In the past, it wasn’t just powertrains that were hybridized in Porsche’s gasoline-electric vehicles—their mission, too, was split between upholding a dynamic pedigree and reducing fuel consumption. But the 918 Spyder hypercar marked a shift in philosophy: Porsche now says hybridization means making kick-ass cars kick more ass, treating the fuel-economy and emissions benefits of electrification as subordinate to boosting performance. (Those other things remain important for regulatory and marketing reasons, of course.)
The new Panamera 4 E-Hybrid certainly generates numbers that support the new focus. Compared with the previous Panamera hybrid, total system horsepower is up to 462 from 416, total torque has increased to 516 lb-ft from 435 lb-ft, and Porsche claims the new version is 0.8 second quicker to 60 mph (all the more impressive considering it weighs another 700 pounds more than the 330-hp nonhybrid Panamera 4).
Credit upgrades to the driveline and electric components of the powertrain. An eight-speed ZF-sourced dual-clutch transmission takes the place of an eight-speed planetary automatic, bringing with it whip-crack shift speeds. Per the 4 in its name, the Panamera 4 E-Hybrid now has standard all-wheel drive, whereas the previous S E-Hybrid was rear-drive only. The new car also will be offered as a long-wheelbase Executive model. No matter the length, the E-Hybrid is equipped with a 14.1-kWh battery pack offering 50 percent more capacity than before, as well as a stronger electric motor/generator—still sandwiched between the engine and the transmission—making 136 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque against the old one’s 95 and 229. Charge time for the batteries can be as quick as two and a half hours using the optional 7.2-kW onboard charger and a 240-volt, 40-amp power source. The internal-combustion engine remains a V-6 of roughly identical output, but it’s a new, twin-turbo 2.9-liter design rather than the former supercharged 3.0-liter.
On the road, the Panamera’s powertrain systems are well integrated in the Hybrid Auto mode, with the transition from solely electric power to hybrid operation and back being practically invisible. The car can be cycled through additional modes: E-Power, E-Hold, E-Charge, Sport, and Sport Plus. In E-Power, the Panamera E-Hybrid is capable, Porsche says, of covering up to 31 miles on electricity alone, and it delivers a torquey and mostly serene driving experience, save for some electric-motor whine and an occasional and oddly robust vibration/thrum through the floor. (The source of this thrum remains unconfirmed even after discussions with multiple Porsche engineers, but we suspect some sort of cooling equipment, as it occurred most often after bouts of hard driving and/or acceleration.)
Sport and Sport Plus modes are intended to maximize combined hybrid performance; the former keeps battery charge at a steady level to ensure there’s electric thrust when you want it, while Sport Plus actively works to recharge the batteries using the engine to make sure there’s even more thrust when you want it. We can confirm that these modes execute these tasks as advertised, but they otherwise didn’t seem to significantly alter the character of the car beyond firming up the suspension to various degrees. Whatever the mode, the E-Hybrid offers what you’d expect from a large Porsche sedan: disciplined body control, the ability to soak up hundreds of high-speed miles, and a well-sorted ride from its standard air-spring suspension. It masks its weight well with no sense of lolling or listing in corners, but the E-Hybrid would feel more agile still if, well, it weren’t a hybrid.
But Weight, There’s More
It’s worth pointing out that those seeking the experience promised by modes labeled Sport and Sport Plus are probably better off with the nonhybrid 440-hp 4S. It costs only a few thousand dollars more than the E-Hybrid when comparably equipped and—despite its relative power deficiency—is quicker and more athletic because it weighs hundreds of pounds less. The 4S gives up some fuel efficiency, although we don’t yet know how much; testing of the 4 E-Hybrid on EPA cycles isn’t complete, but Porsche says the figures are coming soon. We’ll know more this summer when the E-Hybrid goes on sale as a 2018 model.
If you bought a 4S instead, you’d also get a predictable (conventional) braking system. The E-Hybrid’s regenerative braking system is actuated via a pedal that’s spongy in the first few millimeters of travel and occasionally pulses under even light pressure for no discernible reason. The system’s transition between regenerative and friction braking is quite noticeable, and the setup also returned varying braking force under constant pressure during single braking events. Owners will probably get used to it, but we doubt they’ll ever be able to consistently stop with grace. Indeed, for all their ample decelerative power, the brakes are a glaring shortcoming in a car that’s otherwise nicely executed.
The good stuff includes sultry sheetmetal that’s more refined and better resolved than before—we could do without the Acid Green hybrid-exclusive touches, though—as well as a swanky interior that centers around an attractive glossy stack lined with touchscreens, capacitive switches, and haptic controls. This new secondary-control setup is worlds easier to negotiate than the buttonpalooza that was the old car’s central tunnel. The overall interior design is simple and refined, and our test cars featured big slabs of dark wood and yards of buttery-soft leather on almost every surface. In typical Porsche fashion, however, there remain oddities. As we noted in our first drive of the Panamera lineup, the direction and strength of airflow from the central vent is controlled via touchscreen for no reason other than it seems someone neglected to say out loud, “That’s stupid.” There are various submenu interfaces, and it’s not always clear which of them houses a specific function; indeed, there’s little about the system that’s intuitive in the way of a great smartphone. The high-res graphics sure are pretty, though.
What Can It Hurt?
The Panamera 4 E-Hybrid sits in the thick of the lineup by price. For roughly $5500 more than the 330-hp Panamera 4 (taking into account the hybrid’s additional standard equipment, including the Sport Chrono package and adjustable air suspension), it’s quicker. But as mentioned earlier, the better-performing 4S commands just a bit more money than the hybrid. So why is Porsche building the E-Hybrid at all, when its main advantage involves as-yet-unannounced fuel-economy numbers that buyers in this price bracket probably don’t give two rips about?
It doesn’t hurt to have this car for Europe, where government emissions targets, infrastructure subsidies for public charging, and aggressive tax incentives for purchasers have fostered an aggressive rollout of plug-in hybrids across all market segments. In addition, performance-hybrid programs such as this one likely provide fertile educational ground for the development of an eventual plug-in-hybrid 911. That’s a pluggable Porsche we’re eager to hear more about, because while this Panamera is quick, capable, and comfortable, it doesn’t raise the pulse quite like we expect that 911 to.
2019 Porsche Panamera 4 E-Hybrid
- Full-Time All-Wheel Drive
- 3.36 Axle Ratio
- Hybrid Electric Motor
- Towing Equipment -inc: Trailer Sway Control
- Gas-Pressurized Shock Absorbers
- Front And Rear Anti-Roll Bars
- 4-Corner Auto-Leveling Suspension
- Automatic w/Driver Control Height Adjustable Automatic w/Driver Control Ride Control Adaptive Suspension
- Electric Power-Assist Steering
- Dual Stainless Steel Exhaust w/Polished Tailpipe Finisher
- 21.1 Gal. Fuel Tank
- Double Wishbone Front Suspension w/Air Springs
- Multi-Link Rear Suspension w/Air Springs
- Regenerative 4-Wheel Disc Brakes w/4-Wheel ABS, Front And Rear Vented Discs, Brake Assist, Hill Hold Control and Electric Parking Brake
- Brake Actuated Limited Slip Differential
- Lithium Ion Traction Battery w/3.6 kW Onboard Charger
- Wheels: 19″ Panamera -inc: 9.0 x 19 front and 10.5 x 19 rear, dual-arm 5-spoke design
- Tires: P265/45ZR19 Fr & P295/40ZR19 Rr
- Wheels w/Silver Accents w/Locks
- Spare Tire Mobility Kit
- Clearcoat Paint
- Express Open/Close Sliding And Tilting Glass 1st Row Sunroof w/Power Sunshade
- Fixed Glass 2nd Row Sunroof w/Power Sunshade
- Body-Colored Front Bumper
- Body-Colored Rear Bumper
- Black Side Windows Trim and Black Front Windshield Trim
- Chrome Door Handles
- Body-Colored Power Heated Auto Dimming Side Mirrors w/Power Folding
- Fixed Rear Window w/Defroster
- Light Tinted Glass
- Rain Detecting Variable Intermittent Wipers w/Heated Jets
- Front Windshield -inc: Sun Visor Strip
- Galvanized Steel/Aluminum Panels
- Power Spoiler
- Power Liftgate Rear Cargo Access
- Tailgate/Rear Door Lock Included w/Power Door Locks
- Fully Automatic Projector Beam Led Low/High Beam Daytime Running Auto-Leveling Headlamps w/Delay-Off
- Rear Fog Lamps
- Perimeter/Approach Lights
- LED Brakelights
- Radio: Porsche Communication Management (PCM) -inc: navigation module, mobile phone preparation, audio interfaces, hi-fi sound system w/10 speakers, total output of 150 watts, Connect Plus, Apple CarPlay, telephone module, wireless internet access, Porsche Car Connect (Carfinder, Remote Vehicle Status, Remote Services, Porsche Vehicle Tracking System (PVTS)), Bluetooth hands-free phone capability, SiriusXM and HD Radio
- Radio w/Seek-Scan, In-Dash Mounted Single CD, Compatible Remote CD, MP3 Player, Clock, Speed Compensated Volume Control, Steering Wheel Controls, Voice Activation, Radio Data System, DVD-Audio and 10 Gb Internal Memory
- Audio Theft Deterrent
- Window Grid Diversity Antenna
- 3 LCD Monitors In The Front
- Navtraffic Real-Time Traffic Display
- 8-Way Power Seats -inc: front comfort seats w/8-way electric adjustment for seat height, seat angle, backrest angle and fore/aft position
- Bucket Front Seats
- Driver Seat
- Passenger Seat
- 60-40 Folding Bucket Front Facing Fold Forward Seatback Rear Seat
- Manual Tilt/Telescoping Steering Column
- Gauges -inc: Speedometer, Odometer, Tachometer, Traction Battery Level, Power/Regen, Trip Odometer and Trip Computer
- Power Rear Windows
- Leather Steering Wheel
- Front Cupholder
- Rear Cupholder
- Proximity Key For Push Button Start Only
- Valet Function
- Power Fuel Flap Locking Type
- Remote Keyless Entry w/Integrated Key Transmitter, Illuminated Entry, Illuminated Ignition Switch and Panic Button
- Remote Releases -Inc: Power Cargo Access
- HomeLink Garage Door Transmitter
- Cruise Control
- Dual Zone Front Automatic Air Conditioning
- HVAC -inc: Underseat Ducts, Residual Heat Recirculation, Headliner/Pillar Ducts and Console Ducts
- Illuminated Locking Glove Box
- Driver Foot Rest
- Interior Trim -inc: Metal-Look/Piano Black Instrument Panel Insert, Metal-Look/Piano Black Door Panel Insert, Leather/Piano Black Console Insert and Metal-Look Interior Accents
- Full Cloth Headliner
- Leather Door Trim Insert
- Leather/Metal-Look Gear Shift Knob
- Partial Leather Seat Trim
- Day-Night Auto-Dimming Rearview Mirror
- Driver And Passenger Visor Vanity Mirrors w/Driver And Passenger Illumination
- Full Floor Console w/Covered Storage, Mini Overhead Console, Rear Console w/Storage and 2 12V DC Power Outlets
- Front And Rear Map Lights
- Fade-To-Off Interior Lighting
- Full Carpet Floor Covering -inc: Carpet Front And Rear Floor Mats
- Carpet Floor Trim
- Trunk/Hatch Auto-Latch
- Rigid Cargo Cover
- Cargo Features -inc: Spare Tire Mobility Kit
- Underhood And Cargo Space Lights
- Memory Settings -inc: Driver Seat and Door Mirrors
- FOB Controls -inc: Trunk/Hatch/Tailgate
- Refrigerated/Cooled Box Located In The Glovebox, Driver / Passenger And Rear Door Bins
- Power 1st Row Windows w/Front And Rear 1-Touch Up/Down
- Delayed Accessory Power
- Power Door Locks w/Autolock Feature
- Systems Monitor
- Trip Computer
- Outside Temp Gauge
- Digital/Analog Display
- Driver And Passenger Heated-Cushion, Driver And Passenger Heated-Seatback
- Fixed Front Head Restraints and Fixed Rear Head Restraints
- Front Center Armrest and Rear Center Armrest w/Storage
- 2 Seatback Storage Pockets
- Perimeter Alarm
- 2 12V DC Power Outlets
- Air Filtration
- Electronic Stability Control (ESC)
- ABS And Driveline Traction Control
- Side Impact Beams
- Dual Stage Driver And Passenger Seat-Mounted Side Airbags
- ParkAssist Front And Rear Parking Sensors
- Tire Specific Low Tire Pressure Warning
- Dual Stage Driver And Passenger Front Airbags
- Curtain 1st And 2nd Row Airbags
- Airbag Occupancy Sensor
- Driver And Passenger Knee Airbag and Rear Side-Impact Airbag
- Rear Child Safety Locks
- Outboard Front Lap And Shoulder Safety Belts -inc: Height Adjusters and Pretensioners
- Back-Up Camera
- The 2018 Porsche Panamera 4 E-Hybrid Sport Turismo; try saying that out loud ten times or crafting a catchy headline that includes it all but is no more than 70 characters in total. Jonathan Gitlin
- The Panamera’s styling has always divided opinion, but this one is a big hit with me.
- Did I mention how much I liked this blue?
- You can always tell a hybrid Porsche because they have acid green brake calipers.
- …and acid green highlights on the badges.
- Cruising around the Arboretum in E-Power mode did make me feel slightly smug, yes.
- In this car you are allowed to park here. Elle Cayabyab Gitlin
In the next few months, Porsche is going to launch the Mission E, a sleek and powerful electric vehicle that might just be the most competition the Tesla Model S will have faced to date. However, the company has been electrifying some of its range for some time now.
We’ll have to wait a while for better battery tech before we get a plug-in hybrid EV (PHEV) 911, Boxster, or Cayman, but Porsche’s Panamera and Cayenne range are available now with a side helping of lithium-ion. The first PHEV Porsche appeared in 2014 in the second-generation Cayenne. It impressed us when we tested it last year, beating less powerful plug-in SUVs from BMW and Volvo when it came to fuel economy and driving fun. But the boffins in Stuttgart have been tinkering with their PHEV tech, adding more kWh, horsepower, torque, and generally refining all the software and control electronics that make everything work. They’ve done a fine job, if our time testing the $104,000 Panamera 4 E-Hybrid Sport Turismo is anything to go by.
Porsche invented the hybrid?
When you think Porsche, you probably picture a 911, the rear-engined sports car now in its 55th year of production. Or maybe the name calls to mind Steve McQueen racing down the Mulsanne Straight in a blue-and-orange blur. But did you also know the company invented the hybrid automobile back in 1900? The Lohner-Porsche Mixed Hybrid—also known as «Semper Vivus»—was one of Ferdinand Porsche’s first creations, using a pair of single-cylinder engines coupled to 2.5kW generators that fed power into a massive battery pack. The technology didn’t catch on at the time, but fast forward more than a century and today the company is still a leader in hybrid technology.
In 2010, it launched the Cayenne S Hybrid, which added some nickel-metal hydride batteries to the big off-roader. That same year, it experimented with a mechanical flywheel as an energy store in the 911 GT3 R race car, technology that then went on to be used by Audi’s diesel-powered Le Mans racers. When it was time for Porsche itself to return to Le Mans with the 919 Hybrid, the company went a more conventional route, combining a turbocharged V4 gasoline engine with two hybrid systems powered by an array of lithium-ion cells. A similar approach was used for its 918 Spyder, which featured a V8 engine derived from the RS Spyder race car, 6.8kWh of lithium-ion storage, and a price tag that wouldn’t leave a lot of change from a million bucks.
As is the way in the automotive world, that technology has been trickling down to Porsche’s mass-production range. The current 911 and 718 sports cars feature a lot of the same engine technology as the 919 Hybrid’s internal combustion engine, for instance. For now, Porsche is holding back from hybridizing its sports cars, citing weight and size as a reason to hold off for the promise of solid state batteries. But it has no such reticence when it comes to adding some juice to its four-door range. The third-generation Cayenne SUV has a PHEV variant coming—some of our friends at other publications were off driving it in Germany last week, in fact, but it’s yet to go on sale here in the US.
For now, you can buy several different PHEV Panameras, depending on whether you want the regular sedan version or the Sport Turismo body style we tested here. There’s also a choice of two powertrains. Over in Europe, where it went on sale in June 2017, the E-Hybrid versions now account for 60 percent of all Porsche Panamera sales. We got the model much later in the US, but, if I’m reading the sales figures right, in April it made up about a third of Panamera sales. A review of the full-fat, 680hp Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid will have to wait a few more weeks, so today we’re just going to discuss the «lesser» 4 E-Hybrid.
- In 1900, Ferdinand Porsche created the first-ever hybrid electric car. Porsche
- More recently, Porsche won Le Mans three times in a row with this, the 919 Hybrid. Porsche
- There’s not much to see if you lift the hood, just lots of plastic shrouding. Porsche
- The E-Hybrid system. The big box in the back is the battery pack. The electric motor lives in between the V6 and transmission. Porsche
Under the skin
The internal combustion side of things is courtesy of a 2.9L direct-injection twin-turbo V6. This provides the Panamera 4 E-Hybrid with 330hp (246kW) and 331ft-lbs (450Nm)—essentially the same as the non-hybrid 3.0L V6-powered Panamera 4. Between the engine and an eight-speed version of dual-clutch gearbox (Porsche Doppelkupplung, or PDK) is an electric motor rated at 136hp (100kW) and 295ft-lbs (400NM). It’s worth noting that the total power and torque output for the powertrain is a little less than the sum of its parts, but 462hp (345kW) and 516ft-lbs (700Nm) is still more than adequate for a vehicle with a curb weight of 4,828lbs (2,190kg). The electric motor is a development of the one in the older Cayenne hybrid we tested, and the older system’s electro-hydraulic internal combustion engine decoupler has been replaced by an electromechanical system that provides shorter response times.
As you might expect, the E-Hybrid uses liquid-cooled lithium-ion batteries, located behind the rear seats and underneath the floor of the trunk. The pack is the same weight as in the previous generation of Panamera PHEV, but it’s now 14.1kWh (versus 9.4kWh). Charging from empty to full takes 12 hours at 120V or three hours with a 240V level 2 charger if you spec the 7.2kW onboard charger (an $840 option). Porsche claims 31 miles (50km) of electric-only range, although that’s based on Europe’s NEDC cycle. The EPA, which seems to get much closer to real-world EV range, figures the Panamera 4 E-Hybrid at 16 miles (26km) with a combined 46mpge, or 22mpg when using gasoline alone.
As the electric motor is positioned upstream of the gearbox, it will send power and torque to—and recover kinetic energy under deceleration from—all four wheels (the «4» in Panamera 4 E-Hybrid means all-wheel drive) compared to PHEVs like the BMW i8 or Volvo XC90, which use their internal combustion engines to power one axle and their electric motors to power the other. Distribution of the powertrain’s power and torque to the wheels is handled by the Porsche Traction Management system, one of an array of electronic systems that control the Panamera. It sends most of it to the rear wheels by default, but the vehicle can send 100 percent of available torque to either axle if road conditions necessitate. (A torque-vectoring rear differential is also available as an option, although our test car wasn’t fitted with one.)
The suspension is a double-wishbone arrangement with adaptive air suspension at each corner. Our test Panamera was also equipped with rear-axle steering ($1,620), which enhances cornering stability at higher speeds by turning the rear wheels in the same direction as the front, effectively increasing the wheelbase. At low speeds, it boosts maneuverability by turning in the opposite direction to the front wheels, effectively reducing the wheelbase. All Panamera 4 E-Hybrid Sport Turismos also get the Sport Chrono package as standard. This is most obvious from the stopwatch mounted atop the dashboard, but this package also gives you access to Sport Plus mode, more on which shortly.
Listing image by Jonathan Gitlin