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Car reviews - Porsche - Panamera - 4 e-Hybrid

Our Opinion

We like
Cutting-edge petrol-electric plug-in hybrid tech, futuristic interior, smooth air suspension, improved PDK transmission
Room for improvement
Extra weight dulls performance and handling, expensive desirable options

Cast expectations aside, Porsche Panamera 4 E-Hybrid proves the future is fun

Gallery

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Porsche logo1 Jun 2018

Overview

 

BACK in 2013, Porsche rocked the automotive world with its first full-time plug-in hybrid production model, the Panamera S E-Hybrid. Unable to avoid the inevitable, the Stuttgart-based car-maker embraced the electrified future.

Thus, as the Panamera enters its second generation, so does Porsche's plug-in hybrid powertrain, which this time comes in two flavours – 4 E-Hybrid and Turbo S E-Hybrid. We sample the former to discover if it is a worthy contender in the ever-changing premium upper-large sedan class.

So, has Porsche improved upon its initial effort? Does the Panamera 4 E-Hybrid stay true to the brand's formula of handling prowess and spectacular performance? Read on to find out.

Price and equipment

 

Priced from $242,600 before on-road costs, the Panamera 4 E-Hybrid is an expensive proposition irrespective of its $42,700 generational price cut, but buyers are compensated with a long list of standard equipment.

This includes LED tail-lights and daytime running lights, an extendible rear spoiler, a panoramic sunroof, auto-dimming rearview and side mirrors, privacy glass, a power tailgate, and keyless entry and start.

 

Inside, leather upholstery, four-zone climate control, a front-row 12.3-inch PCM touchscreen infotainment system, Apple CarPlay support, digital radio, satellite navigation with live traffic, dual 7.0-inch digital instrument clusters, a 14-speaker Bose surround sound system and a second-row 10.0-inch touchscreen PCM infotainment system feature.

 

Our test car was fitted with an eye-watering $21,520 worth of options, which is – would you believe it – not that bad for a Porsche.

These options extended to high-gloss black 21-inch SportDesign alloy wheels ($9380), electric roller sunblinds for the rear compartment and side windows ($2940), dynamic LED Matrix headlights ($2690), front seat ventilation ($2190), blind-spot monitoring ($1890), ambient lighting ($990), rear USB connectivity ($790), speed-sensitive Power Steering Plus ($650) ... And breathe.

Alternatively, you could spend this amount of money on carbon-ceramic brakes ($20,980) instead, such is the extensive nature of the additional extras list.

Thankfully, the Carrara White metallic paint our 4 E-Hybrid was finished in is one of the very few no-cost options available.

 

Interior

 

If there is one word to sum up the Panamera's interior, it would be disbelief. Why? Every friend or family member that was lucky enough to sit inside the 4 E-Hybrid during our time with it commented on how otherworldly the cabin is.

The truth is, it still feels like a concept car. Porsche has done well to embrace the digital world we all find ourselves living in.

 

The 12.3-inch PCM touchscreen infotainment system is a knockout, immediately drawing the attention of occupants due to its gargantuan size.

PCM is relatively easy to use, complemented by shortcut buttons featuring haptic feedback that line the centre console. This set-up successfully declutters the previous-generation Panamera's button-heavy design.

 

Rear passengers will not feel left out as they get their own 10.0-inch PCM touchscreen to play with. Thankfully, its controls are more limited – we are looking at you, children – but annoyingly they do allow the radio station to be changed unwillingly.

 

The four individual sports seats are comfortable, albeit a little narrow for some, with the front pews offering plenty of adjustment. Rear legroom is generous, allowing occupants to stretch their legs and enjoy the journey. Surprisingly, rear headroom is decent, regardless of the liftback's sweeping roofline.

 

Despite its success design-wise, the interior is let down by the passenger-side front window's rubber seal that partially conceals the (optional) blind-spot monitoring system's light on the inner side of the wing mirror. Otherwise, fit and finish is predictably top-notch.

 

Frustratingly, the Panamera's doors are difficult to close casually, as we often found ourselves at the behest of the loud 'door open' warning signal. Perhaps the best solution would be to spend another $1790 on the optional soft-close doors. Why not go all in?

 

Boot capacity is 405 litres, which is less than impressive. Its shallowness is at fault here, unfortunately.

Decent width and length is unable to make up for the height lost to the electric motor and battery. By comparison, the regular Panamera 4 provides 500L of luggage space.

 

Engine and transmission

 

The 4 E-Hybrid pairs a 2.9-litre twin- turbocharged V6 petrol engine that produces 243kW of power from 5250 to 6500rpm and 450Nm of torque between 1750 and 5000rpm with an electric motor that develops 100kW at 2800rpm and 400Nm from 100 to 2300rpm.

The net result? Combined outputs of 340kW at 6000rpm and 700Nm between 1100 and 4500rpm. Sounds pretty good, right?

 

While these figures may appear colossal on paper, the reality is they feel far from it behind the wheel. The 4 E-Hybrid is one of those car that is quick in reality, although you would not think so sitting inside.

A lot of this has to do with its significant 2245kg weight which seemingly blunts performance. For what it is worth, Porsche claims it can sprint from zero to 100km/h in 4.6 seconds while on the way to a top speed of 278km/h.

 

However, the 4 E-Hybrid's saving grace is its petrol-electric plug-in hybrid system that, simply put, is the best we have sampled yet. Its ability to recharge the battery at a considerable rate on the fly is nothing short of remarkable. But how does it do it?

 

Well, six different driving modes are available, with each offering a different approach to managing the powertrain.

E-Power is the default mode and prioritises electric power over petrol, with the latter only kicking in if the accelerator is stomped on. Alternatively, Hybrid Auto combines electric and petrol, determining which is preferential via vehicle and map data.

 

While E-Hold primarily uses the combustion engine to focus on retaining the current level of charge for later use, E-Charge steals the spotlight as the most impressive Hybrid mode.

This set-up also prefers petrol power, but instead uses it to charge the battery to full while propelling the vehicle. We found that the battery could be topped by about 60 per cent over our 40-minute drive to work. While at the cost of fuel economy, it sure beats plugging in to charge time-wise, but more on that in a moment.

 

Meanwhile, the Sport mode employs petrol-electric power but maintains the minimum charge level required for boost, while also dialling the powertrain and chassis up to their sportier settings.

As its name implies, Sport Plus takes this formula a step further by ensuring the battery is fully charged as quickly as possible, while the powertrain and chassis are shifted to their highest-performing settings.

 

Charging-wise, we used the standard 3.6kW onboard charger with a normal 10-amp household power plug, which, as promised, charged the battery from empty to full in just over six hours. This charging time does not exactly set any world records, with short stints not getting you anywhere quickly. Why hello, E-Charge mode...

Alternatively, the optional 7.2kW onboard charger can fully charge the 4 E-Hybrid in as little as 1.9 hours when connected to a 32A industrial power plug.

 

This Panamera sends drive to all four wheels via a superb eight-speed PDK dual-clutch automatic transmission. The new PDK is one of the best dual-clutch units we have sampled.

Yes, downshifting to second and first is still jerky at low speed but not as pronounced as others. Other than that, it is as smooth as butter – or a baby's bottom, whichever you prefer. The most pleasing aspect is its willingness to kick down a gear or two when the accelerator is pinned to the floor.

 

Claimed fuel usage on the combined cycle test is 2.5 litres per 100 kilometres, while combined electricity consumption is 16.0 kilowatt hours per 100km and carbon dioxide emissions are rated at 56 grams per km.

Porsche also says the 4 E-Hybrid has a pure-electric driving range of 25 to 51km providing speed does not exceed 140km/h. While electric propulsion is drawn from a 14kWh lithium-ion battery, the Panamera's fuel tank can hold 80L of 98 RON.

 

During our time with the 4 E-Hybrid, we averaged 10.0L/100km and 28.3kWh/100km in mainly city conditions with limited highway runs.

While these figures are considerably higher than Porsche's claims, it should be noted that we regularly utilised E-Charge to top up the battery while commuting, meaning the petrol engine was prominently used instead of hybrid power.

 

Ride and handling

 

Measuring in at 5049mm long, 1937mm wide and 1423mm tall with a 2950mm wheelbase, the Panamera's girth is apparent when cutting through smaller side streets lined with parked cars, or travelling within narrow lanes. Make no mistake, this is a big car that feels like a big car.

 

On the subject of feeling, there is no way to hide the 4 E-Hybrid's 2245kg of unladen mass (European standard). It can feel especially heavy over the front end on turn-in. Comparatively, the regular Panamera 4 weighs in at 1925kg – or a significant 320kg less.

 

Unfortunately, this extra heft blunts the car's dynamics. While still dynamically capable in its own right when compared to other less-portly Panamera variants, the 4 E-Hybrid is not as sharp around bends – especially roundabouts – thanks to its tendency to understeer.

Nevertheless, Porsche's trademark steering makes another appearance, offering plenty of weight and feel.

 

Riding on an independent double-wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension set-up, the Panamera has switchable three-chamber air springs and adjustable dampers.

As you could imagine, ride comfort is sublime. The air springs default to their highest level in most modes, but go lower and lower again in Sport and Sport+ respectively. Naturally, the sportier settings provide a harsher, flatter ride when called upon, but the normal setting is happy to waft along, providing much of the serenity that occupants get to enjoy.

 

The aforementioned optional 21-inch alloy wheels fitted to our test were wrapped in Pirelli P Zero tyres (275/35 front, 315/30 rear). Given their enormous diameter, these hoops did negatively impact ride quality at times. The regular 19-inch rims might be a better option, even if they do not look as good.

 

Stopping power is handled by monstrous ventilated disc brakes (390mm front, 365mm rear) clamped by six- and four-piston callipers at the front and rear respectively. As the numbers imply, this braking system is able to pull up the heavy 4 E-Hybrid with ease. A necessary move given its weight.

 

Safety and servicing

 

The Panamera has not been tested by the Australasian New Car Assement Program (ANCAP) or its overseas counterparts, but it offers a decent suite of safety and driver-assist technologies.

 

Unfortunately, lane-keep assist ($1390) and stop and go functionality ($990) for the standard adaptive cruise control are optional.

However, standard kit includes adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, a 360-degree monitor, front and rear parking sensors, rear cross-traffic alert, eight airbags, and rain-sensing wipers.

 

All Porsche models come with a three-year/unlimited-kilometres new-vehicle warranty, which includes paint protection over the same period. The rust warranty is four times as long, at 12 years, while the high-voltage battery is protected for six years/120,000km.

Main service intervals are yearly or every 15,000km – whichever comes first.

 

Verdict

 

You know that old saying 'it's not always love at first sight'? Well, that is our assessment of the Panamera 4 E-Hybrid in a nutshell.

Initial impressions led to us to believe it was a disappointment, but additional time spent behind the wheel revealed its delightful intricacies – such is the complexity of its plug-in hybrid set-up.

 

See, the 4 E-Hybrid is one of those cars that does not make sense … until you understand it. And once you do, it offers one of the more rewarding driving experiences on the market today.

Specifically, Porsche has excelled with this application of a petrol-electric plug-in hybrid powertrain. In traffic and city or suburban areas, the option of electric propulsion is inspired from an environmental and ambience perspective. Plus, we have never driven a car that charges its battery so quickly on the move – it is seriously impressive stuff.

 

A high-tech interior and a sublime ride are two other strong points, but it is hard to ignore the toll the plug-in hybrid system takes on the Panamera's unladen weight.

The impact that the extra heft has on the 4 E-Hybrid's performance and handling is noticeable, even if both are still relatively sharp.

 

The Panamera 4 E-Hybrid cannot rest on its laurels, because the upcoming Mercedes-Benz S560e, Lexus LS500h and Audi A8L e-tron are waiting in the wings, bringing some tough competition to the plug-in hybrid premium upper-large sedan class.

Nevertheless, Porsche should be quite pleased with its effort here, because it will take quite a bit to top. The Panamera 4 E-Hybrid is definitely worth a second date.

 

Rivals

 

Audi A8L 3.0 TDI quattro (from $210,855 before on-road costs)

While currently unconfirmed for Australia, the upcoming A8L e-tron will be a perfect rival if it comes here. However, the previous-generation A8L 3.0 TDI quattro is Audi's most logical competitor – for now. Its sublime quality and sound suppression is let down by an ageing cabin and expensive options list.

 

Mercedes-Benz S400d L (from $222,500 before on-road costs)

Until the S560e plug-in hybrid arrives in the middle of this year, the S400d L is Mercedes-Benz's most fitting Panamera 4 E-Hybrid competitor. Its sumptuous comfort and smooth ride is countered by a waft-prone suspension and blunted dynamics.

 

BMW 740e iPerformance (from $232,300 before on-road costs)

The Panamera 4 E-Hybrid's most direct rival comes from Munich, with the 740e iPerformance offering an excellent ride and handling, but its abundance of hi-tech goodies border on overkill. That being said, it is the Porsche's only direct rival on the market currently.

Model release date: 1 August 2017

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