Road Test: Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid
The Panamera S E-Hybrid, a high performance, low-carbon luxury car, competes in a corporate-dominated market sector, and offers a glimpse of some of the Group’s most advanced hybrid technology. So this is a really important car, despite what are likely to be modest UK volumes.
Hybrid technology isn’t new to the Panamera, but the S E-Hybrid is a different proposition to the old non-plug-in version. This offers a much more useful 22-mile electric range, supplied by a mains-rechargeable lithium-ion battery, and the motor now produces a more generous 95bhp to the rear wheels via an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission.
Despite the modest power output, this alone can move the bulky luxury car up to motorway speeds without a faint whine as a soundtrack – Porsche claims an 84mph top speed on electricity.
When more power, or extra range, is required, the motor gets a helping hand from the 3.0-litre supercharged V6 petrol engine also found under the bonnet. It’s just as impressive, constantly run in as high a gear as possible while cruising and reasonably efficient for a unit of this size. Under really light-footed driving, the engine is decoupled and deactivated, returning a respectable low 30s to the gallon. Not enough to worry a Toyota Prius, but good going for a heavy performance car.
Unusually, the engine can also fully charge the hybrid system battery without the aid of an external power source. In E-Charge mode, the engine can restore a drained battery to 100% in around 40-45 miles, ideal for cutting urban exhaust emissions on journeys which start and finish in town centres. However, this has the side-effect of putting a substantial dent in fuel economy.
As does exploring the less green-minded side of the Panamera’s drivetrain. In Sport mode, the Panamera combines combustion engine and electric motor to produce 412bhp – enough to propel its 2.1 tonnes to 62mph in a mind-bending 5.5 seconds. That weight is noticeable while cornering but, for a grand tourer, grip and stability are ample.
What’s really impressive about the Panamera is that it’s such an easy car to adjust to. Visual modifications are limited to lime green highlights on the brakes, badges and clocks – which feature a power gauge where the speedometer would usually be found – and the only adjustment to be made is getting used to plugging it in at the end of the day to maximise the available economy.
While it’s not a cheap asset, this makes even more sense as a corporate car than the diesel. It’s VED exempt, eligible for a 100% first-year allowance and, despite the £34,000 price difference, the S E-Hybrid’s 5% Benefit in Kind liability against the diesel’s 29% means the former costs two thirds less for drivers. Even with the BiK advantage for ULEVs eroding over the next three years, this will be cheaper from a tax perspective for the life of a typical lease.
But Porsche isn’t alone here. Tesla has fleet ambitions for the similarly priced Model S, which has the advantage of a pure electric drivetrain with a much longer range. Likewise, Mercedes-Benz will soon have a plug-in hybrid S-Class competing in this sector, adding similar tax efficiencies to a more practical, comfortable luxury car.
The S E-Hybrid’s high price, and the low volumes of the sector in which it competes, won’t make this a common sight on British roads. But this tax-efficient luxury car offers an interesting alternative to the default diesel for those with the right kind of commute.
It might not be the world’s greenest hybrid, but the Panamera puts electromobility on the radar for buyers who might otherwise not look beyond a diesel. With the UK recently criticised by the EU for poor inner-city air quality, cutting smog without compromising comfort can only be a good thing.
Type: Petrol-electric plug-in hybrid
Price: £84,327 (after £5,000 government grant)
Electric range: 22 miles
CO2 emissions (tailpipe): 71g/km
Charging Port: Type 2