HEAD FIGHTS HEART

The Panam­era for ac­coun­tants is even bet­ter, but pa­tience may prove a virtue

Car (South Africa) - - DRIVE - PORSCHE PANAM­ERA 4 E-HY­BRID EX­EC­U­TIVE PRICE: ETA:

PORSCHE makes bold claims for the Panam­era 4 E-hy­brid. The eco ticks are present: con­sump­tion of 2,5 L/100 km and an elec­tric driv­ing range of 50 km. But, this is a Porsche, so the per­for­mance claims are equally brazen: 0-100 km/h in 4,6 sec­onds and a top speed of 278 km/h.

I can cer­tainly be­lieve the lat­ter two. Pulling hard even at high speeds, the E-hy­brid bests the per­for­mance of the 315 kg lighter Panam­era 4. To over­come the mass penalty, a 100 kw/400 N.m syn­chro­nous elec­tric mo­tor fed by a 14,1 kwh lithium-ion bat­tery pack sup­ple­ments the 243 kw 2,9-litre, twin-tur­bopetrol that the E-hy­brid shares with the en­trylevel Panam­era. The com­bined out­puts of 340 kw and 700 N.m from 1 100-4 500 r/min are chan­nelled to all four 19-inch wheels through an eight-speed du­al­clutch trans­mis­sion and all-wheel drive (hence the “4” in the name).

Partly con­tribut­ing to the EHy­brid’s al­tered re­sponse is the fact that the elec­tric mo­tor func­tions as soon as the driver touches the throt­tle and is avail­able at all times; in the pre­vi­ous model, the throt­tle needed to have trav­elled 80% be­fore the sup­ple­men­tary pow­er­train kicked in.

The ef­fi­ciency claims, how­ever, are some­what more op­ti­mistic. On the lo­cal launch in the Cape Winelands, in best-of-both-worlds hy­brid auto mode, our E-hy­brid av­er­aged 9,4 L/100 km. That’s still an ex­cel­lent fig­ure for a 2,25-tonne grand saloon – es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing the bat­ter­ies were nearly de­pleted fol­low­ing a stint of high­way driv­ing – and it will def­i­nitely de­crease in an ur­ban set­ting that fea­tures com­mutes shorter than 50 km. But, sim­i­lar to other hy­brids we’ve re­cently tested, this drivetrain con­fig­u­ra­tion oc­ca­sion­ally feels de­signed to favour spec­tac­u­lar emis­sions fig­ures for tax­a­tion pur­poses rather than out­stand­ing real-world ef­fi­ciency.

An­other gripe is the some­what abrupt tran­si­tion be­tween pow­er­trains. Not be­cause the sys­tem isn’t well in­te­grated, mind, but be­cause the V6’s gut­tural note is all the more ob­vi­ous after a pe­riod of elec­tric-pow­ered si­lence.

That re­fine­ment is fur­ther bol­stered by the new long­wheel­base Ex­ec­u­tive model. The ad­di­tional 150 mm be­tween the axles doesn’t make the at­trac­tive new car look un­gainly, frees up vast re­serves of rear legroom and in­tro­duces a more raked back­rest.

Cou­pled with a smooth ride on air sus­pen­sion, su­perb noise sup­pres­sion and stel­lar fit and fin­ish, the Panam­era – and specif­i­cally this E-hy­brid – is much im­proved.

But, I’d be re­miss if I didn’t men­tion the up­com­ing V6 Diesel model. If you’re in the mar­ket for a Panam­era and pri­ori­tise run­ning costs, that ve­hi­cle might just strike a bet­ter bal­ance.

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