Road Test: Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid
Sector: Luxury Price: £89,022 (after £5,000 government grant) Fuel: 91.1mpg CO2: 71g/km
Porsche’s first plug-in hybrid forms part of the Volkswagen Group’s plans to offer electric drivetrain in every sector it competes in by 2017. But with the Panamera’s segment heavily weighted towards fleet, it’s also an interesting offering for the newly corporate-conscious carmaker’s UK ambitions.
This is a very different proposition to the old Panamera Hybrid, which never made much sense against the diesel. Its mains-rechargeable lithium-ion battery offers a useful 22-mile range, and the motor now produces 95bhp. That’s a modest figure, but it’s enough to reach a claimed 84mph with only a faint whine as a soundtrack and means motorway commutes can be all-electric.
When more power (or extra range) is required, the motor gets a helping hand from the 3.0-litre supercharged V6 petrol engine with which it shares its eight-speed PDK gearbox. Constantly run in as high a gear as possible and capable of decoupling at motorway speeds under low loads, economy of around 35mpg isn’t difficult to achieve even with a flat battery. Not enough to worry a Toyota Prius, but good going for a heavy performance car.
Unusually, the engine can also fully charge the hybrid battery without using an external power source. In E-Charge mode this takes around 40-45 miles to reach 100%, in turn meaning drivers can avoid exhaust emissions for urban sections of routes which start and finish in town. The downside is a significant drop in fuel economy while charging.
That’s also true of the Panamera’s less green-minded side. In Sport mode, it combines petrol and electric power to produce 412bhp – enough to propel its 2.1 tonnes to 62mph in an impressive, sonorous 5.5 seconds. That weight is noticeable while cornering but, for a grand tourer, grip and stability are ample.
Yet it doesn’t shout that loudly about the technology on board. 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 regularly to maximise the available economy.
That it makes sense financially says a lot about the scale of incentives for low-carbon cars. This is VED and London congestion charge exempt, eligible for a 100% first-year allowance and, despite the £34,000 price difference, the S E-Hybrid’s 5% BiK liability against the diesel’s 29% means the former costs around two thirds less for drivers, and will stay cheaper for a typical three-year lifespan despite this advantage eroding.
But Porsche isn’t alone here. Tesla has fleet ambitions for the similarly-priced Model S, which can travel much further on battery power, and Mercedes-Benz will soon have a plug-in hybrid S-Class, adding similar tax efficiencies to a more practical, comfortable luxury car.
The S E-Hybrid’s high price and the sector’s low volumes won’t make this a common sight. But heavy incentives for plug-in drivetrains mean this tax-efficient luxury car offers an interesting alternative to the default diesel for those with the right kind of commute.
There are greener hybrids, but the Panamera has a role to play in reducing inner-city smog for drivers who would otherwise default to the sector’s big-selling diesels.