PANAMERA HYBRID Turbo S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo – the best all-round Porsche?
If I spoke of a 4.0-litre, 680hp, Porsche with 627lb ft of torque, a vehicle capable of reaching the time honoured 62mph benchmark from a standstill in 3.4 seconds, one that could carry on pulling until it hit a top speed of 192mph, you might presume I’d be banging on about a Rennsport 911. And with good reason. Instead, the Porsche I am illustrating here will stick like glue to the bumper of all but the most insane of those RS Porsches up to at least 100mph. At the same time it will seat four or five passengers in utter opulence, has room aplenty for their luggage and can return a staggering 97.4mpg on the combined cycle. It is the 2020 Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo 971 which, despite having a rather long name, might just be the best all-round ‘real world’ Porsche currently available.
Yes, I am aware that is quite a bold statement... It’s true that Porsche is ever keener to underline the performance credentials of its expanding range of hybrid vehicles. The brand’s PR and marketing folk will tell you that today’s electric Porsches are directly descended from the Le Mans-winning 919 Hybrid prototype, that the lessons learned on the track are relevant to your daily commute in a hybrid Porsche road car. Undoubtedly that link between track and road is at least partly true, and may well prove to be more so when Porsche enters Formula E at the end of 2019, taking into account the sport’s use of manufacturer specific road relevant components such as electric motors, gearboxes, differentials, drive shafts, cooling systems and ECUs. However, it’s a little unclear how true that presently is, though I guess it matters little when Porsche is able to build all-conquering hybrid racing cars and crushingly capable class-leading petrol-electric road cars. The car you see here fuses Porsche’s latest lessons in hybrid technology with the unbeatable, focused and exciting essence of its most accomplished performance cars. In that regard it offers the perfect balance and a window into the manufacturer’s future.
“The Panamera stuck with both RS 911s with ease...”
The aforementioned 680hp that this Panamera Sport Turismo develops from its hybrid power unit is just 11hp shy of the output of the 991 GT2 RS – the most powerful 911 yet created. Furthermore the RS runs a deficit of 74lb ft of torque to its capacious relation. This Sport Turismo achieves such heady numbers through the mix of a traditional 550hp, 3,996cc, V8 combustion engine which works in conjunction with a 136hp (295lb ft) electric motor. In isolation the e-power alone can whisk you up to a speed of 87mph and/or cover a distance of 31 miles without the assistance of its petrol drinking companion. Admittedly though you’d struggle to do both at once. While the 97mpg (combined) it claims might be a ‘best case’ scenario, it most certainly puts the 24mpg (combined) offered by the GT2 RS – and taken with the same pinch of salt – into rather rude perspective. Yes, there’s a weight difference of course – at 2,325kg the Panamera is a full 855kgs heavier than the featherweight 911, but at (from) £139,287.00 it’s also £68,219 cheaper than it – or in another way the price of a new Macan S with the best part of £20,000 change.... Now, let’s get real. Of course I’m not suggesting that anyone would weigh these two opposing Porsche vehicles for purchase, but there is a reason for my statistical comparison...
Regular readers will know that our previous issue had us hacking around the finest roads in South Wales in two modern Rennsport Porsche masterpieces; the GT3 RS and GT2 RS. Playing a supporting role in that photoshoot was the Sapphire Blue Metallic Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo that you see here. If nothing else the Sport Turismo makes for a first-rate camera car... In convoy throughout the exercise I jumped between the two 911s in order to put together the aforementioned comparative feature, but I also completed miles at the wheel of the Hybrid chasing down spirited colleagues in the two RS cars. Without doubt, in the real world, by which in this instance I mean up to 60/70mph on a mix of roads in equally mixed conditions, the Panamera stuck with both RS 911s with ease every time.
Furthermore it did so seemingly without breaking a sweat and, moreover, while affording levels of comfort and tranquillity that surpass a British Airways Executive Club Class cabin by some margin. The Turbo S E-Hybrid’s quiet composure was simply astounding. Unlike the GT cars it flattens every road surface, at the same time managing to send to its driver a detailed enough level of communication while delivering astonishing grip throughout – in many ways it defies logic and physics. That an estate car, a Hybrid one at that, could not only keep up with a RS 911 but do so with such dignity is mind-blowing, don’t you think? It also bodes extremely well for Porsche’s electrified future which begins with the upcoming Taycan – its first all-electric car. But, GT-rivalling performance aside, the Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo has further strings to its double bass sized bow.
It’s true that very few will buy this Sport Turismo for its ability to give a track-ready 911 a run for its money, though I’m sure none would dislike the fact it can do just that. Rather, a spacious Panamera is likely purchased for its ability to carry people and things in comfort and with ease, in those two regards there is more good news – we already know that every variant in the Sport Turismo model range does that supremely well. What makes this Porsche stand-out too however is its ride. Some of the reason it can stick like glue to the bumper of an ultra quick 911 is its composure through the bends, that’s partly down to its all-wheel drive system, Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC Sport) roll stabilisation (active front anti-roll bars which are designed to keep the front end stable and as flat as possible) and adaptive threechamber air suspension including Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM). Working alongside (and of particular use in mixed conditions like those you see here) are PTV Plus torque vectoring and PTM traction control, rear limited slip differential, Ceramic Composite Brake (PCCB) system, and if you specify it, rear-axle steering. That means this car corners like any Porsche worth its salt should, well, any Porsche weighing over two tonnes, at least. But of course there is more. Away from the frantic fast roads there comes what you might consider the model’s real party piece, the reason for this car’s weight gain (290kgs over the normal Turbo Sport Turismo) – the batteries for the hybrid system it carries around, this e-mobility comes into its own in town.
There’s a familiar ‘mode’ switch on the steering wheel; Sport and Sport Plus employs the combined power of the two motors, petrol and electric (the Sport Chrono Package is fitted as standard incidentally). Then, subject to charge (more on that shortly), this can be twisted to kill the petrol motor and put the car into solely electric driving mode. Alternatively simply leave it in ‘hybrid auto’ to let the car determine which system of propulsion is best utilised at any one moment in time.
Hybrid Auto links with the car’s navigation system, input your destination and it will decide when you’re most likely to make best use of the available electric power. So, let’s hypothetically say that your route involves a motorway stretch followed by a drive through a town or city. The car will know that you’re most likely to use electric drive in the city, so it will conserve its e-power for that section of the journey. It might also know that there is a part of your motorway route with slow moving stop/start traffic, here too electric power might be useful, so it’ll factor that in. In electric mode the car is exceptionally slick. It’s worth noting that E-Hold mode enables the driver to conserve the existing a level of charge for further use, too. Unlike Porsche Hybrids of old, upon start-up there is an audible ‘bong’ to confirm that the car is alive and ready, then on the move in zero emissions mode the accelerator pedal has a clear two-stage feel to it – push beyond the first and the petrol V8 motor kicks into life. The technology is lifted from the 918 Spyder hypercar, that link extends to what Porsche describes as the ‘boost strategy’ which, in translation, means that the two motors deliver peak torque as low down the rev range as 1,400rpm. The car’s batteries recharge themselves while it is on the move, or in 2.4 hours via a Porsche charging system or six hours through a domestic plug.
In a real world situation eking a full 31 mile range from a full electric charge is a little ambitious in my experience, but I fully appreciate that driving style plays a huge role and, no doubt, further familiarity with how best to drive the car over time would help to gain greater range. Added to this the car’s ability to recharge on the move is very dependant on the type of roads you travel along – motorway use for example does not promote recharging as well as say, an A- or B-road. Then once the electric power is spent, there’s a feeling in the back of your mind that you’re lugging around all these heavy lithium-ion batteries for little point. In lower powered Panamera Hybrids this is more concerning as there’s a tangible difference in handling dynamics and performance, but in this powerful variant you never feel compromised, such is the raw pace available even without electric assistance. In the same way that achieving a 31 mile might be a touch optimistic for most drivers, hitting 97.4 mpg might be unrealistic too – regardless this car is far more economical than anything else in the Porsche range with this level of performance.
Comfort and convenience features are certainly high on any Sport Turismo’s list of benefits, being the range-topping model the Turbo S E-Hybrid is bursting with desirable features and it’ll swallow plenty of people and clobber too. This is the first ‘2+1’ Panamera meaning that the rear bench can accommodate a third passenger (two electrically adjustable individual seats for the rear are available as an option). With the seats up there’s 425-litres of storage space, that rises to 1,295-litres with the seats folded (they operate in a 40:20:40 split) which is more than useful when coupled with the wide opening electrically-operated tailgate fitted as standard. From the driver’s seat comes the contemporary Porsche family vista – the Porsche Advanced Cockpit – with haptic touch surfaces and the latest PCM system broadcast in widescreen. As you’d expect the driving position is perfect, the assistance systems seamlessly integrated.
On the outside the model’s 21-inch alloy wheels are of a distinctive 911 Turbo design, the raked roofline leads the eye to the automatic roof spoiler, the pitch of which has three different angles determined by driving situation. Fully extended when the car is travelling at 56mph (or when it is in Sport and Sport Plus driving modes), it can generate 50kg of additional aerodynamic downforce over the rear axle. But those elements aside you won’t need me to tell you that this is the best looking iteration of Panamera yet – frankly that’s all that needs to be said here in my book...
Stepping into the Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo I was expecting an experience that differed little from that offered by other versions of Sport Turismo. What I found was a car which highlights Porsche’s current moment in time – this car neatly encapsulates Porsche’s past, present and future. The roaring twin-turbocharged V8 sings the virtues of traditional Porsche powerplants, the electric motor and its lithium-ion batteries speak of the future, its handling, balance, performance and comfort of everything which is so impressive about a modern day Porsche. Add to this massive practicality and the stylish, sweeping looks of the Sport Turismo’s body, and this version of the Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid seemingly has a genuine case for being considered the best all-round Porsche currently available. And, in the current absence of a similarly powered performance Porsche SUV (watch this space), I’d say that it might be just that...
The roaring twin-turbocharged V8 sings the virtues of traditional Porsche powerplants...
“Away from the fast roads there comes the model’s real party piece...”