In Style + Design

Test Drive: Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid

There’s something deeply discombobulating about turning the key on a big, fat Porsche – with “Turbo S” stamped on its rounded rump, no less – and hearing nothing more exciting than a low hum.

Fortunately, the rasping racket that normally lives under a Porsche bonnet is still there, somewhere, if you know which knobs to twiddle, and the other words on the car’s tail – written in a cool, glowy-green font, are the key, because this is the Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid, which sounds like bad news, but actually indicates that this big bruiser is two different kinds of fast.

When you start this not-so-lean, only slightly green Panamera up, it immediately defaults to EV mode (or it does for the first 50km, until you realise you have nowhere to plug it in and charge it because you live in Sydney and can’t afford a garage), which can whisk you around silently at speeds of up to an impressive 130km/h, while your tacho sits, disconcertingly, on zero rpm.

But this would be a terrible, tragic waste of the other power source at your disposal, so you will immediately flick the steering-wheel switch to ‘Hybrid’, ‘Sport’ or ‘Sport+’ and hear the reassuring roar of your twin-turbo V8 engine, which is good for a super-car-like 404kW, 770Nm and 0 to 100km/h in 3.6 seconds.

This is hugely and hilariously fast for something this big and luxurious inside – the Panamera is a competitor for BMW’s 7 Series, Audi’s A8 and the Benz S Class, and thus theoretically a limousine – but wait, there’s more.

When you switch everything on, this pacy Panamera combines its battery-powered, silent electric shove with its shouty V8 to provide you with a whopping 504kW and 850Nm. Thus your 100km/h dash drops to a Lambo-scaring 3.4 seconds and your top speed hits 310km/h.

Moving so fast in something that weighs a whopping 2.3 tonnes, and is so wide that city roads feel too small and shopping-centre carparks an impossible mission, is an even more discombobulating experience.

The rear seats, where at least some owners will theoretically spend their time, are sporty numbers and mirror the front ones, which no one else does at the this premium end of the market. You also get your own, flashy touch screen, and heated seats. But sitting back there is a bit like being on a particularly violent thrill ride, if the driver falls pray to the Panamera’s temptations.

The front seat, therefore, is the place to be, because this is a car you want to drive. No one does steering as well as Porsche, and while this one isn’t quite as alive in your hands as a 911 or a Cayman, it does provide a more appropriately heavy version of that famous feel for the road.

Despite its weight and wide dimensions, the Panamera Hybrid also somehow manages to corner with genuine aplomb, and properly involves the driver. It’s more fun than any luxe-barge should be, in short.

The real party trick, though, is all that prodigious thrust, which feels slightly unnecessary in a car like this, and yet very Porsche.

Here, then, finally, is a car that uses the idea of hybridisation for good rather than boring/evil.

Yes, you can drive it to work and back, every day, without using a drop of petrol or alarming your ears, or those of your chauffeured passenger, and then just plug it in for recharging every couple of days, but seriously, would you? (Realistically, you could never, ever plug it in and it wouldn’t matter because you always have the engine option.)

This is a properly Porsche approach to the green, EV-heavy future, and one that will surely make any motoring enthusiast smile. As will the cockpit, or course, which looks highly Blade Runner-esque with its massive, iPad-like screen, blacked out centre-console that glows to your touch and Tron-like lights around the door speakers (which also produce astonishing sound).

Yes, there are lots of other amazing cars you could spend $460,100 on, or you could go the whole green hog and buy a Tesla instead, but the Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid really is one of a kind. At least for now, because you can bet there’ll be a lot more of this technology coming down the line. And coming fast.

Published 10 July, 2018