2015 Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid - Driven

In the world of high-end luxury sports sedans, Porsche is a relatively new player. While Porsche debuted a sedan concept in the 1980s the brand never created a sedan. The Panamera itself debuted in 2009 and it has quickly started to amass sales in the segment. After a recent facelift, Porsche has decided that it want’s to push the Panamera into new and exciting classes by offering the new E-Hybrid.

Based on the technology that was developed during the creation of the 918 supercar, the Panamera S E-Hybrid is a plug-in hybrid that promises unsurpassed fuel economy and emissions, while still providing the luxury and performance suggested by the crest on the hood.

I recently took delivery of such a machine and spent a week beating on it to see if it could live up to the hype. From fuel sipping highway cruises and battery run-down tests, to a trip up one of the most grueling road in the U.S.

What I learned was a bit more than surprising, but you’ll have to read on to figure out what I really think

Read more about the 2014 Porsche Panamera S E-Hyrbrid

TopSpeed Garage

Walkaround Review

Driven Review

Exterior

Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid - Driven
Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid - Driven
Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid - Driven

The Porsche Panamera has always been chided as being the ugly duckling of the fleet. With its engorged proportions and hunchbacked rear end, the car looks more lumpy and frumpy than seductive and smooth. This fact holds especially true in photos, but when viewed in the flesh, the car has a much better overall look and proportions that you might expect. The traditional Porsche large rear hips over the rear tires remain, and while the profile of the rear roof looks ungainly, the Panamera looks just as swoopy as its siblings when viewed from the back.

Since this is the E-Hyrbid model, our car features a few small extras that wont be found on other cars. The most obvious of these adjustments is the bright fluorescent green coloring that has been slathered on the brake calipers. Porsche has also outlined the rear Panamera badge and the fender-mounted E-Hybrid badges with the same color.

If you look at the top of the car, you will find one of the coolest and likely most underutilized features of the Panamera. There are closeable flaps on the edges of the roof channel that house mounting points for a Porsche factory roof rack. If there was any part of the exterior that I feel I can fault, it would have to be the door locking mechanism. Rather than use a touch sensitive door lock for the smart-key, Porsche employs a set of black buttons. I enjoyed the simplicity and ease of use these buttons provided on the Nissan Nissan Versa but when you see them on a German sports sedan that costs more than a small house, they feel out of place. It doesn’t feel very well thought out or design, almost as if the system was a complete after thought.

Being a Porsche, no model would be complete without a massive list of additional options. The standard car features 18-inch alloy wheels, but we have a set of Panamera Sport 20-inch rollers for a cost of $3,305, and our “Mahogany Metallic” brown paint carried a price of $790. If you have a sharp eye, you will notice the extra cameras mounted in the nose and the wing mirrors for the optional Park Assist with Surround View system.

I am not exactly ecstatic about the paint color, (I must be the only auto writer that hates brown cars) but overall I enjoy the look of the Panamera. In person it looks powerful and purposeful; two very important characteristics in a car that will likely be used to shuttle around German crime lords and reclusive movie stars.

Interior

Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid - Driven
Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid - Driven
Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid - Driven

The Exterior is what you flaunt to the neighbors, but the interior is where the real magic happens with a car in this class. When it comes to absurd levels of luxury and equipment, the Panamera does not disappoint. From the shoulder line down to the carpets, everything you can touch is basically one three things: leather, painted trim, or metal.

All four seats are covered in some of the softest and thickest-feeling animal hide I have experienced. The attention to detail is plainly apparent in the construction of these thrones. The seats are fully perforated to take advantage of the seat ventilation system, and each tiny hole is perfectly spaced and even in diameter. Even the stitching that holds the seats together looks like it was purposely displayed to flaunt the perfection of the seam work.

The small bit of trim that is metal is a brushed aluminum that has been polished to give a nice sheen without introducing glare into the cabin, and the finish itself feels soft to touch. The majority of the trim in our tester is a high quality plastic that has been finished in the exact same paint that covers the outside. I don’t enjoy the color on the exterior, but the contrast between the dark brown of the trim and the pale Luxor Beige interior is striking.

From the driver’s seat, the Panamera hybrid feels like the cockpit of a futuristic fighter jet. There is a massive collection of buttons available to you in every direction. Reach down and you will find fourteen-way power seat controls, to the left is the control for locks, all four windows, the mirror controls and the toggle for the blind-spot monitoring system.

Things get even crazier when you move to the center stack. Within six inches of the shifter, you will find buttons for climate control that includes temperature, fan speed, three buttons for airflow direction, and an “auto” climate function. Next to that, you will find the buttons for the Sport and Sport Plus modes, the adjustable suspension toggle, and the traction control. On the passenger side of the shifter, you will find all the same climate and comfort controls, as well as the controls for E-Drive, E-Charge and the lane-departure system.

Like I said, futuristic jet fighter.

Even when you look up, there are controls for door lighting, rear seat lighting, ambient light controls, the garage door opening system, moon-roof control and the switch that activates the parking sensors.

I don’t want to bash Porsche for the buttons though. I would much rather have a large collection of intelligently placed buttons than spend six years trying to fumble through a touch screen interface to find what I want.

In a nod to practicality and comfort, the Panamera not only has enough space to house four fully grown adults in the cabin, but there are a total of five cup holders, and multiple storage cubbies to stash small snacks and other items.

Drivetrain

Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid - Driven

Aside from the batteries, the E-Hybrid is actually the most unique drivetrain found in any Panamera currently.

With a bright badge slapped on the side that yells “E-Hybrid” it is obvious Porsche wants people to care about what is powering this machine. Aside from the batteries, the E-Hybrid is actually the most unique drivetrain found in any Panamera currently. The 3.0-liter V-6 is common to those who know the Panamera family, but rather than being naturally aspirated or turbocharged like every other model, the E-Hybrid makes use of a supercharger. Power output for this engine is rated at 330 horsepower with torque coming in at 325 pound-feet

The same uniqueness can be found in the transmission. Where every other model makes use of Porsche’s lighting fast seven-speed PDK transmission, the E-Hybrid has a Tiptronic S unit with eight forward gears.

Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid - Driven

As a plug-in hybrid, the Panamera E-Hybrid has a much larger battery pack and electric motor than hybrids I have tested previously. The battery itself is a lithium-ion unit like that found in your laptop or smartphone, but it has a relatively massive capacity of 9.4 kWh. This battery sends its electrical juice to an electric motor generator with 95 horsepower and 229 pound-feet of twist. On a full charge, you can go as much as 15 or 16 miles on pure electric power, and you can run on nothing but electrons at speeds well over 80 mph.

When you combine the power of these two systems together, Porsche claims you have a full 416 horsepower and torque registering at 435. If you have all the switches and options set right, you can launch the Panamera to 60 mph from a dead stop in just a smidge over five seconds. Top speed closes in on 180 mph. This may be a hybrid, but slow it is not.

Driving Impressions

Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid - Driven

Press the gas a little harder and the motor kicks in instantly and seamlessly to hurtle you towards the horizon with the full force of 416 horsepower.

I already said that the control layout of the Panamera feels like sitting in a futuristic fighter jet. Well driving it feels a lot like the future too. When you first get into the car, you turn the key and all you get is a few lights to even let you know the car is on. It starts in EV mode and it is dead silent. You slot the car into gear and press the accelerator to move like normal, but rather than the painfully slow EV propulsion you are expecting from a two-ton car powered by batteries, the car scurries away with an urgency.

Turn the wheel and the car changes direction as instantly as you would expect from any car with a Porsche badge, but still you are moving in pure silence. Press the gas a little harder and the motor kicks in instantly and seamlessly to hurtle you towards the horizon with the full force of 416 horsepower. I made a full drive into town and looked down to see an incredible 86.8 mpg on the dash. That kind of mileage in a car with more than 400 horsepower and a few tons of dead cow skin; I was floored.

Not only did the plug-in hybrid system work, it worked well, and I wasn’t sitting in a tiny sardine can that felt as if it was made from aluminum foil and paper clips.

It really did feel like the future or motoring.

Of course, every sliver lining has its cloud, and while the Panamera felt like an incredible hybrid, I did catch it off guard a few times. I found on a few occasions that if you manage to engage the gasoline motor while the car is getting ready to change gears, there is a noticeable hesitation from the drivetrain. The same hesitation goes for the 1-2 shift when under heavy acceleration.

Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid - Driven

I also found that as much as it wants to go fast and handle well, all the technology in the world can’t change the fact that this is a big and very heavy car that is created for commuting, not track duty. I took the Panamera out to a local enthusiast haven known as the Tail of the Dragon. With more than 300 turns in a span of only 11 miles, it is a great place to test a car’s limits. While the Panamera started out well, it soon started to succumb to the punishment I was putting it through. About halfway up the mountain, the engine oil temperature started to climb and the car kicked me up a few gears and automatically re-engaged the traction control system. It almost seems like a half-hearted limp mode designed to keep me from hurting the car. In just about 30 seconds or so, the car was allowing me to go back to my previous settings, but I had run out of fast road at that point.

Since that run, I have not yet been able to cause the issue again, so it may have just been a random issue that most owners will never encounter, but it was still disheartening to say the least.

If you fall into the other 99.9-percent of potential owners that won’t flog your car like it’s a track-day toy, the Panamera Hybrid is everything you would ever need. It has room for four real human beings, plenty of space in the trunk, and depending on the length of your commute and how well you do with charging it, it can be an incredibly fuel efficient car. During the 600 or so miles I drove it, I managed combined total fuel economy rating of 27.1 mpg. According to the window sticker, it is rated for a combined 25 mpg. So not only did I beat it so hard it nearly broke, I still managed to beat the fuel economy number on the sticker.

I told you, it’s the freaking future.

Price

Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid - Driven

The Porsche Panamera is not cheap to begin with, but opting for the E-Hybrid can be quite the expensive proposition. The base price of the Panamera S E-Hybrid is $99,000. With the optional extras fitted to our car like the 20-inch alloy wheels, Luxor Beige interior, Sport Chrono Package and more, our final as-tested price was $130,335 after destination. Most of our options however are not performance oriented. Instead they fell toward the side of luxury and entertainment with LED Interior lighting and a Bose Stereo. You can take one of these cars home for far less than $130k and still have an incredible vehicle.

Competitors

Mercedes-Benz S-Class

Mercedes-Benz S-Class

If you are looking for a supremely fast and luxurious four door, the Mercedes S-Class basically wrote the book. More than 100 advanced safety and technology features that you enjoy today debuted on the S-Class over the last several decades. There is no car that does this type of vehicle better.

That said, the S-Class is incredibly luxurious and fast, but it doesn’t possess the same handling prowess as the Panamera. There is also no hybrid version of the S-Class, let alone a plug-in version, so the efficiency title easily falls to the Porsche.

BMW ActiveHybrid 7

BMW ActiveHybrid 7

Rounding out the German competitors is the BMW 7 Series. With BMW’s legacy of creating performance machines, the ActiveHybrid 7 should have the chops to keep up with the Porsche when you start beating on it.

While the 7 Series hybrid may be able to hold its own with the Panamera in the handling department, it wains in the speed department. While the Porsche wades into battle with 416 horsepower, the Bavarian has to make do with only 350 ponies.

That lower horsepower pays dividends though. The BMW ActiveHybrid is almost $15,000 cheaper than the Panamera and the BMW has a higher fuel economy rating.

Conclusion

Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid - Driven

The Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid has me torn. It’s $99,000 dollar base price only makes it $3,000 or so more expensive than the standard S, and it only loses 6 or so horsepower. For that small monetary and power loss you get one of the most advanced hybrid systems on sale today.

Despite this, I can’t help but feel that the hybrid technology has added needless complication and it makes the E-Hybrid feel less like a Porsche and more like a gadget. The world is better for having a car like this, but I am not sure Porsche is better for being the one to sell it.

The 2014 Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid is insanely luxurious, incredibly fast, surprisingly fuel efficient and it has more room than I knew what to do with. Despite all that, it fell down on me the one time I was really counting on it. When you make the world’s greatest sports car, you need to put that same level of fun and performance into every car you sell.

The Panamera S E-Hybrid is basically perfect, it’s just not as perfect as I think it should be.

LOVE IT
  • Impressive collection of forward thinking technology
  • Respectable battery range and EV performance
  • Incredibly luxurious and sporty handling
LEAVE IT
  • Very expensive
  • Falls on its face when you really push it
  • I really dislike the brown color

What is your take?

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