Meet the Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid – one of the fastest, most eco-friendly ways to ferry four adults around in style for £100,000….
The Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid raises many an eyebrow. We’ll come back to its looks, but let’s start with its green credentials. You see, this 167mph two-ton Teutonic beast with a basic price of just under £90,000 is VED Band A, which means it’s car tax free, exempt from the London Congestion Charge and qualifies for company car tax breaks. Why? Because this Panamera is a plug-in Porsche. So, alongside its 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine, capable of 0-62mph in 5.5 seconds, sits an electric motor which, in theory, makes 91mpg possible with CO2 emissions of just 70g/km.
If you can get your head round that, we’ll return to the elephant in the room – the Panamera’s styling.
Porsche has softened the edges of the latest version of the Panamera, which has helped, but it’s still a Marmite car – for many, the awkward offspring of a 911 and Cayenne. I wasn’t convinced before Porsche lent me an S E-Hybrid for a week, but it grew on me big time. Pictures don’t do it justice. To appreciate it fully, you need to get up close and personal, and preferably drive it too. I’m now evangelical about Panameras – especially after driving a 4.8-litre V8 Turbo at Silverstone’s Porsche Experience Centre recently.
As soon as you step in, you realise that it’s as much a sports car as a luxury saloon. The low-seating position, the beautifully designed cockpit and the whole on-road experience scream driver’s car. Of course, with its size and weight it’s never going to succeed fully, but I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the S E-Hybrid on motorways and country roads, though admittedly city driving was a little more challenging.
Externally, it’s distinguished from “regular” Panameras by subtle green badging and eye-catching lime green brake callipers. Inside the cockpit, there are five dials behind the wheel (some with eco-read-outs) and in amongst the plethora of buttons on the centre console are a few controlling the driving modes – Hybrid, E-Mode, E-Charge and Sport.
The driving modes vary from pure electric (in theory, good for 22 miles on battery power alone, at speeds of up to 84mph) to Sport, where the engine and electric motor combine to give you the full beans. Somewhere in between, it can use the engine’s spare capacity and brake energy recovery to charge up the battery.
Starting up the S E-Hybrid is a silent experience. Turn the key and nothing much happens except for the electric charge needle springing into life on the instrument panel. You then waft away on pure electric mode, and as with many an electric car, there’s amazing acceleration on tap. The engine cuts in when the battery charge has run out or you switch to one of the other driving modes. So in theory, if your regular commute to work is less than 20 miles, you drive sensibly and you can charge up the batteries before your drive home, you will only use battery power and no petrol, which means your journey only costs the electricity it took to charge up the batteries. On longer runs, fuel economy could be anything from 30-65mpg, depending on the type of driving. When connected to a fast charger, the lithium-ion batteries take two and a half hours to charge up – closer to four hours when connected to a conventional household electrical outlet.
The S E-Hybrid’s slick 8-speed Tiptronic S auto box deserves a mention too, as does the awesome Bose surround sound system fitted to my car. But no car is perfect, and the Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid is no exception. I was never 100% comfortable in the driving seat, the steering wheel slightly obscures the dials, the multitude of centre console buttons (front and back!) was mind-boggling, boot space is compromised thanks to the hybrid tech and rear visibility isn’t the best. That said, I can forgive the Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid for all its faults. It’s a clever, beautifully built, big sports saloon that’s involving to drive and dares to be different.
Of course, quality comes at a price. The basic S E-Hybrid costs £88,967, though all the extras in my test car, including metallic paint, Bose audio system and adaptive cruise control, made the final total £101,976. However, as a ULEV (Ultra-Low Emission Vehicles), it qualifies for a government grant, taking £5,000 off the list price.
For more information, go to www.porsche.com.