Hoping to remind car enthusiasts of the emotions they felt when the 918 Spyder was introduced, Porsche now offers the 2018 Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid. It’s the new range topper for its one, and only, sedan. It relates to the 918 Spyder in the sense that the new Panamera is both the highest performer of the model line and a hybrid.
The heart of the operation is a longitudinally mounted 4.0-liter V8 with 90-degree banks, four chain-driven camshafts with variable timing and direct injection. It’s a “hot-v” setup, meaning the intake ports are outside the V, and the exhaust ports are inside, where two twin-scroll turbochargers lie. Those compressors help spin up 550 hp at 5,750 rpm and 568 lb-ft of torque at just under 2,000 rpm.
The hybrid capability comes courtesy of a 136-hp and 295-lb-ft-of-torque electric motor, which bolts directly to the back of the V8 and ahead of the eight-speed PDK dual-clutch transmission. The parallel system includes an electric decoupler so that the internal combustion engine and electric motor can work in concert or on their own. Total system power comes to 680 hp and 627 lb-ft of torque, which is available, effectively, whenever.
That’s a lot. Good thing power is distributed to all four wheels. Unlike the 918, that power comes mechanically from the same package, no separate electric motor to drive the front axle. Instead, a slathering of differentials, clutches and software manages what power goes where. As a result, several computers decide how much the front and rear axle receive, and indeed how it’s distributed between the driver and the passenger side.
Also unlike the 918, the Panamera carries four doors, stretches 199 inches and rests on a steel structure. Not to mention all the luxuries and niceties shoved in. All told, the E-Hybrid weighs about 5,100 pounds, which is within 300 pounds of a base Chevrolet Tahoe. Part of that heft comes from the 14.1-kWh battery in back, allowing the E-Hybrid to run on electricity alone for 31 miles.
Efforts to belie physics and usual penalties involved with weight, Porsche engineers mounted an air suspension to each corner in lieu of steel springs. These are standard equipment and give the E-Hybrid adjustable ride height. The high setting allows for better clearance up inclines like steeper driveways. It can ride low while cruising the interstate to slip through the air a little better and increase badassness while doing it.
The list of standard features is expansive. Without checking a single options box, you get actively adjusted anti-roll bars (dubbed Porsche Chassis Control Sport or PDCC Sport), 21-inch wheels, adaptive aerodynamics, electronically variable dampers (named Porsche Active Suspension Management) and, my favorite, Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes. Normally a several-thousand-dollar option, Zuffenhausen made these fade-free stoppers part of the price of entry.
Porsche built what it thinks a luxury flagship sedan should be. Big enough to comfortably accommodate four adults, but tough and sprightly enough to retain track prowess. The affluent among us never use the same vehicle to travel across the country and play on the track, but the point is you can with this one. A two-in-one, of sorts. To prove it, Porsche arranged time to drive the E-Hybrid on a track. A 1.4-mile, 19-turn track, no less. There we learned this isn’t two cars in one. One corner, really any given corner, revealed three cars.
At turn-in, and the braking zone leading up to it, it’s simply impossible to hide the considerable girth. Don’t confuse this with poor body control or overworked machinery — the exact opposite is true. Both the active anti-roll bars and air suspension mitigate pitch under braking. As you dial in, steering lean is also kept at an impressive minimum. Brilliantly done, really. But you feel lots of energy transfer. You can tell lots of inertia must be overcome to change the rate of motion. It understeers a bit and feels like a big sedan.
As you approach and clip the apex, the 275 mm front and massive 325 mm wide rear Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires get to work, as does the double-wishbone front and multilink rear suspension geometry. Ultimate lateral grip is higher than expected. Constant-speed, left-right transitions, too, come on more willingly than the scales would suggest. As long as you don’t have any big brake zones in the mix, the feel quickly changes to a much smaller sport sedan.
Corner exit brought yet another new experience. The right-now electric motor torque and all-wheel drive made for a sense of bursting on to the straightaway. The track drive was a lead/follow experience, with a 911 Turbo S driven by a pro in front. But that combination couldn’t keep up there. The E-Hybrid gained ground every time. The best part? Throttle application was seamless. No weird surges or gotcha moments, just lots of power, all the time. And with all-wheel drive, you can maintain a tight line from apex to exit, like a full-on supercar.
On the road, these three distinct characters meld into one unique, highly competent road car. One that just happens achieve great mileage. By default, the Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid starts in e-power mode, which exclusively uses energy from the battery unless you hit the throttle too hard (or the battery runs dry of juice), then the turbo V8 will spin up and contribute to forward motion. At that point, you’re in hybrid auto mode, which runs the engine, but moves the Panamera along with high regard to efficiency. Sport and sport-plus modes switch priorities to acceleration over efficiency to varying degrees.
There’s also e-hold and e-charge modes. E-hold reserves the battery charge, using only the V8 to power the car, so that you can switch to e-power at a later point. Like re-entering a city after an interstate commute. E-charge uses the engine to simultaneously charge the battery and power the car. This is when you have no real concern for the environment but want to appear like you might sometime in the future.
Luxury comes from items like soft-close front and rear doors (which use electric motors to finish the job as long as you close hard enough to reach the first latch) and a nice long list of the usual accoutrements. Switch the chassis to comfort mode and it’s a big cruiser, full of power. It’s plenty soft for a comfortable ride, yet composed, perfectly at home on back roads. Overall, the E-Hybrid is capable on-track but more enjoyable on the road.
The E-Hybrid costs $185,450, and that’s before extras like LED headlights, an assistance package that includes things like Night Vision assist, which uses a thermal-imaging camera to help spot living objects in your path before you can, and lane-keep assist. And a super-extra-fancy stereo. Out-the-door, our example runs $214,050. Yikes.
Though the new Panamera is just now available for the 2017 model year, Porsche already is adding to the lineup with the 2018 Panamera Sport Turismo. Think of it as a sort of Euro wagon …
Perhaps you prefer a little more space anyway. In that case, Porsche now offers the Sport Turismo body style. It squares off the rear end a bit and, in doing so, adds room for a fifth passenger and more luggage space. The Sport Turismo offers several powertrain options, and prices range from $97,250 to $155,050 for a turbo model.
Or maybe you want the legroom but not the body style. Then the extended-by-nearly-6-inches-in-the-wheelbase Executive E-Hybrid is for you. Sport Turismo or no, Porsche offers a unique take on the luxury sedan segment. One that, within the model lineup, offers a wide variety of capability and price tag. A bounty of choices from Porsche, if you’re a One Percenter.
Base Price: $185,450
As Tested Price: $214,050
Drivetrain: 4.0-liter V8 Hybrid, 8-speed dual-clutch transmission, AWD
Output: 680 hp from 5,750 to 6,000 rpm, 627 lb-ft from 1,400 to 5,500 rpm
Curb Weight: 5,100 lb
0-60 MPH: 3.2 sec
Pros: Immediate and immense acceleration
Cons: As expensive as a house, a pretty darn decent one at that
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