid slots into the range between the regular Panamera 4 and the pair of 4S models on price, being slightly slower-accelerating than both of them on paper – but, confusingly, also more powerful than both.
Its combustion engine is a detuned version of the twin-turbocharged 2.9-litre V6 from the 4S, which produces 326bhp and 332lb ft of torque. Electrical motive force comes from a 134bhp, 295lb ft motor mounted upstream of the car’s eight-speed ‘PDK’ gearbox and four-wheel drive system. So the car is technically similar to ‘plug-in’ hybrids from BMW, Mercedes and Audi, which use electric and piston engines driving a common transmission - rather than those made by the likes of Mitsubishi and Volvo with their ‘electric rear axles’.
Like other Panameras, the car offers four doors, four seats and a large liftback-style boot, and all are combined with a curving roofline that Porsche hopes you’ll consider sufficiently ‘coupé-like’ to consider the car more elegant and desirable than the average three-box saloon. And if you don’t, the 4 E-Hybrid will also be available as a Sport Turismo shooting brake.
What's it like?
Given you’re getting an extra 22bhp and 110lb ft here compared with the 4S and you’re freeing up nearly £10k on what you might have spent on that car, you might consider this the sweet spot of the whole Panamera range. It doesn't drive that way - not quite, anyway - though this is still a car with a lot going for it.
Real-world performance is always better represented by in-gear acceleration than standing-start times, after all – and in manual mode, picking up from humdrum speeds in a fairly high gear, the E-Hybrid feels both instantly muscular and brisk.
The car offers ‘electric’, ‘hybrid’, ‘sport’ and ‘sport+’ driving modes, covering about 25 miles on a full battery charge in the first of them – and doing so with plenty of performance for town motoring and in typically hushed calm. The contrast when you move from zero-emission mode into ‘sport’, however, is a big one – the car’s twin-turbo V6 growling angrily and conjuring a distinct performance flavour.
When punting the car around at urban speeds, the Panamera’s eight-speed twin-clutch gearbox can struggle to make the car feel at once responsive and smooth – but when you’re accelerating hard out of town, it works quickly and blends together the dual sources of torque very well. The faster it revs, the less gutsy and special the car’s powertrain feels – but it never feels less than assertive on the road.
Another advantage the E-Hybrid gets over the more expensive 4S petrol is adaptive air suspension as standard, which makes the Panamera ride and handle with an impressive mix of suppleness, isolation and good body control. The weight penalty of that hybrid drive battery does present itself under particularly high lateral loads but isn’t a barrier to enjoying the car at normal road speeds when it feels commendably precise, and both agile and well-balanced for a car of its size.