Inside the 2014 Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid, eyes ahead and hands at ten and two, this does not feel like any other hybrid on the road today. Despite the flashy green badges and brake calipers, and the futuristic name that sounds like the Jetsons' newest spaceship, the Panamera S E-Hybrid greets you as any Porsche would: like a serious performance machine.
The interior is luxuriously appointed with a gorgeous gauge cluster, exquisite materials and a button for seemingly very function in the car. It feels like comfort is top priority, like it's complimenting your taste and sense of style just by sitting in it. It feels like luxury. And then you put your foot down.
Porsche has introduced some fascinating technology in the Panamera S E-Hybrid. It replaces the S Hybrid model from 2012-13, and comes equipped with the ability to run on electric power from its 9.4 kWh lithium-ion battery alone for up to 20 miles, or at speeds up to 84 mph. The hybrid drivetrain pushes efficiency up slightly, from 17/27 MPG in the Panamera S to 22/30 in the S E-Hybrid, though it now carries a 50 MPGe rating thanks to the battery-only mode. There is a whole lot more to the Panamera S E-Hybrid powertrain than its electric capability, though.
For instance, there is no Prius motor inside this hybrid. Rather than use the naturally-aspirated 3.6L V6 in the base Panamera model, Porsche instead took the twin-turbo 3.0L V6 from the Panamera S, removed the turbochargers and added a supercharger, stuck it in the Panamera S E-Hyrbid and attached it to the hybrid system. In the process, horsepower compared to the Panamera S has fallen slightly from 420 to 416 in the Panamera S E-Hybrid, though torque has risen from 384 lb.-ft at 1,750rpm to a very healthy 435 lb.-ft at just 1,250rpm. E-Drive or no E-Drive, the Panamera S E-Hybrid has guts.
Of course, they are very linear guts, in a package that now weighs an extra 450 lbs (curb weight has risen from 3,902 to 4,365). Plus, we activated E-Charge mode to help bring some juice into the battery, which robs the engine of some muscle.
The first time I found an open stretch down Flower Ave., I stomped on the gas and prepared to clip through the gears with Mulsanne Straight velocity. Instead, the Panamera S E-Hybrid gently rolled up to speed as the torque pulled us along like a tugboat.
This can be fixed with a simple activation of Sport Mode, which helps the V6 dig deep into its chambers and pull out every string of horsepower available. Now the acceleration is more raucous, the engine note more audible and the eight-speed transmission more lively. Electromechanical steering is no less than typical Porsche brilliance with a nice hefty weight from the thick-rimmed wheel, and the optional air suspension on this Panamera S E-Hybrid kept things both nice and smooth on crappy L.A. streets and perfectly flat on aggressive right hand turns. Braking in E-Charge mode is very abrupt upon first contact, but smooths out with a firm travel that you don't find in other regen systems.
This is a car that can be driven in a variety of ways, be they luxurious and environmentally-friendly or swift and deft. A starting price of $99,000 wears off some of the shine, but Porsche is counting on customers willing to invest in their efforts to push technology into the future. Plus, only the Tesla Model S can call it a true competitor, and as much as we love the Model S, there are few things cooler than a Porsche with this much panache. Without the chance to test the Panamera S E-Hybrid at speed or with electric charge, there must be a whole lot more ability on both ends of the spectrum underneath that long hood. Pick your medicine.