Shortly after letting me drive the new Panamera 4S E-Hybrid Porsche confused matters by announcing two new hybrid models.
So the electrified choices for this big, slick sort-of-saloon have jumped from one to three, with the 4S E-Hybrid tested here sitting between the Panamera 4 E-Hybrid and the Turbo S E-Hybrid (not to be confused with the regular Turbo S, which you can read all about here).
While the Turbo S E-Hybrid uses a biturbo 4.0-litre V8 to offer mind-bending power and performance (690bhp, 0-62mph in 3.2 seconds), the 4 E-Hybrid and S E-Hybrid both use a biturbo 2.9 V6 and single electric motor.The entry-level model offers a total output of 456bhp while the 4S E-Hybrid ups that to a mightily impressive 552bhp and 553lb ft.
The Panamera is a big car but even still this hybrid will hit 62mph from a standstill in just 3.7 seconds and the way it does this is as astonishing as the raw numbers. Thanks to the electric motor supplying all its torque from 0rpm there’s no hesitation or lag, it just surges ahead with startling immediacy, with the V6 coming on song as the pace increases.
The responsiveness in the sport modes is simply phenomenal and in-gear acceleration instant thanks to the always-ready electric motor. Take things easier and the Panamera will cruise along at up to 87mph in near-silent electric-only mode or blend the petrol and electric power for easy but potential-laden wafting.
As with other versions of the Panamera, the 4S E-Hybrid features a Sport Response button - or, if you prefer, the “give me everything” button. Perfectly positioned at the centre of the drive mode dial it gives you a 20-second burst of full-bore performance no matter what mode you’re in. It’s ideal for extra overtaking oomph when you’re cruising in E-Power or hybrid mode - or if you just fancy a giggle at the stupendous way this luxury four-seater can spear towards the horizon.
Leave that button alone and you’re faced with four driving modes. E-Power allows for up to 33 miles of pure-electric driving thanks to a 17.9kWh battery (nearly 4kWh larger than the old hybrid) and bigger brakes that allow for more energy recuperation than before. Auto Hybrid retains a focus on economy and maximising the battery’s range but offers plenty of performance at the same time. Sport is set up for performance at the expense of some economy while Sport Plus throws caution to the wind and all the power to all four wheels. Driven carefully (so not in Sport Plus mode), Porsche says the 4S E-Hybrid will return up to 128mpg, with CO2 emissions of 51-64g/km.
Away from its drivetrain, the Panamera hybrid follows the same pattern as others in the range. Most importantly that means a sublime ride and razor-sharp handling. In all but the most extreme suspension setting the big Porsche soaks up bumps with complete confidence yet maintains the body control and cornering abilities of a far smaller sports car.
It’s also as spacious and comfortable as the rest of the range. Four adults will fit easily, although wider occupants might want to spec the comfort seats rather than our test car’s tighter sports seats. Everyone gets their own heated seat, individual climate control and touchscreen media controls and you sit wrapped in a sea of the finest materials put together with an impeccable attention to detail. The hybrid’s only sacrifice is a reduction in boot capacity from 495 litres to 403l due to the battery pack.
The 4S E-Hybrid might already have been superseded as Porsche’s range-topping plug-in but it is still a hugely impressive machine. It blends urban-friendly zero-emissions running with autobahn-smashing speed and the poise and response to tackle the trickiest of British B roads, plus the comfort and space to cross continents with ease.
Porsche Panamera 4S E-Hybrid
Price: From £101,690; Engine: 2.9-litre V6, twin-turbo, petrol with single 100kW electric motor; Power: 552bhp (combined); Torque: 553lb ft (combined); Transmission: Eight-speed dual-clutch automatic, four-wheel-drive; Top speed: 185mph; 0-62mph: 3.7 seconds; Economy: 100.9-128.4mpg; CO2 emissions: 51-64g/km