Advanced hybrid powertrains, particularly from premium car manufacturers, are breathtakingly complicated and relentlessly boring. These Rube Goldbergian contraptions tap every ounce of engineering finesse a manufacturer can muster, all in order to deliver extra oomph at the pedal without a commensurate penalty at the pump. And they defy comprehensible description over drinks in bars. Go ahead: try to explain to your friends how your new Porsche Panamera 4 E-Hybrid sport-sedan does its thing. I dare you.
2017 Porsche Panamera 4 E-Hybrid
Engine / Electic Motor: twin-turbo 2.9-liter V6 / 14 kWh lithium ion 100 kW motor
Transmission: eight-speed dual-clutch automatic
Horsepower: 462 (Combustion Engine: 330 | Electric Motor: 136)
0–60: 4.4 seconds
Base MSRP: $99,600
Just in case, here’s a quick one-sentence primer: It’s a high-tech, high-power, fuel-saving science project based on the $800,000 Porsche 918 Spyder supercar’s powertrain. For a more detailed explanation, see the sidebar below. (Best of luck.)
In Panamera form, that hybrid supercar tech means smooth, highly linear acceleration that, while not quite as perfectly linear as, say, a Tesla Model S all-electric sport sedan (and not remotely as simple), is far more visceral and emotional. It’s a Porsche, after all. And the Panamera 4 E-Hybrid, which will cost $99,600 when it hits showrooms this spring, is engineered to hit all the marque’s most familiar notes.
Not only acoustically menacing at full throttle, it’s comfortable, with characteristically aromatic leather seats that are firm enough to handle sport driving yet supple enough for comfortable hauls cross-country. And it’s luxurious, with all the technological trimmings, including LED headlights, soft-close doors, full connectivity, and a robust Bose sound system. You can spec rear-axle steering and safety features like lane-change assist, as well. (A longer-wheelbase Executive model is also now available, starting at $104,000, with seat massagers and huge rear-seat entertainment monitors, among other things.)
Extremely Boring Hybrid-Engine Technical Jargon
The Panamera Hybrid features a parallel plug-in hybrid system, meaning you can charge it from a 120V home outlet in 12 hours and drive up to 30 miles (as long as you’re soft-pedaling the throttle) just on the 14 kWh lithium ion 100 kW motor. The motor is good for 295 lb-ft of torque through the 8-speed dual-clutch, all-wheel-drive PDK transmission at up to 86 mph. Eventually, the twin-turbo, 330 horsepower V6 gasoline engine kicks in to bring the total output up to 462h horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque, which will let you reach 60 mph in 4.6 seconds on the way to a top speed of 172 mph. Acceleration varies based on which mode you’re in. E-Power is purely electric. Hybrid Auto offers seamless automatic optimization of electric/gasoline thrust. E-Hold conserves battery power. E-Charge makes the engine produce extra power to charge the battery for use later. Whether or not you’re looking to max out the MPG’s (which haven’t actually been released yet), you should expect something in the vicinity of 50 mpg under normal use.
On several hot laps around the summer sun of Cape Town, South Africa, the car proved itself to be just as spry, given its heavy curb weight, as its non-electrified counterparts, and true to the family name. Engine and motor responsiveness were immediate and indeed difficult to separate when they did their power-sharing dance. The only niggling annoyance is the brakes, which possess the same altered feedback and pronounced off-throttle deceleration of regenerative brakes in all hybrids and electric cars. It takes a few minutes to adapt to the system, but once you do it’s fine — and “normal” cars suddenly start to seem like the annoying ones.
The ultimate case for the car is complicated, however — it nets you overall “just” a few-tenths of a bump in 0–60 time and a 10 mph increased top end over the non-hybrid. But the fuel economy is there, particularly if your daily life can capitalize on those all-electric miles. Or maybe you just appreciate the simple manifestations of highly complex engineering: power, silky-smooth acceleration, and a featherweight feel despite generally mountainous specs. After all, trickle-down tech from an $800,000 supercar is nothing to scoff at.
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