Most popular Panamera is far more impressive, capable and rewarding to drive than the original, and genuinely economical

What is it?

The idea of buying yourself an imposing and highly capable Porsche four-door GT car for the thick end of £100k, yet deliberately denying yourself the two most stirring twin-turbo V8 applications in favour of a more economical electrified model, might look an odd decision to those who imagine using private funds on the purchase.

Why have a £101,690 Panamera 4S E-Hybrid, tested here, when for a mere £5500 more you can have the simpler, lighter, sportier, better-sounding and more agile Panamera GTS V8?

Concern for the environment is one big driver, Porsche reports, and tax is another. As a company car, the E-Hybrid attracts dramatically lower benefit-in-kind taxation because of its 51-67g/km official CO2 output, which less than a quarter of the CO2 figure of its nearest twin-turbo V8 counterpart.

No surprise, then, that 60% of British Panamera sales have been PHEVs, and the situation is expected to stay that way – or accelerate – when this revised Panamera generation hits the market next month. After all, you’re not giving away anything significant in performance: the PHEV sits comfortably between the two V8 twin-turbo models, offering a 3.7sec 0-62mph sprint time and a 185mph top speed against 3.9/186 for the GTS and 3.1/196 for the full-house Turbo S.

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What's it like?

The answer to that question depends dramatically on what you’ve been driving beforehand. If you’ve been used to grumbling V8s that can rev as well, this V6-electric powertrain (whose noise takes over only when the silence of the electric drive runs out) sounds a bit thin. 

From the outset, we believe the best approach to the E-Hybrid is to glory in the new capability of the 2021-spec Panamera’s PHEV powertrain rather than wishing it were something else. The unique combination of performance and economy is deeply impressive, even if the WLTP figures quoted for mpg and CO2 output still don’t tell the full ownership story.  

Advertised as good for 34 miles of electric cruising before there’s any need to start the petrol engine, the Panamera PHEV showed on test that its real-world battery-only range can indeed beat 30 miles, an impressive performance for a big car whose kerb weight has been increased 300kg by the presence of an on-board 17.9kWh battery. The Panamera V6’s total performance is augmented by the presence of the associated 134bhp electric motor (mounted in the bowels of the eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox), which especially assists at the low end of the performance range. As a result of the twin-powerplant set-up, this Panamera has no fewer than six driving modes, with the self-explanatory E-power, Hybrid Auto, E-hold and E-charge driver choices to go with the usual Sport and Sport-plus.

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Even when you use electric power only, the Panamera delivers quite powerful acceleration off the mark and can cruise at speeds approaching 80mph, although when it has the aero loads of all that speed to overcome, the range falls dramatically. Better to manage the battery power yourself or let Hybrid Auto do it. On our 80-mile round trip on A-roads, back roads and through villages – always taken briskly – the car returned to base having averaged 78mpg, a very good performance. Of course, if we’d continued to Edinburgh, the figure would have fallen dramatically, but then most journeys don’t do that.

As with many electrified cars, you don’t seem to drive with quite the abandon you might use in, say, a Panamera GTS V8 because you become (pleasantly) occupied with saving fuel, maximising regen braking and either eking out the battery power or replenishing it (via the E-charge mode) so you can glide silently through the next town. This may not sound like a traditional driving challenge, but it’s absorbing and has the potential to save copious amounts of fuel compared with a 'normal' car. 

One thing’s for sure: the latest Panamera PHEV is light years ahead of the original hybrid version of this model, which was distinctly poor in sound, responses and all-round performance. The minutiae of the driving modes has been carefully tweaked and in particular there has been much development of the way the brakes integrate the retardation available from electric power regeneration and the usual friction system to provide something close to the powerful, self-energised feel of a petrol-only Porsche.

10 Porsche panamera e hybrid 2020 uk fd dashboard

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Should I buy one?

Talking company cars, the tax saving makes the E-Hybrid choice a no-brainer, which is why so many Panamera buyers have already voted with their feet. For those few who are buying a car like this privately, there is also the appeal of the PHEV's comparative efficiency and the enjoyment of balancing the conventional and electric power sources. And with the V6 on song, this is still a stirring car to drive, even if not in the class of the twin-turbo V8s. 

Residual value may be another factor in its favour. As we move closer to the proposed cut-off date for internal combustion engine sales, big V8s may come to be taxed more highly and also to be regarded as less respectable. That can be expected to hit values. It strikes us that buying this latest plug-in Panamera is a way of making a contribution and keeping value in your car while giving away relatively little in driving enjoyment or continent-covering ability.

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Steve Cropley

Steve Cropley Autocar
Title: Editor-in-chief

Steve Cropley is the oldest of Autocar’s editorial team, or the most experienced if you want to be polite about it. He joined over 30 years ago, and has driven many cars and interviewed many people in half a century in the business. 

Cropley, who regards himself as the magazine’s “long stop”, has seen many changes since Autocar was a print-only affair, but claims that in such a fast moving environment he has little appetite for looking back. 

He has been surprised and delighted by the generous reception afforded the My Week In Cars podcast he makes with long suffering colleague Matt Prior, and calls it the most enjoyable part of his working week.

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xxxx 23 September 2020

78mpg, Statistics

Did you remember to add the charging of the battery to that cost.