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