One of this job’s guilty pleasures is, occasionally, being able to drive really great cars. This time that pleasure came in the form of not one but two Porsche Panameras, the Hybrid and Diesel. Why two? Well, we really had to figure out why Porsche would bother going to the trouble of developing a Hybrid luxury sedan when the Diesel is, on paper, seemingly a cheaper and efficient option. Firmly cocooned in our driver’s seats Guy Bird and myself set out for a Combined test drive of South London to the monolithic East Beach Café designed by Heatherwick (yes they designed the New Bus for London!) in Littlehampton.
The drive down offered the first statistical insight into the superficially obvious advantages of a super efficient Diesel engine on longer distance trials as it averaged 38.7 mpg whilst the Hybrid averaged 32.5 mpg (this given that the Hybrid averaged 36 mph against the Diesel’s 31mph). For Porsche fans the classic ‘turn your engine and hear it roar’ effect is null and void on the Hybrid with its electric start and you also forfeit about 110 litres of space in the boot because the 70kg nickel-metal-hybride battery needs somewhere to live! Neither car is terribly generous on space given its voluptuous proportions (just under 5 metres long and 2 metres wide), and whilst four adults can very comfortably fit in either vehicle they would do well to travel light.
It did, however, quickly become obvious that Porsche knows exactly what they are doing. Both the Diesel and the Hybrid have their place, Diesel in Europe and Hybrid in the US. The Diesel carries more raw Porsche DNA when it comes to drive feel and handling, its familiar and Germanic, weighted yet sporty. Diesel is a very popular value-for-money fuel in Europe but it still is ‘dirtier’ than Petrol when is comes to emissions particulates. I see the Hybrid as the more advanced Porsche; it has a new lighter touch in line with a desirable lighter carbon footprint. Its easy to maneuver, even park, in the city and quick to embrace the open road when asked. So while the Europeans will embrace the Diesel with little thought the US and Asia are definitely the pioneers in this case with their already massive uptake of the Hybrid. Let me tell you why…
The Panamera S Hybrid is the ultimate ‘green’ luxury sports sedan! While at these levels being green may be a futile argument it still is significant that an over 2,000 kg vehicle can spend up to 80% of its time driving around town in electric mode, even 100% if E-Power overrides the petrol engine. It is silent, not the effect most traditional Porsche customers desire, but then again this is no traditional drivetrain. You will find yourself hard-pressed to notice the shift between petrol and battery mode as the ‘machine’ calculates and calibrates your driving behaviour optimising efficiency and performance. Even at higher speeds on motorways you can find yourself cruising in electric drive, quietly using the momentum of the rear wheels to generate power at 0 revs! What? Yep, it was at this moment that the Hyrbid won me over. Intelligent, I felt that I had in my hands one of the most sophisticated automotive machines on the road today.
Like any new idea people will pick at a car like the Panamera S Hybrid. Its looks came under fire when it first hit the road, but it has grown on me. I am now a fan. Its not a shape of its time, but like the Cayenne it sets its own rules about aesthetics, Porsche has always been this way. It is with time that their cars become icons and then classics. Its heavy J-Lo derrière actually balances the long démodé overhang while smooth detailing belies its apparent simplicity. Note for example the beautiful swoop around the window on the rear doors, lovely to the touch, bespoke to the eye. You can feel the sculptural quality of the car by following its beltline with your hand; try it one day, it will make you smile.
The interior is luxury nirvana, nothing is left to chance and no-one can be left wanting. Every little detail, even exposed cup-holders, are dealt with by using clever trim covers and whilst there are a few plastic inserts that need upgrading, it doesn’t get much slicker that this. There are four full-sized seats accompanied by place considered lighting. The BOSE entertainment system will have you immersed in your favourite Bach or Gaga with surround sound that furthermore sets you blissfully further away from the grit of the street. It is after all an elite car, and it will set you apart from the masses, it will make others look at you with envy, joy…wonder. Like a rare, even endangered, animal, the Panamera S Hybrid commands attention. I would even argue that its design quirkiness actually endears the owner to the car, and I certainly found that RE11 YRC was constantly the centre of attention despite design critic’s lukewarm reviews.
Admittedly on the road the Hybrid can be awkward over bumps, breaking is slightly temperamental, and it’s Jekyll and Hyde character sometimes finds the engine roaring along the road and other times creeping quietly round corners surprising pedestrians; but if you are serious about gadgets, technology, luxury, have half a mind about caring about the state of our planet, and an extra £90,000 + in pocket go now and buy this car…hey, buy both!
Our Cars Specs
Panamera Diesel RV61 PVE £66,558.00* incl VAT
Engine - V6-cylinders, turbo diesel
Top speed - 150 mph
0 – 62 mph - 6.8 secs
Urban - 34.9mpg (8.1ltr/100km)
Extra Urban -5 0.4mpg (5.6ltr/100km)
Combined - 43.5mpg (6.5ltr/100km)
CO2 Emissions -172g/km
Panamera S Hybrid RE11 YRC £91,740.00* incl VAT
Engine - V6 cylinders, parallel electric hybrid
Top speed - 167mph
0 – 62 mph - 6.0 secs
Urban - 38.2mpg (7.4ltr/100km)
Extra Urban - 42.8mpg (6.6ltr/100km)
Combined - 41.5mpg (6.8ltr/100km)
CO2 Emissions 159g/kg
*Includes 3rd year Warranty, 3rd year Porsche Assistance.
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