The plug-in version of the Porsche Panamera looks almost exactly like its gas-powered siblings. Auto reviewers, especially Porsche enthusiasts, give mixed reviews to the Panamera’s looks. Sure, it has telltale dramatic 911 traits, but in the form of a five-door four-passenger hatchback of wagon-like proportions, the visual effect comes off as too long, wide and beefy.
Those aesthetic criticisms seem petty compared to what you get in return: a luxury sports sedan with easy egress for four passengers, and a generous supply of comfort and cargo. It’s a stylish daily family driver that also packs a performance punch.
There are a few subtle design distinctions between the Panamera S E-hybrid and its less efficient internal combustion variants. Designers selected a day-glow green—what they call “acid green”—for the car’s signature accent colors. This works well with some colors, like white, but not so much with other color choices. The green on the brake calipers are especially dramatic. The color also jumps out on the instrument gauges.
A more subtle distinction is the swapping out of the liquid-fuel filler door on the right rear fender, with the charging port door on the left side. Charging ports in the front are generally the most convenient, but the Panamera plug-in’s port location is certainly workable.
The rear hatch carries the other distinction for this model: a Panamera S logo.
The Panamera S E-Hybrid is a luxury sports car first, and a plug-in hybrid second.
When the combined brute force of the 3.0-liter, V6 supercharged gas engine’s 333 horsepower is paired with electric propulsion from its 70-kilowatt electric motor, it produces a plug-in hybrid that can scoot from zero to 60 miles per hour in just over five seconds. An eight-speed Tiptronic S gearbox drives the rear wheels. Top speed is 167 miles per hour, courtesy of 416 horsepower.
These numbers are all the more remarkable, considering that the vehicle tips the scale over 4,600 pounds—the heaviest car in the Panamera lineup. Here’s the topper: the EPA's official fuel efficiency number for this monster Porsche is the equivalent of 50 miles per gallon (the same as a Prius hybrid).
The extra pounds can weigh down the S E-Hybrid’s handling around corners—but this sports sedan has always emphasized comfort and luxury over raw speed. The suspension system is calibrated for a comfortable ride, rather than thrills.
There are four driving modes controlled by buttons on the center console: E-Power, Hybrid, E-Charge and Sport.
The default mode is E-Power, in which the Panamera S E-Hybrid operates like a long luxury electric vehicle—that is, assuming there is sufficient energy in the battery. With a 9.4 kilowatt-hour battery, this could last for about 20 miles. When the juice runs low, and if you stomp on the accelerator reaching higher than 83 miles per hour, the vehicle automatically switches to Hybrid mode.
In Hybrid mode, the Panamera S E-Hybrid can be powered by the electric motor alone, by the internal combustion engine alone, or by a combination of the two—whatever produces the desired acceleration and efficiency. This matches what you would expect from any parallel, or to get technical, any parallel-series hybrid.
The Sport mode ensures that combustion and electric power are maximized in unison—simultaneously draining hydrocarbons and electrons, but providing full dose of performance. This mode is automatically activated when the gas pedal is pressed 80 percent of the way to the floor.
Finally, there is E-Charge mode, which is activated by pressing a button. This operation was pioneered in the Chevy Volt, where it is called “mountain mode.” Ford calls it "EV Later." The idea is to force the use of the combustion engine, and/or retain the battery’s state of charge. But Porsche takes it a step further than Chevy, by using gasoline to pump energy into the battery. In this scenario, the electric motor effectively works like a generator to charge the battery for later all-electric use. Think of it as battery-charging on the run.
The Panamera S E-Hybrid provides about 20 to 22 miles of all-electric range from its 9.4 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack. (The official EPA all-electric range number is 16 miles.) Like other parallel hybrids, you can expect some use of gasoline during that first set of miles—if you hammer the acceleration or reach speeds well above the legal speed limit.
The Panamera S E-Hybrid replaces the previous no-plug gas-electric version of the Panamera. More conventional ways of saving fuel employed in hybrids, such as the start-stop function, are brought over to the plug-in version as well. When you come to a stop, and keep your foot on the brake pedal, the system will automatically put the engine into a quiet dormant state. Lift your foot off the brake, and the fuel-saving system restarts the engine. Traditionally, these kinds of idle-stop systems represent a 10 percent gain in efficiency, compared to cars that waste fuel at a stoplight.
Porsche similarly carried over its “coasting” mode, which decouples the transmission from the engine in situations where the vehicle’s momentum allows it to go further without using gasoline. This works well on long down-sloping stretches of highway.
Porsche includes its custom home charging system with the purchase of a Panamera S E-Hybrid. It can be connected to a high-power household outlet, like ones used for clothes dryers. Buyers choose from more than 20 different charging cables to support nearly all of the world’s plug connection types.
Porsche said that it also supplies “special, easy-to-change plug adapters”—what it calls the Porsche universal charger—to cover any kind of charging source on the road.
The battery pack can be fully replenished in about 2.5 hours when connected to a 240-volt source. Like all EVs, the Porsche charger can also trickle charge at a slower rate via 120-volt sources.
As with other plug-in hybrids—rather than pure electric vehicles—the ability to frequently top up the battery means more miles without using gasoline. However, because there is a gas engine on board, any concerns about range anxiety are alleviated.
The Porsche Panamera offers a capacious and luxurious interior, but it only seats four passengers. The hatchback body style and split-folding rear seats provides more cargo than other luxury sedans.
There is an extensive selection of interior colors, interior packages with various woods, aluminum or carbon, and other personalization options.
Expect a plethora of standard creature comforts, such as dual-zone automatic climate control, navigation, and an 11-speaker stereo with a USB port and Bluetooth. Options include front and rear parking sensors, Bose and Burmester sound systems, four-zone automatic climate control, a rear-seat refrigerator, and adaptive cruise control.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety have not performed crash tests on the Panamera S E-Hybrid. But like its predecessor hybrid, the vehicle is equipped with eight air bags, including rear side-impact air bags and knee air bags for the front-seat occupants. Additionally, four-wheel ventilated disc anti-lock brakes, Porsche Stability Management traction and stability control, rear park-assist sensors, and rain-sensing wipers are standard.
Optional safety features include a reversing camera, Porsche Dynamic Lighting System adaptive headlights, and a Lane Change Assistant that operates like a blind-spot monitoring system. (Some reviewers complain about poor rear visibility.)
The Panamera S E-Hybrid starts at $93,200 (including destination fees). With options, the price can quickly push to $100,000 or higher. The S E-Hybrid plug-in carries a $15,000 premium over the entry-level Panamera, but it’s starts at the exact same price as the gas-only Panamera S, effectively making it’s plug-in drivetrain a no-cost option. Opting for the E-Hybrid will net you 16 miles of all-electric range with the only trade-off being that it isn’t quite as quick off the line—the E-Hybrid goes from 0-60 mph in 5.4 seconds compared to the regular S’s 4.9-second time.
Comparisons of Similar Cars
The Panamera S E-Hybrid has the highest base starting price of any plug-in currently in full production.
Starting at $70,000, the market-leading Tesla Model S is a far more affordable—and more popular—option. The two cars stack up competitively when it comes to performance, and to a slightly less extent, cargo room. A comparison between the two might come down to aesthetics and technology.
Aesthetics are always personal, but the Model S usually gets the edge for its Maserati or Aston looks versus the bulky feel of the Porsche.
On the tech front, it’s a matter of whether or not you want to drive a pure electric car with 250-plus miles of range—or a plug-in hybrid capable of about 16 miles of all-electric driving before becoming reliant on internal combustion. In the more humble price range of the Nissan LEAF and Chevy Volt, debates about the benefits and drawbacks of EV versus PHEV have been occurring for years. Once again, it comes down to personal level of comfort, and how important it is to you to completely kick the petroleum habit. Porsche, even with a plug-in option, is old school—while Tesla more fully embodies the future of 21st century mobility.
Porsche is taking orders for the Panamera S E-Hybrid at all of its 189 or so dealerships in the United States.