PORSCHE PANAM­ERA TURBO S E-HY­BRID

Panam­era packs as­sault with bat­tery on Porsche’s new hi-po path

Wheels (Australia) - - Contents - WORDS DANIEL GARD­NER

PORSCHE is not alone among revered sports car brands in tak­ing the odd evo­lu­tion­ary turn that ini­tially sits about as com­fort­ably as a sand­pa­per scarf around a purist’s neck.

When the iconic 911 dropped its air­cooled engine for the 996 gen­er­a­tion, for ex­am­ple, diehards ran around throw­ing their Nomex undies on bon­fires. Then, more re­cently, when the en­tire Car­rera range went turbo, Stuttgart flags were burned in the streets.

Yet the 911 still stands el­e­vated as among the most com­plete sports cars of them all. (If you think oth­er­wise, there’s still space in next month’s In­box to air your flame­proof un­der­gar­ments).

The Panam­era took the con­verse ap­proach by start­ing out with weird pro­por­tions that po­larised Porsche pun­ters right up un­til its re­place­ment, thank­fully, with a sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion ver­sion that looks more like a 911 reared on a diet of growth hor­mones – pro­por­tion­ally lovely, just big­ger.

This car is the new Panam­era flag­ship; a balls out hori­zon eater that ce­ments its per­for­mance cre­den­tials through the ad­di­tion of an elec­tri­cally as­sisted pow­er­train. While the Panam­era 4 E-hy­brid uses much the same elec­tric hard­ware as this Turbo S E-hy­brid, that model plugs a gap be­tween Panam­era 4 and 4S; with its fo­cus on min­i­mal con­sump­tion. But with this range-top­per, Porsche global com­mu­ni­ca­tions man­ager Her­mann-josef Stap­pen ex­plains that the com­pany sets out to pre­pare fans for halo mod­els that de­liver elec­tri­fy­ing per­for­mance from a bat­tery.

“In the first gen­er­a­tion of the Panam­era, the hy­brid model was purely based on ef­fi­ciency… now we have a new strat­egy,” Stap­pen said. “Now we go even more in the per­for­mance di­rec­tion, but it’s still more ef­fi­cient than the nor­mal Turbo. The first step was with the 918 Spy­der. That showed us that it could work, [now] we have done it with the Panam­era. It’s no se­cret that there are other cars due to be re­vealed.”

But be­fore we get into how con­vinc­ingly the Panam­era Turbo S E-hy­brid de­liv­ers on its high-per­for­mance prom­ise, let’s look at the hard­ware that sets it apart from the reg­u­lar Turbo. In the com­bus­tion-only car, a 4.0-litre turbo V8 sends 404kw and 770Nm to all four wheels, but the hy­brid Turbo S adds to this with a 100kw mo­tor in­cor­po­rated into the eight-speed du­al­clutch gear­box, draw­ing from a 14kwh lithium-ion bat­tery.

Cost? An ex­tra $75,600 over the Turbo, and an ad­di­tional 300kg to lug about, yet the ad­van­tages are clear. Of­fi­cial com­bined cy­cle con­sump­tion drops to 2.9L/100km while the 0-100km/h claim is trimmed by two tenths to 3.4sec. As a plug-in hy­brid, the Turbo S can com­mute up to 50km with­out us­ing any fuel at all, says Porsche.

Dur­ing our first blast in the hy­bridised Panam­era Turbo S on Canada’s Van­cou­ver Is­land we man­aged to tem­po­rar­ily blud­geon the fuel econ­omy fig­ure into the 20s, but in fear of Canada’s speed en­force­ment – even stricter than Aus­tralia’s, would you be­lieve – most of our road driv­ing was se­date, which brought a cor­re­spond­ing drop in thirst.

Un­like some PHEVS that have a sewing ma­chine to back up the petrol engine, the Porsche’s 100kw/400nm of emis­sions-free elec­tric grunt eas­ily cov­ers nor­mal driv­ing with­out hav­ing to poke the V8 into life.

In de­fault ‘E’ driv­ing mode as pre­scribed by the steer­ing wheel mounted se­lec­tor, the ac­cel­er­a­tor has an ob­vi­ous de­tent in its travel that po­litely dis­cour­ages you from prod­ding through into its fos­sil fuel re­serves, but turn the switch to ‘H’ and the notch in the throt­tle’s travel is re­moved.

The Panam­era’s tran­si­tion into com­bus­tion power is eerily seam­less. At one point, I thought I had de­tected the dis­tant rum­ble of the V8 fir­ing to life but it turned out to be a Chevro­let Sil­ver­ado with a side-exit ex­haust pulling along­side for a closer look.

The 3996cc Porsche V8’s power is prodi­gious and the de­liv­ery broad, while the as­sis­tance of the 400Nm elec­tric mo­tor re­sults in the most won­der­fully mus­cu­lar and will­ing pow­er­train.

There is lit­tle turbo lag thanks to the sit­ing of the two tur­bos in the V8’s val­ley, close to the ex­haust ports, and any hint of dull­ness just off idle is erased by the mo­tor.

While the 2.3-tonne Panam­era isn’t the most ob­vi­ous track tool – es­pe­cially on the tight Van­cou­ver Is­land Mo­tor­sport Cir­cuit, which packs more turns than Phillip Is­land into about half the dis­tance – the Turbo S has more pleas­ant sur­prises in store.

De­spite its long 2950mm wheel­base and broad 1937mm body, the Panam­era carves a sur­pris­ingly pre­cise line. In tight turns, the op­tional four-wheel steer­ing can be felt pro­vid­ing the ef­fect of a shorter wheel­base, mid-cor­ner grip is boun­ti­ful, and the stan­dard-fit car­bon ce­ramic brakes with mon­strous ten-pis­ton calipers pro­vide ter­rific feel and un­fad­ing power.

Of­fi­cially, the Panam­era is all-wheel drive, but with the se­lec­tor di­alled to Sport Plus the big sedan does a con­vinc­ing im­pres­sion of a rear-driver. The nose tips keenly into cor­ners with min­i­mal com­plaint from the tyres as its torque vec­tor­ing sub­tly and ef­fec­tively tight­ens the an­gle of at­tack.

Un­der hard brak­ing into the cir­cuit’s steep de­scents, the tail can be shaken loose, re­veal­ing a de­light­ful play­ful­ness, yet it can be gath­ered up with the chatty steer­ing in a man­ner that’s un­com­mon in cars of this weight and size.

Ac­cel­er­a­tion is equally de­fi­ant of the Panam­era’s weight, and the elec­tric surge from rest would seem to sup­port the 3.2sec 0-100km/h claim. The four test cars had been put through track pun­ish­ment for more than a week by the time we strapped in, yet were show­ing no signs of ex­haus­tion – typ­i­cal Porsche stoicism we’re pleased to see the Panam­era im­bued with.

On Canada’s iconic pine-lined roads, the big four-seat proves to be an ac­com­plished cruiser, which is pre­cisely how most cus­tomers will use their Panam­era. Al­though we didn’t do a back-to-back com­par­i­son, the Turbo S E-hy­brid’s ride seems just as pol­ished as the Turbo’s and the com­fort of the sports seats is stun­ning. Three-stage adap­tive dampers and air sus­pen­sion smooth all but the most of­fen­sive road im­per­fec­tions and the cabin am­bi­ence is on a par with a BMW 7 Se­ries or Mercedes-benz S-class.

If you’re a fan of the ex­ist­ing Panam­era range then the good news is that, on top of the Hy­brid’s star­tling turn of speed, the reg­u­lar Turbo’s ap­peal­ing dy­namic pack­age is largely un­changed. From the out­side, there are few hints at its su­per-hy­brid sta­tus other than the Zom­bie Squad flu­oro green badges and calipers.

Quite where the Acid Green flashes will sur­face next in the Porsche line-up re­mains un­con­firmed, but next year’s 992 911 seems a safe bet. Ei­ther way, the de­ci­sion to be­gin the roll­out of this new, per­for­mance-fo­cused hy­brid strat­egy with the Panam­era as its am­bas­sador, is a cal­cu­lated move.

If the 911 had led the charge into elec­tri­fied high-per­for­mance Porsches it’s likely to have caused seis­mic un­rest, but thanks to the abil­i­ties of the com­pany’s first hy­brid range-top­per, and its un­com­pro­mised team­ing of per­for­mance and zero-emis­sions ca­pa­bil­ity, Porsche’s elec­tri­fied fu­ture is start­ing to make sense.

Model Porsche Panam­era Turbo S E-hy­brid Engine 3996cc V8, dohc, 32v, twin-turbo + elec­tric mo­tor Max sys­tem power 500kw @ 5750-6000rpm Max sys­tem torque 850Nm @ 1400-5500rpm Trans­mis­sion 8-speed dual- clutch Weight 2310kg 0-100km/ h 3.4sec (claimed) Econ­omy 2.9L/100km Price $ 460,100 On sale Now

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