Porsche’s Panam­era E-Hy­brid isn’t go­ing to solve global warm­ing, but it is fast

Lodi News-Sentinel - - WHEELS - By Charles Flem­ing

One of my wise­crack­ing friends, al­ways ready with a snarky re­mark, smirked as I drove up in the new Panam­era E-Hy­brid. “Con­grat­u­la­tions,” he said. “You’re re­vers­ing global cli­mate change, one Porsche at a time, by driv­ing a plug-in hy­brid.”

He was miss­ing the point. The E-Hy­brid, par­tic­u­larly the tur­bocharged ver­sion I was driv­ing, is not about the en­vi­ron­ment. It’s about per­for­mance.

Though it’s dis­guised as a fam­ily car, and ad­ver­tised as a fuel-ef­fi­cient plug-in, the true char­ac­ter of the Panam­era Turbo S E-Hy­brid Sport Turismo emerges when the car is in hy­brid or sport mode and the ac­cel­er­a­tor is stomped.

That en­gages both the 4-liter tur­bocharged V-8 en­gine and the 100-kW elec­tric mo­tor, which to­gether put power to all four wheels and pro­duce 680 horse­power and 626 pound-feet of torque. (The elec­tric mo­tor con­trib­utes 136 horse­power to that, and 136 pound-feet of torque.)

That means zero to 60 mph in a re­ported 3.2 sec­onds — and a top track speed of 192 mph.

De­pend­ing on whom you ask, the Panam­era is ei­ther a sedan, a sport wagon or a sta­tion wagon. It does have four doors and of­fers com­fort­able seat­ing for four adults and room in the hatch­back rear for their lug­gage. A five-pas­sen­ger seat­ing ar­range­ment is op­tional.

It doesn’t do some of what a “shoot­ing brake” or sta­tion wagon should. The stor­age area has 49 cu­bic feet of cargo room, but felt cramped. I would have hes­i­tated to fold the seats down and make room for a bi­cy­cle or a brace of snow­boards.

But it does drive well. On the road, it feels like a large sports car, danc­ing like a large per­son whose nim­ble feet aren’t aware of how much weight they’re sup­port­ing.

In fact, it feels like a wide, heavy 911 — be­cause it is. The Panam­era sits 2 inches wider and 20 inches longer, and weighs al­most 1,500 pounds more, than a com­pa­ra­bly equipped 911 Turbo S.

It be­haves quite sim­i­larly too. The eight-speed PDK dou­ble-clutch trans­mis­sion shifts seam­lessly on its own, or can be ma­nip­u­lated with pad­dle shifters. A mode switch set in­side the steer­ing wheel, like the manet­tino on a Fer­rari, al­lows the driver to choose among all-elec­tric, hy­brid and two sport set­tings.

Around town, the all-elec­tric set­ting made for a sleek, silent ride, with up to 14 miles of range be­fore the bat­tery re­quired recharg­ing. (It takes about three hours to re­store the bat­tery again on a 240-volt sys­tem.) This stealth mode won’t wake the neigh­bors.

On a road trip to Santa Bar­bara, the hy­brid mode proved a pleas­ant choice for cruis­ing up Pa­cific Coast High­way, al­low­ing the car to de­cide when to switch be­tween the gaso­line en­gine and the “e-ma­chine” elec­tric mo­tor, and when to use both at the same time.

On the twisty San Mar­cos Pass above Santa Bar­bara, Sport and Sport Plus set­tings seemed op­ti­mal, en­gag­ing the gaso­line en­gine and e-ma­chine si­mul­ta­ne­ously for max­i­mum power while also ad­just­ing trans­mis­sion shift points, stiff­en­ing the sus­pen­sion and in­creas­ing the ex­haust roar.

Over the San Mar­cos crest, the Panam­era looked right at home among the sports cars and su­per­bikes parked at the leg­endary Cold Spring Tav­ern.

The han­dling is Porschegrade de­light­ful. Air sus­pen­sion, all-wheel drive, trac­tion man­age­ment, 21-inch wheels and huge 420-mil­lime­ter ce­ramic brake calipers are stan­dard equip­ment on this trim level.

The Panam­era’s 21-gal­lon gas tank, along with the hy­brid tech­nol­ogy, made the trip up the coast and back a sin­gle­tank ex­cur­sion. In the four days I drove the car, in fact, I didn’t go to a gas sta­tion or plug in to recharge the elec­tric mo­tor.

Porsche year-to-date sales are strong, up 3 per­cent over the same pe­riod in 2017. The com­pany’s top seller is, by far, the Ma­can SUV, fol­lowed in de­scend­ing num­bers by the 911, the Cayenne and the Panam­era.

But while Cayenne num­bers have fallen in the last year, Panam­era num­bers are ris­ing — partly be­cause of the hy­brid of­fer­ings. The com­pany re­ports that 60 per­cent of all Panam­eras sold in re­cent months have been hy­brids.

Why aren’t sales higher? The Panam­era may be suf­fer­ing from a de­sign hang­over. Many who re­mem­ber the first it­er­a­tions of the car found it un­gainly or down­right ugly. Af­ter the 2010 in­tro­duc­tion, and de­spite a 2013 face-lift, some Porsche fans still re­mem­ber the awk­ward rear end that made it the au­to­mo­tive equiv­a­lent of a re­verse mul­let hair­cut — a party in the front, but all busi­ness in the back.

Quite a few of those early ver­sions are still on the road, which may pre­vent con­sumers from ap­pre­ci­at­ing the newer, sleeker mod­els.

The back has been low­ered and nar­rowed, so the car looks less like an AMC Pacer and more like a Fer­rari FF. Now it can boast, with di­men­sions to back it up, that it’s a real sports car, but with more cargo area.

Though I liked the look and the drive feel, I wasn’t wild about all as­pects of the Panam­era. I was not im­pressed by Porsche’s In­noDrive adap­tive cruise con­trol func­tion, part of a $5,370 tech op­tion, which felt far clum­sier than com­pa­ra­ble sys­tems on a num­ber of other lux­ury ve­hi­cles.

PORSCHE

De­pend­ing on who you ask, the 2018 Porsche Panam­era Turbo S E-Hy­brid is ei­ther a sedan, a sport wagon or a sta­tion wagon.

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