Having your cake and eating it, too
By its very definition, no one wins when you compromise. This is especially true if you’re a discerning car enthusiast looking for a one-size-fits-all approach to your family car. More often than not, the cars that are most practical aren’t particularly fun to drive, but sportier options are neither roomy nor efficient. That equation gets even more complicated once you bring efficiency, fuel costs, and climate change–causing emissions into the equation. Thankfully, it seems some problems are easily solved by throwing money at them—the 2018 Porsche Panamera E-Hybrid Sport Turismo is the ultimate be-all, end-all family car for the evolved (and let’s get this out of the way early—wealthy) car enthusiast.
You’re not going to be able to sell your significant other on a family car if it isn’t practical. Riding on the Volkswagen Group’s MSB platform, the Panamera Sport Turismo shares everything forward of (and beneath) the B-pillar with its non–Sport Turismo sibling. Behind that B-pillar is a revised roofline, ending in a tidy-looking tailgate. The already-roomy rear seat benefits from the extra airiness provided by a larger rear cargo area, and cargo volume in the trunk balloons from 0.40m3 to 0.52m3 cubic meters.
The fold-flat back seat is tilted back a bit to improve headroom for taller passengers without ruining the roofline (as was the case with the first-generation Panamera); legroom, although not limolike, is perfectly acceptable for most taller occupants.
Front occupants are well taken care of, too, with comfortable seats, near-SUV levels of visibility, and a large, easy-to-use Porsche Connect infotainment display. Its sole miss—not enough cupholders or storage cubbies for family considerations.
Just like a Jeep has got to live up to the badge on its hood, a Porsche does, too. This family-friendly hybrid station wagon delivers in spades there. Developed using technology and know-how from Porsche’s 918 Spyder hypercar and Le Mans–winning 919 Hybrid, the Panamera Sport Turismo pairs a 330-hp 2.9-liter twin-turbo V-6 with a 136-hp electric motor wedged between the six-cylinder and Porsche’s latest PDK eight-speed twin-clutch automatic. Its total system output is a not-insignificant 464 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque. That’s more power and more torque than the twin-turbo V-8-powered Panamera GTS.
Paired with Porsche’s standard torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive system, our electrified Panamera station wagon was shockingly (sorry) fast at the track. With its 14.1-kW-hr battery topped off and launch control enabled, the Panamera 4 E-Hybrid Sport Turismo accelerated from 0 to 60 mph (97 km/h) in 3.7 seconds and on through the quarter mile in 12.3 seconds at 181.4 km/h.
Our 60–0 brake tests revealed the brakes to be softer and more prone to fade than we’ve typically seen from Porsches. Its best stop of 33.2 meters was followed by increasingly longer stop distances. We suspect the Panamera E-Hybrid’s regenerative brakes trying to scavenge for electricity is the culprit. At any rate, Porsche offers carbon-ceramic brakes on the E-Hybrid, which ought to improve performance considerably.
Despite its 2,275 kg curb weight, this Panamera has no trouble dancing through a corner or two. Aided by the optional rear-axle steering system (at a fairly reasonable—for a Porsche—$1,620 USD), this Sport Turismo lapped our figure-eight course in 24.4 seconds at 0.79 g, and it averaged 0.96 g on the skidpad.
On the road, the Panamera E-Hybrid is, in a word, fascinating. Given the complicated dance going on between the Porsche’s gas engine, electric motor, eight-speed transmission, regenerative brakes, and torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive system, you’d think the car would be constantly fighting itself. Instead, the systems are all in sync.
The stark differences between each of the Panamera’s four drive modes were probably the most interesting to me. With its battery full, E-Power mode is the default setting. Despite its modest 25.7 kilometers of electric range in this mode, this plug-in hybrid does a remarkable job at mimicking the experience of a traditional full-size electric vehicle, like a Tesla Model S. Aided by the PDK, the Panamera’s electric motor makes the most of its 136 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. On electrons the Sport Turismo feels decently quick, accelerating from 0 to 60 mph in 5-ish seconds. The gas engine only fires up in E-Power if you press the throttle past its kick-down point or once you deplete the battery, when the Panamera will change into Hybrid Auto mode.
Hybrid Auto seems to be the best of both worlds between full-electric E-Power and performance-optimized Sport and Sport Plus modes. In Hybrid Auto, the Panamera still prioritizes efficient electric driving, but it’ll quickly fire up its V-6 when power is needed or to charge the battery. You can also manually fire up the engine to either save the battery’s state of charge or to charge the battery using the gas engine. Again, the most remarkable thing here is how unremarkable it all is. Save for the tach swinging up and down as the gas engine unobtrusively turns on and off, the drive experience is pure Porsche.
That’s especially true in Sport and Sport Plus modes. The most amazing thing to me is how linear this car accelerates considering all the variables in the powertrain—you get a punch in the gut from the electric motor and all-wheel-drive system off the line, and then the Porsche’s V-6 picks up as the motor begins to lose steam. The result is a car that pulls strongly up near its 6,800-rpm redline before the transmission slingshots you into the next highest gear.
As we saw at the track, the long-roof Panamera hybrid is happy to dance, too. Like the last Panamera, the Sport Turismo drives far smaller than it is on twisty roads, thanks in part to its optional rear-wheel steering system. It’s easy to overdrive the car at first because of how quickly it turns in, but once you’re used to the car, it settles into a corner beautifully. If we’re nitpicking (and to be clear, I am), the Panamera’s sole weakness is that its steering feel borders on gummy in fast, back-to-back bends.
And now we come to the reason why the Panamera E-Hybrid Sport Turismo is the ultimate family car for the moneyed among us—simply put, no other vehicle (save for maybe a Tesla Model S P100D) is as fast, fun to drive, practical, and efficient as the electrified Panamera wagon.
The 16 miles (25.7 kilometers) of range the EPA rates the Panamera E-Hybrid’s battery at is accurate, and provided you have access to a Level 2 charger, it only takes about three hours for the Porsche’s battery to charge back up. Even with its small 14.1-kW-hr battery (and while only charging every other day), I managed to drive 196.3 kilometers on the battery pack and electric motor alone, according to the Panamera’s trip computer. Driven as a hybrid with the battery pack depleted, I averaged a hair over 23 mpg (10.2 l/100km), 1 mpg better than the Sport Turismo’s 22-mpg EPA combined rating.
At 22 mpg (10.7 l/100km), the Panamera E-Hybrid Sport Turismo ain’t exactly a Prius—but that’s just the point. No vehicle in its peer class, including heavyweights like the Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 4Matic or BMW 740e xDrive, so capably balances performance with efficiency. Yeah, at $118,150 USD it’s expensive, but considering it’s a capable sports car, family hauler, and relative efficiency, shouldn’t it be?
Ultimately the importance of cars like the Panamera E-Hybrid goes beyond how fast and efficient it is—performance hybrids like this Porsche help change the public perception of electrified vehicles. As the world slowly shifts to battery electric vehicles, cars like the Panamera Sport Turismo E-Hybrid will act as the stepping stone by showing the world that you really can have your cake—and eat it, too.
|2018 Porsche Panamera 4 E-Hybrid Sport Turismo|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$118,150|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door wagon|
|ENGINE||2.9L/330-hp/331-lb-ft twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve V-6 plus 136-hp/295-lb-ft electric motor; 464 hp/516 lb-ft combined|
|TRANSMISSION||8-speed twin-clutch auto|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||5,016 lb (48/52%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||198.8 x 76.3 x 56.0 in|
|ACCELERATION TO MPH|
|PASSING, 45-65 MPH||2.0|
|QUARTER MILE||12.3 sec @ 112.7 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||109 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.96 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||24.4 sec @ 0.79 g (avg)|
|TOP-GEAR REVS @ 60 MPH||1,200 rpm|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||20/25/22 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||169/135 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.88 lb/mile|