Road test: Porsche Panamera 4 E-Hybrid & 4S Diesel

Browse pages
Current page

1

Current page

2

Current page

3

Current page

4

Current page

5

Current page

6

Current page

7

Current page

8

Current page

9

Current page

10

Current page

11

Current page

12

Current page

13

Current page

14

Current page

15

Current page

16

Current page

17

Current page

18

Current page

19

Current page

20

Current page

21

Current page

22

Current page

23

Current page

24

Current page

25

Current page

26

Current page

27

Current page

28

Current page

29

Current page

30

Current page

31

Current page

32

Current page

33

Current page

34

Current page

35

Current page

36

Current page

37

Current page

38

Current page

39

Current page

40

Current page

41

Current page

42

Current page

43

Current page

44

Current page

45

Current page

46

Current page

47

Current page

48

Current page

49

Current page

50

Current page

51

Current page

52

Current page

53

Current page

54

Current page

55

Current page

56

Current page

57

Current page

58

Current page

59

Current page

60

Current page

61

Current page

62

Current page

63

Current page

64

Current page

65

Current page

66

Current page

67

Current page

68

Current page

69

Current page

70

Current page

71

Current page

72

Current page

73

Current page

74

Current page

75

Current page

76

Current page

77

Current page

78

Current page

79

Current page

80

Current page

81

Current page

82

Current page

83

Current page

84

Current page

85

Current page

86

Current page

87

Current page

88

Current page

89

Current page

90

Current page

91

Current page

92

Current page

93

Current page

94

Current page

95

Current page

96

Current page

97

Current page

98

Current page

99

Current page

100

Current page

101

Current page

102

Current page

103

Current page

104

Current page

105

Current page

106

Current page

107

Current page

108

Current page

109

Current page

110

Current page

111

Current page

112

Current page

113

Current page

114

Current page

115

Current page

116

Current page

117

Current page

118

Current page

119

Current page

120

Current page

121

Current page

122

Current page

123

Current page

124

Current page

125

Current page

126

Current page

127

Current page

128

Current page

129

Current page

130

Current page

131

Current page

132

Current page

133

Current page

134

Current page

135

Current page

136

Current page

137

Current page

138

Current page

139

Current page

140

Current page

141

Current page

142

Current page

143

Current page

144

Current page

145

Current page

146

Current page

147

Current page

148

Current page

149

Current page

150

Current page

151

Current page

152

Current page

153

Current page

154

Current page

155

Current page

156

Current page

157

Current page

158

Current page

159

Current page

160

Current page

161

Current page

162

Current page

163

Current page

164

Current page

165

Current page

166

Current page

167

Current page

168

Current page

169

Current page

170

Current page

171

Current page

172

Current page

173

Current page

174

Current page

175

Current page

176

Current page

177

Current page

178

Current page

179

Current page

180

Current page

181

Current page

182

Current page

183

Current page

184

Current page

185

Current page

186

Current page

187

Current page

188

Current page

189

Current page

190

Current page

191

Current page

192

Current page

193

Current page

194

Current page

195

Current page

196

Current page

197

Current page

198

Don’t be fooled by appearances. These two Stuttgart newcomers are remarkably different beneath the skin

Chances to compare old- and new-school thinking on an otherwise reasonably even playing field do not come along that often in this business. But anyone pondering the relative merits of new-fangled hybrid power versus conventional diesel would do well to look at the lessons provided by these two new Porsche Panameras. No, they don’t translate directly to all parts and price points of the market, but the general thrust of the arguments for and against are broadly reliable.

So in one corner with have the new hybrid, or Panamera 4 E-Hybrid to give it its full name. It uses a 322bhp twin-turbo 2.9-litre V6 coupled with a new electric motor to provide a total of 456bhp that is distributed to all four wheels. The Panamera 4S Diesel has a 4-litre twin-turbo V8, but without hybrid assistance can muster ‘only’ 422bhp. What’s more you can plug the hybrid into the mains and waft around on a wave of electrons for about 30 miles at up to 87mph, and you can count on the Government to look very favourably upon it as a taxable benefit, as will as Mayor Khan should you be tempted to drive into London. Best of all, and in an attempt to spread the word wider than the previous Panamera hybrid managed, Porsche has actually cut its price from £88,967 to £79,715, despite the fact that you’re also buying a brand-new car on a fresh platform that’s better in almost every regard than the one it replaces. The 4S Diesel costs £91,788, more money for less power and higher running costs.

So it’s looking like something of a slam-dunk for the new world. And if all you did was drive your Panamera hybrid on electric power, you might conclude that was indeed the case. Despite sharing the name and something of the look of the previous Panamera, the new car is actually highly altered and is designed to do a very different job: it’s no exaggeration to call it Porsche’s first true luxury car. And nothing plays quite so well to this narrative as swishing about borne only by a silent stream of volts. Also, the new electric motor has both meaningful power and torque and, as a result (and at least while battery power remains), the Hybrid will actually provide all the performance most people would choose to use most of the time.

In this mode of travel the only real downside is the feel of the fly-by-wire brake pedal as it decides when to use the electric motor to slow the car and when to activate the enormous discs. It’s not ideal but you get used to it.

It takes longer to acclimatise to what happens when the V6 motor chimes in – and during a reasonably long drive in South Africa, I never did. As you will know Porsche has produced some great six-cylinder engines and still does, but this is not one of them. It’s too noisy and too coarse and unsuited to the hitherto svelte nature of the Panamera. Impressive performance figures are there to be taken, but you need to work the engine harder than I cared to make it achieve them.

And there’s another problem. The elephant under the bonnet – almost literally – is the car’s weight. At 2245kg it weighs not only 320kg more than the Panamera 4 with the same engine minus hybrid, but more even than a long-wheelbase Mercedes-Benz S600 6-litre V12 limousine. And despite the best efforts of Porsche’s chassis engineers, you can never escape that sense of excessive mass. It compromises the car’s handling and combines with the unlovely engine to kill any chance of the car being actively fun to drive.

The contrast to the V8 diesel Panamera could not be more stark. It might have eight cylinders instead of six, but it is still 120kg lighter than the hybrid. It also has a torque advantage of more than 20 per cent, delivered at even fewer revs. And there’s no nasty brake pedal nor any awkward transition from electric to petrol power, just one velvet wallop from idle.

Make no mistake, this car has one of the great powertrains, as suited to its role in life as a four-cam V12 in a Ferrari Daytona or a Cosworth BDA in an Escort rally car. No, it’s not silent like the hybrid when powered only by electrics, but no one will resent the distant thunder of the V8, or its ability to accelerate like a supercar with scarcely a rev on the tachometer. Which is why it feels by far the faster of the two, regardless of what the figures say.

And because it brakes and accelerates more consistently than the hybrid, the whole driving experience flows more readily. It’s an easier car to handle, more fluent on the limit and more engaging too. Better, in other words.

Here then are two Porsches, similar in appearance and (on paper) performance, but utterly different in character and approach. And I get why some will still go for the hybrid: for a certain kind of user the maths will likely prove compelling. But if that’s not you, find the extra and buy this diesel: it’s not just a far better car, but a much better Porsche. To me such things still matter, and I hope they always will.

You may also like

Related products