Grand pow­er­train plan

The plug-in Panam­era en­hances Porsche’s per­for­mance-first am­bit, so ex­pect more hy­brids, says John Carey

Herald Sun - Motoring - - PRESTIGE -

THERE are con­se­quences if you for­get to recharge the Panam­era 4 E-Hy­brid. Fail­ing to plug in re­duces the big Porsche hatch­back’s top speed. It will do 278km/h while the charge in its lithium-ion battery pack lasts. With­out elec­tric aid the car is 20km/h slower.

The dif­fer­ence be­tween the top speeds of the plug-in petrol­elec­tric Panam­era high­lights the per­for­mance boost de­liv­ered by Porsche’s lat­est hy­brid tech­nol­ogy.

Get used to the idea, be­cause Porsche is work­ing on more such cars. In fact, plug-in hy­brid tech­nol­ogy is about to be­come a big part of the revered Ger­man brand’s grand pow­er­train plan.

Porsche has had three plugin hy­brid pre­de­ces­sors. The Panam­era S E-Hy­brid and Cayenne S E-Hy­brid were built us­ing bits and pieces de­signed by other brands also owned by the Volk­swa­gen Group. Both used a su­per­charged Audi V6.

The third one was dif­fer­ent. Launched about the same time as the oth­ers, the 918 Spyder of 2013 was a su­per-fast, ul­tra­ex­otic and mega-ex­pen­sive two-seater. Ex­actly 918 were built be­fore pro­duc­tion stopped in 2015.

The com­pany’s per­for­mance flag­ship, it was com­pletely Porsche’s own work and used elec­tric­ity to do two things.

One of them, the abil­ity to drive some way on battery power, was nor­mal for a plug-in hy­brid. But the battery pack could also, when needed, add a re­ally hefty power boost to the out­put of the car’s high-revving, mid-mounted V8.

This ap­proach, so in tune with Porsche’s per­for­mance first phi­los­o­phy, has now been adopted for the new Panam­era 4 E-Hy­brid.

It will ar­rive in Aus­tralia in the third quar­ter of 2017, about six months af­ter this month’s in­tro­duc­tion of the core mod­els in the new, sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion Panam­era range.

The pric­etag will be $242,600, or about $40,000 less than the first-gen­er­a­tion Panam­era S E-Hy­brid .

The new 4 E-Hy­brid is a big car, long, broad and heavy. The battery pack and elec­tric mo­tor push its weight up to well over two tonnes. But, with its in­ter­nal-com­bus­tion en­gine and elec­tric mo­tor work­ing to­gether to de­liver peak out­puts of 340kW and 700Nm, it’s also very lively. Porsche claims it can go from stand­still to 100km/h in well un­der 5.0 sec­onds, quick in any­one’s lan­guage.

A small ro­tary knob mounted on the ele­gant three­spoke steer­ing wheel switches be­tween the four driv­ing modes. In Sport and Sport Plus, the Porsche’s twin-turbo 2.9litre V6 runs all the time.

These are the modes for sporty driv­ing, as they also firm the sus­pen­sion. In these modes, the Porsche makes all the right noises when spin­ning hard, while the elec­tric mo­tor adds a hefty shove at low revs. It’s also sur­pris­ingly ag­ile for such a bulky car.

In Hy­brid Auto mode the en­gine stops and starts de­pend­ing on gra­di­ent, speed and what the driver is do­ing with the ac­cel­er­a­tor pedal. The hy­brid soft­ware aims for best en­ergy ef­fi­ciency, al­though the driver can over­ride this strat­egy.

Us­ing the new Panam­era’s big and bright cen­tral touch­screen, the driver can ac­ti­vate the E-Charge or EHold sub-modes. The first will use the en­gine to grad­u­ally recharge the battery, the sec­ond pre­serves what­ever charge is al­ready there.

The idea is to have the Porsche ready to en­ter a zone where in­ter­nal com­bus­tion ve­hi­cle ac­cess is re­stricted or banned. These are becoming more com­mon around the world and Porsche ex­ec­u­tives be­lieve the trend will ac­cel­er­ate.

In E-Power mode the car runs only on elec­tric power. Un­til the battery is flat, or the driver flat­tens the ac­cel­er­a­tor pedal, you won’t hear the en­gine run — what you get is a faint en­gine-like noise gen­er­ated by speak­ers in­side the car.

There is a menu op­tion to de­ac­ti­vate this fea­ture off but it suits the way the car works. This hy­brid shifts through the ra­tios of its eight-speed dou­ble-clutch auto when run­ning on elec­tric­ity, some­thing few oth­ers do. Porsche claims a battery-only driv­ing range of 25km-50km.

Low-speed ac­cel­er­a­tion is strong in E-Power. The Porsche has no trou­ble beat­ing other traf­fic away from a red light. The elec­tric mo­tor’s 100kW max­i­mum power out­put isn’t mas­sive but its hefty 400Nm peak torque is de­liv­ered from 100rpm-2300rpm. That’s not a mis­print.

Porsche an­nounced last year, when the sec­ond-gen Panam­era was first re­vealed, that there will be two hy­brid mod­els. Ex­ec­u­tives and en­gi­neers at the Panam­era 4 E-Hy­brid’s in­ter­na­tional launch in South Africa hinted that the sec­ond will fea­ture the com­pany’s new V8.

This twin-turbo 4.0-litre packs a mighty pow­er­ful punch. With added elec­tric boost po­ten­tially push­ing power be­yond 500kW, this will be the fastest Panam­era of them all. It’s likely to ap­pear be­fore the end of the year.

The Panam­era and Cayenne al­ways share pow­er­train tech­nol­ogy, so it’s log­i­cal to ex­pect Porsche to head in the same direction with its pop­u­lar SUV, due for a to­tal re­design in two years or so.

Mean­while, Porsche is pre­par­ing an assem­bly line in a fac­tory just out­side Stuttgart for an­other plug-in. The pro­duc­tion ver­sion of the beau­ti­ful 2015 Mis­sion-E con­cept will be purely bat­tery­pow­ered. Pro­duc­tion is likely to be­gin in 2020.

For­get to plug this one in and its top speed will be zero.

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