E-Hy­brid is mean and green

Bet­ter EV range, but also more get-up-and-go from Porsche’s new plug-in Panam­era,

Sunday Star-Times - - Drivetimes - October 29, 2017 writes David Lin­klater.

Fun elec­tric ve­hi­cle (EV) fact: for a while back there, Porsche had more pro­duc­tion plug-in mod­els than any other car­maker.

Ad­mit­tedly, that was 2013 and those mod­els were the Cayenne SUV, Panam­era lux­ury sedan and 918 su­per­car. Not ex­actly ze­roe­mis­sions mo­bil­ity for the masses.

But the point is, Porsche has been do­ing this EV thing for a while. Long enough to have tried some stuff and be ready to try some dif­fer­ent stuff.

En­ter the lat­est Panam­era 4 E-Hy­brid: the plug-in ver­sion of Porsche’s elon­gated lux­ury sedan.

This is the sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion Panam­era, based on a new plat­form that puts it one step ahead of the cur­rent Cayenne. Not for long, as the all-new Cayenne has al­ready been re­vealed and will land here next year. But for now.

The pre­vi­ous Panam­era plug-in was more of a lux­ury sedan with green cre­den­tials. And green badges and green brake calipers, but that’s a Porsche-EV thing right across the lineup.

The lat­est Panam­era E-Hy­brid still has the green ad­denda and it even has much-im­proved elec­tric range. Porsche claims it’ll do 50km of silent com­mut­ing on a full charge.

As ever with any kind of plug-in hy­brid, the maker’s claim is highly op­ti­mistic and/or ab­so­lutely-ide­al­con­di­tions stuff. But a few days of city com­mut­ing did es­tab­lish a real-world range of at least 30km dur­ing our time with the car and that’s pretty im­pres­sive.

In short, you can prob­a­bly spend the whole week driv­ing to work and back on zero-emis­sions power, charg­ing at night, and save the petrol for the week­end.

Speak­ing of which: de­spite the above, Porsche claims this model is much more of a ‘‘per­for­mance hy­brid’’ and even sug­gests it’s picked up a few tricks from the 918 su­per­car. Re­ally? Well, this is the same com­pany that also claims the new-gen­er­a­tion Cayenne is in­spired by the 911.

What Porsche is re­ally try­ing to say is that the Panam­era E-Hy­brid is now much more keen to use its bat­tery power for per­for­mance pur­poses when you’re in petrol­elec­tric mode.

For ex­am­ple, while the pre­vi­ous model re­quired 80 per cent throt­tle pres­sure to start of­fer­ing elec­tric as­sis­tance, the new one serves up 100 per cent of bat­tery power when­ever you want it.

You get E-Mode and Hy­brid Auto set­tings (the lat­ter also with E-Hold and E-Charge con­fig­u­ra­tions), but there’s also Sport and Sport Plus to play with. In those last two, the hy­brid sys­tem goes all-out to keep the bat­tery charged up so that it can as­sist your per­for­mance driv­ing.

This just in from Porsche: please insert men­tal im­age of 918 su­per­car here.

Hy­brid or not, the pow­er­train is set up to of­fer the purest pos­si­ble power de­liv­ery. The E-Hy­brid has the same eight-speed PDK du­al­clutch trans­mis­sion as any other Panam­era, but all of the elec­tric power is also fed di­rectly into that same gear­box. The E-Hy­brid is still all-wheel drive, but don’t go look­ing for fancy e-axles or any­thing like that. Just a to­tal 700Nm of torque (more than a 911 Turbo) straight through the PDK.

It’s a bit of a rock­et­ship for a mon­ster lux­ury sedan. It’ll hit 100kmh in 4.6 sec­onds, mak­ing it al­most as fast as the con­ven­tional (but still $50,000-more-ex­pen­sive) Panam­era 4S.

It’s not as smooth, though. Even in pure-elec­tric E-Mode, you some­times get an enor­mous thump through the driv­e­train if you make a sud­den move­ment with the throt­tle. And on more than one oc­ca­sion the PDK de­vel­oped a bad case of hunt­ing up 50kmh hills. But then you do en­joy ex­treme EV-re­fine­ment in this lux­ury car, which also has three-cham­ber air sus­pen­sion to get the chas­sis just-so for your chang­ing moods.

And of course it’s wickedly fast on a winding road, de­spite its length and width. If you think a Tesla Model S is a ‘‘per­for­mance’’ car just be­cause it goes fast in a straight line, you re­ally need to drive one of th­ese.

It’s not a sports model but it does feel proper-Porsche. The steer­ing is light but highly ac­cu­rate, there’s an enor­mous amount of me­chan­i­cal grip and when it starts to run out, the chas­sis dances around cor­ners any­way. It’s hard to rec­on­cile the size and mar­ket-seg­ment of this thing with what it does on a winding back­road. Shame it’s so ridicu­lously wide, but maybe that’s a thing called pres­ence.

The Panam­era is ap­pro­pri­ately techy. It has the new Porsche Ad­vanced Cock­pit, which con­cen­trates on the vir­tual. There are three sep­a­rate screens across the dash­board and only one phys­i­cal dial, which hap­pens to be the large, cen­trally mounted tachome­ter. That’s very Porsche.

Even the cen­tre con­sole is all black-sur­face with hap­tic-feed­back touch-con­trols. It’s all quite in­tim­i­dat­ing at first, but dive in

and it’s ac­tu­ally quite in­tu­itive, save a few el­e­ments where it feels like we have a case of bof­fin-goin­gover­board. Ex­am­ple: to ad­just the cen­tral air con­di­tion­ing vent, you have to go into a touch-screen menu and trace around the screen with your fin­ger. The vent then fol­lows your path. Okay then.

It’s an im­pres­sive in­te­rior pack­age, but no dif­fer­ent to any other Panam­era. The unique sell­ing propo­si­tion of this car is of course that plug-in pow­er­train, which does help jus­tify what’s oth­er­wise a weirdly prof­li­gate kind of ve­hi­cle in a Kiwi en­vi­ron­ment. It helps that it’s also silly-fast and su­perb to drive. It all bodes well for the forth­com­ing Cayenne E-Hy­brid.

There’s a big­ger EV-pic­ture, of course. Late in 2019 Porsche will launch the pro­duc­tion Mis­sion E, a fully elec­tric su­per-sedan that’s mooted to have 0-100kmh ac­cel­er­a­tion of less than four sec­onds and the abil­ity to charge to 80 per cent in quar­ter of an hour. It’s also ex­pected to cost around the same as the en­try-level Panam­era. Which is not re­ally the point. The point is it will be a se­ri­ous al­ter­na­tive to the Tesla Model S for those who re­ally don’t want petrol power.

PHO­TOS: DAVID LIN­KLATER/STUFF

Hav­ing a lux­ury Porsche is all about the green: brakes and badges in the case of the Panam­era 4 E-Hy­brid.

The Porsche Ad­vanced Cock­pit con­cen­trates on the vir­tual. Ex­pect a sim­i­lar setup in next year’s Cayenne.

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