2015 Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid review – Four-Seat Frugal Sports GT Impresses

Porsche Panamera?

Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid plug in electric review-0011
In 2009 the Porsche Panamera was launched to fill the need for a four-door, four-seat GT car with a decent sized boot and sportscar performance and handling, and giving potential owners an alternative to the strong-selling Cayenne SUV.

With ten models now available, we were sent the second generation 2015 Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid to find out what a supercharged V6 mated to an electric motor can offer…

Exterior. Butt-ugly or beauty?

Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid plug in electric review-0028

2013 saw the second-generation Panamera arrive, and with it a welcome facelift. Welcome, because let’s be honest the 1st gen version wasn’t exactly becoming in the looks department and was scathed rather a lot by car journos for this.

Thankfully this 2014 Panamera S E-Hybrid looks far more assertive than its predecessor and throughout the week’s test period people were only ever complimentary about its design. Of course, the wheel and colour combination on most cars can make or break its looks, but in this case the optional tasty 19-inch Panamera Turbo II wheels and Rhodium Silver metallic paintwork suited the car perfectly.

Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid plug in electric review-0013

Actually, there was on particular point on the Panamera S E-Hybrid that people almost always focussed in on, and that was the absolutely colossal, acid-green front brake callipers. Fantastic things, and the large gaps between the Turbo wheel spokes allowed them to be fully on view.

As with any car I have on test, I enjoy gauging the reactions of other drivers and pedestrians when driving or parking up, and the Panamera drew a huge amount of attention, mouths agape and some grins here and there. In fact, surprisingly the attention it got was easily on a par with the super-aggressive (and bright blue) Jaguar XKR-S, which is an achievement all on its own.

Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid plug in electric review-0016

Back to the design, and the Panamera’s front end is now far tighter and taught than it was, featuring cooler light clusters, narrow LED running lights and three large air intake grilles below, while the lower frame around the front side grilles feature sharp little wings, likely to aid downforce. It’s mostly subtle changes to the design, but they add up to make a big difference.

Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid plug in electric review-3190459

One thing unmistakable that shows off the Porsche heritage are the raised wings where the lights sit. From behind the steering wheel these look absolutely fantastic, and are a constant reminder that you’re driving a car with an immense sporting history. In fact, every time I glanced across from my position in the driver’s seat, I got a real buzz from seeing those high-seated wings pushing forward ahead.

The side still has the reversed ‘C’ deeply cut into the wings and doors, which from a side gives the Panamera a much more interesting profile, and more of a sense of drama. I think the rear of the Panamera is actually rather cool-looking, and with classic lines reminiscent of the Jaguar E-Type Fixed Head Coupe (gasp!), which is never, ever going to be a bad thing.

Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid plug in electric review-0030

I have good reason to liken it to such a beauty, as the Porsche’s narrow rear windscreen and boot lid sits between two hugely-flared wheel arches which mirror those at the front. Don’t believe me about the E-Type reference? Check this link out for proof. Unlike that car though, the Panamera features a cool hidden spoiler, which is raised and lowered either automatically (at around 60 mph) or manually via button on the console.

While there are a lot of good angles, the Panamera isn’t entirely without a bad one, as its side-on profile can make the car look rather more bulky vertically than it actually is, and there’s just something niggling me that doesn’t look right… and that’s because my eyes are trying to fit a 911 in there when there isn’t one. It’s a different car though folks – let’s all just move on from that now eh.

All said though, I do actually really like the Panamera’s design. The 1st generation version. No. But this second gen. Yes, especially with those fabulous Turbo II wheels and the acid-green callipers of the S E-Hybrid.

Interior. Neat or nothing special?

Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid plug in electric review-0889

From the moment you open one of the Panamera’s doors, you’re greeted with the fact that this is a highly luxurious. Visit the Porsche model configurator, and you’ll see the list of variants to spec the Panamera out is prodigious, and you can make it exactly as you want to.

With such a large list of interior options, it would take a long time and a lot of Porsche showroom cappuccinos to finalise the one you want, as there are options for just about every part of the interior trim and seats. For example, you can have the inner door sill guards in leather in a colour of your choice, or you could have them in yachting mahogany, or in carbon fibre with a personalised motif. And the same goes for the roof lining grab handles and steering wheel too.

Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid plug in electric review-0887

You can then start to option details to take personalisation even further with painted air vents, Porsche crest embroidered on the headrests and centre consoles, contrasting stitching on the seats and dash, leather-covered trim such as the rear-view mirror, sun visors, steering column etc.

After that, why not select some luxurious to keep you and your passengers super-comfortable with perhaps front and rear heat and ventilated seats, 4-zone climate control, a rear interior lighting package, folding tables and electric side sunblinds for the rear passengers, and a rear entertainment package which includes two 10-inch TFT touchscreens, and a DVD player, and then add to that WiFi, digital TV and a BOSE surround-sound system.

These things don’t come cheap though, and you’d better check the option prices carefully before ticking those boxes, unless you don’t have a particular budget in mind. If that is the case, then tick away! Just for kicks, I used the Porsche configurator and ticked as many interior option boxes I as could. The result was staggering, as it took the Panamera S E-Hybrid from a standard £84,401 to an incredible £115,875. That’s almost £31,500 in interior options alone.

Still, all this goes to show that the Panamera isn’t simply a ‘stretched 911’ as some say, but a highly plush GT car capable of competing luxury-wise with the likes of the Aston Martin Rapide.

We’ve established that it’s luxurious, so what about a personal tour of the car. I shall oblige. Slip into the driver’s seat, and your immediate impression is that you’ve just entered the cockpit of a private jet as the centre console is almost overwhelmingly packed with controls.

Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid plug in electric review-0860

Actually though, it’s all pretty straightforward really and they’ve been laid out in straightforward manner. Starting at the top in front of the gear lever, those six button are for raising the spoiler, the A/C and front and rear heated windows. At the top left and right are the driver/passenger temperature and fan speed adjusters, below those each side are controls for the blower direction, and underneath those are the heated seat adjusters. Easy.

After those on the left are the controls for the different driving modes (Sport/Sport Plus), suspension firmess adjustment, ride height select and traction/stability control off. On the right are two buttons for the E-Power and E-Charge, as this is the E-Hybrid. All very simple and straightforward really.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The 7-inch touchscreen system in the centre features slick, modern graphics and elementary menus clearly designed designed to as easy to use on the move as possible. The satellite navigation graphics are decent, and the only real issue I had was with it finishing post codes off before I had fully typed them, and then refusing to bring up the one I actually wanted, like the street didn’t exist. Quite bizarre, although it fine for the majority of the time.

Moving on, and your eyes are drawn to driver’s binnacle, which has a superb combination of traditional Porsche analogue instruments and one full-colour 4.8″ TFT (Thin Film Transistor) display which shows rather neat 3D sat nav map, lap timers (which are part of the optional Sport Chrono Package), fuel consumption, information for the hybrid system and more. All very cool, and I love the acid-green hands on the clocks, and huge rev counter in the centre.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Settling into the driver’s seat, I was aware of just how well finished the Panamera interior is. The stitching on any of the leather trim is perfect, the door handles are thick aluminium and beautifully shaped, the switchgear looks like it’ll last the lifetime of the car without issue, and finishing touches like the interior lights coming on and going off softly makes you conscious of the fact Porsche’s designers have put a lot of thought into the Panamera.

Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid front drivers seat dark black leather

The front seats are aesthetically pleasing, but I would say even more so in a colour other than black, in order to show them off to the full extent and become aware of the attention to detail in the stitching and folds in the leather. They’re also incredibly comfortable, whilst still offering good support from the side bolsters for those times you want to see what the Panamera is capable of.

The individual rear seats are also very comfortable and supportive, and the small storage compartments between them are again nicely finished and detailed. My only slight issue is that they could do with being reclined at just slightly more of angle for those times when long-distance cruising is done. Personally, I would opt for the heated and ventilated rears seats, plus the 4-zone climate control for extra comfort, should you be transporting passengers regularly.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

There’s plenty of leg, arm and head room in the Panamera, and it’s not cramped or claustrophobic in any way. This is because the Porsche has a wheelbase just 2mm short of Range Rover’s, and in actual fact it is 15 mm longer overall than the Rangey, as well as being almost as wide, so you’ll understand why leg space isn’t an issue.

Luggage space in the boot isn’t anywhere near as bad as I thought it would be, and in fact it’s surprising just how much gear you can pack in there, with 335 litres behind the rear seats, and 1,153 litres with those folded. The Panamera loses out to the other versions on space by 110 litres, due to the hybrid system, so keep that in mind if you’re going of be packing the car for trips regularly.

Overall, my thoughts are that the Porsche Panamera interior is incredibly refined, and it is a genuinely pleasurable car to travel in, front or rear. There’s also an unexpected amount of practicality about it as well, as it has plenty of handy stowage spaces, a proper-sized glove box and arm-rest container, plus heavy-duty metal tie-down points in the boot, all adding up to making this a superb, luxurious-while-practical continent-crusher.

Engine, hybrid system & gearbox

The Panamera S E-Hybrid is a parallel full hybrid with plug-in technology, which uses a supercharged 3.0 litre V6 petrol engine and synchronous electric motor to drive the rear wheels.  The V6 produces 333 hp at 5,500 rpm, and alongside that at the same rpm the electric motor produces 83 hp to create 416 hp total. At lower speeds though, the electric motor can produce 95 hp alone. Impressive stuff, and that’s over twice the power of the previous electric motor with 47 hp.

Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid plug in electric review-0910

The newly-developed lithium-ion battery has over five times the 1.7 kWh energy capacity of the previous nickel metal hydride battery, taking it to 9.4 kWh. That’s a huge jump in such a short few years development time!

In this new Panamera S E-Hybrid, the engine and motor are synchronised by the electronic engine management system with both drives being connected directly to the axles. Between 1,250 and 4,000 rpm, there’s a total of 416 hp and 435 lb ft (590 Nm) of torque on tap.

Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid plug in electric review-0912

Porsche quote the 0 – 62 mph time as 5.5 seconds, 0 – 100 mph in 12.2 seconds and an impressive top speed of 167 mph. In full electric mode the Panamera will still reach a maximum of 84 mph, while 0 – 31 mph (0 – 50 km/h) takes 6.1 seconds.

Porsche are very open about the milage you can get on electric alone, stating that although an official NEDC (New European Driving Cycle) shows a range of 22 miles, “a realistic electric range in everyday driving would be between 18 and 36 kilometres (11 – 22 miles) – and possibly even further under especially favourable conditions.

Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid plug in electric review-0911

Charging for the high voltage battery is quick, with Porsche stating that installing an industrial electrical outlet, and connecting the portable Porsche Universal Charger (AC) to the charging dock, the battery will be charged in just 2.3 hours!

The transmission is a 7-speed PDK double-clutch version, with ‘extended auto stop/start’ which cuts the engine off and disengages the clutches while coasting, in order to improve fuel economy. It’s a very clever system, and works brilliantly, as I’ll discuss next.

Ready to roll? Let’s drive!

Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid plug in electric review-3190452

Key in the ignition, turn to fire it into life and… nothing happens. Or at least nothing audible. The Panamera S E-Hybrid starts off on full electric, pulling away in eerie silence with only a few whirrs and ticks as various things behind the scenes get up to speed.

The Panamera isn’t entire silent under acceleration, as there’s the distinct sound from the electric motor, something akin to an electric tram but much quieter. In written form, it’s perhaps something like ‘mmmwwwwwwrrrrrrrr‘. Once up to speed and cruising, things are entirely and beautifully hushed. First thing on a ridiculously early Monday morning when the last thing you want or need is work, or after a long stressful day when all you’ve had is an earful of verbal white noise, the quiet tranquility of settling into the Panamera’s luxurious cabin and driving on full electric would be most soothing.

Acceleration in E-Power mode is surprisingly brisk, and helpfully there’s a very obvious resistance on the accelerator just before the engine fires into life to let you know that’s going to happen, allowing you to back off and stay in full electric mode should you want that.

Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid plug in electric review--3

I must say, it is immensely satisfying to get such decent performance knowing that you’re not burning any fuel, especially if you’re only commuting back and forth into the city, and even if you do have to tackle a short section of motorway, the 84 miles per hour max electric speed covers that with no problem. Do this though under hard acceleration though, and you’ll quickly use up the power and be out of it within 10 miles or so.

Not that it’ll really matter, as a quick prod of the E-Power button will see the engine fire into life and charge the high-voltage battery at the same time as driving the Panamera. Actually, that, alongside the regenerative braking and coasting means that you can put a decent amount of power back into the battery after a journey of just 10 miles or so. To save petrol, the engine cuts out when coasting or at a stop, restarting almost seamlessly when needed, and most of the time I barely noticed it had actually done so.

Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid plug in electric review-0870

Back to the driving, and around town the Panamera soaks up bad road surfaces really superbly, which is partly down to both the revised adaptive air suspension with Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), but also I think because the tyre sidewalls on the 19″ Turbo II wheels are decently deep instead of being the rubber-band type.

The Panamera’s steering is nicely weighted, and you always feels very connected to the road through the steering wheel, no matter the speed you’re going. During my time with the Panamera S E-Hybrid, I got the occasional “Yeah, but it’s not a proper Porsche is it”, to which I’d usually ask if they’d actually driven either it, or any Porsche. Nope, thought not.

I guess they think that because the Panamera S E-Hybrid isn’t a 911 but a big GT car, that it won’t handle or go well. They’d be wrong, for it is an absolute joy to drive. In Sport mode, the Panamera becomes more focussed, with the suspension and steering becoming more taut, and I found it great for when you want the occasional blast up to speed between the different speed limits.

Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid plug in electric review-0872

Switch to Sport Plus mode though, and the Panamera almost feels like a different car. Its suspension becomes discernibly firm, the ride height lowers, and the accelerator becomes hair-trigger sharp. The supercharged V6 doesn’t push some blaring howl through the exhaust system, but rather the tone is melodic, smooth and refined.

While the 0 – 62 mph sprint in 5.5 seconds isn’t massively quick, it’s the brilliant in-gear acceleration that counts. Plant your foot firmly on the throttle in Sport Plus mode, and the Panamera S E-Hybrid will respond with a mighty wave of power, the added instant torque from the electric motor pronounced and joyful as you speed quickly towards the horizon.

Winding switchback countryside roads are tackled with surprising gusto, and the Porsche somehow belies its hefty 2,095 kg (4,618 lbs) kerb weight so well you have every confidence in its cornering ability and grip.

It’s not an angry, aggressive type of acceleration, but more one that sweeps you forward in a strong gathering of momentum way, and the speedometer climbs deceptively quickly leaving you without doubt that the S E-Hybrid’s 167 mph top end is certainly achievable. At much more elevated speeds than normal the Panamera still feels incredibly stable, planted and quiet – so much so, in fact, that you’re tricked into believing you’re doing a far slower rate of knots.

Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid plug in electric review-3190456

It’s okay blasting the 2+ ton Panamera about, but you’ll still need to slow the momentum of all that weight. Thankfully, Porsche have equipped the S E-Hybrid with huge 6-piston callipers up front, 4-piston’s at the rear plus ventilated and grooved discs. I have no complaints about them, as they’re incredibly powerful without being overly sharp or sensitive.

Notable is just how nicely the Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) system works in soaking up and evening-out harsh, uneven road surfaces, cobbled streets, speed humps and other things that’d normally unsettle a car. It reminds me a lot of the Jaguar F-Type’s system, which I have nothing but praise for.

The 7-speed PDK (double-clutch) gearbox is a good one, and for the majority of the time when in full auto mode you cannot tell when it has changed gear. However, I noticed that just occasionally when quickly accelerating hard from slower speeds, or slowing from higher speeds, there was a slight hiccup or jolt, like it couldn’t decide which gear to select fully. Aside from that, it’s good, and using the paddle shifters is a pleasure as the changes are so quick and positive.

Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid plug in electric review--2

Safety-wise, the Panamera S E-Hybrid comes well equipped as standard and sports driver and passenger full and knee airbags, curtain airbags covering roof frame and all side windows from A to C pillar, double-chamber side airbags integrated into front seats, and an active hood system for pedestrian safety.

There’s also Porsche Stability Management (PSM) with ABS, Engine Drag Torque Control (EDTR), Automatic Brake Differential (ABD) and brake assist.

In summary, the Panamera S E-Hybrid works beautifully in every area of driving, whether you’re doing the daily commute through heavy traffic in absolute silence using zero fuel, tackling a twisting back road or taking a cross-continent holiday escape – a superb, capable all-rounder, in fact.

Price

(Figures correct April ’15) At £84,401 (why the £1?), the S E-Hybrid sits in the middle of the Panamera price range, which starts at just under £64,000 and tops out at a hefty £131,000 for the Turbo S.

It’s incredibly well made, and when you compare it against something like a Range Rover in terms of luxury and build quality, then the price absolutely makes sense. Considering there’s a complex and expensive hybrid system on board too, then than only adds to the feeling that it’s worth the asking price.

Really, in terms of a fast, sporty, decent-handling, luxurious, properly-sized four-seat, plug-in hybrid GT, what else is out there currently? About as close as you can get is the Mercedes-Benz S 500 Plug-in Hybrid L which has a similar price, power rating and a 3.0 litre V6 turbocharged petrol engine alongside the electric motor. However, would it have the same handling as the Porsche – I doubt it.

2015 Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid verdict & score

Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid plug in electric review-0011

With no real other plug-in hybrid GT cars as competition currently, the Panamera S E-Hybrid is leading the way in its sector. So, I guess that makes Porsche ahead of the game. The thing is, this second generation version really feels like it’s ahead of the game, and it’s so much more advanced than the first version too, showing that Porsche are continuously pushing forwards quickly with this tech.

You want sportscar handling and speed? Done. Luxurious surroundings in a superbly-built cabin? Tick that one off. A city commute so cheap it’s laughable? Absolutely. A hybrid system that works as one should? 84mph in full electric mode, and 22+ miles on it says yes. In fact, I can’t really think of anything bad to say about the car – Porsche have simply done such a good job it’s hard to fault the thing.

I’ve not always been a fan of plug-in hybrids in the past as even the ‘cheaper’ cars still seemed well overpriced and the hybrid systems didn’t seem to cut the mustard. The Porsche though… I’d have one.

Do you own a Porsche Panamera, or have questions about it? Share your thoughts and leave a comment below!

Exterior  8
Interior  9
Engine  8.5
Gearbox  9
Price  8
Handling  8.5
Drive & Ride  9
 Hybrid system  8.5
Overall Score  8.5 / 10 

Specs

Model (as tested)  2015 Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid
Spec includes  Bi-Xenon headlights, front and rear ParkAssist, automatic dual-zone climate control, Adaptive air suspension with Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), Bluetooth phone module with cordless handset, Powerlift tailgate, 7″ touchscreen system, 4.8″ TFT (Thin Film Transistor) display, Porsche Stability Management (PSM) with ABS, Engine Drag Torque Control (EDTR), Automatic Brake Differential (ABD) and brake assist. See website for more details
Options you should spec  Panamera Turbo II wheels: £971.00 / Full LED Headlamps including Porsche Dynamic Lighting System Plus (PDLS Plus): £1,797.00 / Sport Chrono Package: £542.00
The Competition Mercedes-Benz S 500 Plug-in Hybrid L
Price  (April ’15)  £84,401. As tested: £90,136
Engine, Hybrid system  Petrol, 3.0 litre supercharged V6 | Hybrid: 9.4 kWh parallel full hybrid with plug-in technology
Power, Torque  Engine power: 333 hp @ 5,500 rpm  | Electric motor: 83 –  95 hp | Combined totals:  416 hp and 435 lb ft (590 Nm) of torque between 1,250 and 4,000 rpm
Drive, Gears (as tested)  Rear wheel drive | 7-speed PDK (dual clutch)
Top Speed, 0 – 62 mph, Euro NCAP  Max speed: 167 mph | 0 – 62 mph: 5.5 seconds | 0 – 100 mph: 12.2 seconds | Max electric speed: 84 mph | Euro NCAP rating: not rated
Fuel economy (UK mpg), CO2  Combined: 91.1 mpg | Electric range: 11 – 22 miles | CO2: 71 g/km
Weight (Kerb) 2,095 kg (4,618 lbs)
Websites  Porsche UK, Porsche USA, Porsche global

Words: Chris Davies | Photography: Chris Davies, Jason Fanthorpe@Rollin’ Photo’s, Matthew Davies

2 responses to “2015 Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid review – Four-Seat Frugal Sports GT Impresses”

  1. Colin Wishart

    An excellent review. Detailed evaluation of the car as it is and not comparing it to others which are not in the same category.
    After a month of driving mine, it never fails to delight in terms of performance, comfort and sheer joy to drive. Its slick through the air, quiet and my only regret is that it does not have an acoustic switch to change exhaust resonance when the need for exhilarating sound emerges. Its “sailing” capabilies can surprise – it speeds up downhill quite considerably – beware speed cams.
    The built in car phone is a puzzle – the handset and the sim card are there but I think some extra and expensive wiring is necessary – costs less to leave a permanently connected iphone in the front storage bin and rely on Bluetooth.
    Its looks? – I keep thinking Jenson Interceptor from some angles but look at it from low down back and front – whats not to like?

    In the UK it has benefitted from the PHEV scheme but is now excluded. A wonderful combination of grants, low BIK and profit offset which my accountant alerted me to, just in time.

Leave a Reply