Car reviews - Porsche - Panamera - 4 e-Hybrid
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
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1 Jun 2018
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.
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.
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.
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 12.3-inch PCM touchscreen infotainment system is a knockout, immediately drawing the attention of occupants due to its gargantuan size.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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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