Porsche performance that makes you go quiet
Porsche has launched its fastest Panamera yet, and it’s a hybrid
We were met by protesters at the entrance to the new Victoria Island Motorsport Circuit in Canada. Not the kind of protesters we are used to though. There were no burning tyres, instead just a small group of people with placards and smiling faces. They were protesting about the noise of racing at the track, with messages saying the noise would be harmful to their children.
What was interesting was they stood on the side of a major road where big logging trucks were chugging along noisily.
Ironically what was not noisy, at least not at low speeds into the track entrance, was the latest flagship in the Porsche Panamera range. The reason is because for the first time in the history of the manufacturer, the range topper is, wait for it, a hybrid. Don’t panic — we are not talking Porsche Prius here, we are talking Panamera Turbo S E-hybrid, described by Stefan Utsch, the director of sales and marketing for Panamera, as "the fastest sedan on earth".
It features the same 4.0l twin-turbo V8 as the regular Turbo S, but bolted on to the PDK gearbox is an electric motor. Combined they produce 500kW-507kW depending on your opinion of the horsepower to kilowatts conversion as well as 850Nm of torque. Porsche is claiming a 0-100km/h time of 3.4 seconds, two tenths quicker than the regular Turbo S and a top speed of 310km/h.
Those are rapid figures, but then we get into the reason why the needle on the speedo is bright green, the brake callipers are bright green and why you have to plug this car into the national grid. The electric motor contributes significantly to that combined power output, but it is the fact that Porsche is claiming you can travel 50km on electric power in the performance flagship of the Panamera range that is impressive.
We could not resist driving past the protesters in electric mode, lifting a finger to our lips and going "shhhhh".
Porsche is also claiming some incredible consumption figures. It reckons the regular Turbo S can achieve 9.4l/100km on the combined cycle if you give it to your grandmother to drive, but the figure for the E-hybrid version is just 2.9l/100km. It’s a Panamera Turbo S that can go to 100km/h in 3.4 seconds for goodness’ sake. And the figures are not outlandish either. On a road route we averaged 4.0l/100km and that was not all in electric-only mode. If this is what electrification means for the future of motoring then bring it on.
Excuse the quick diversion, but we know that you are already thinking about a 911 Turbo S E-hybrid. So far Porsche is saying "nein" to it but the company has just announced that it is ditching Le Mans to go and race against BMW, Mercedes and Mahindra in Formula E in 2019. It is a precursor to the new era of motoring, one where Porsche will debut the Mission E full battery-electric vehicle.
And while officially Porsche is saying there will be no plug-in hybrid 911, its director of powertrain for the Panamera product line, Arno Bögl, refused to comment when we asked him about it. We all know no comment probably means it is in the development centre.
Back to the Panamera and while the technology and the packaging is clever, the question is does it deliver that sports car feeling? The answer is yes.
The new track on Victoria Island is extremely tight with 19 corners in a space the size of a farmer’s field. It seemed ideally suited to the Cayman S, but the Panamera performed flawlessly. In Sport Plus auto mode, the electric motor provided instant response out of the 19 apexes, the chassis and its systems coped with everything that was thrown at it, providing just a bit of tail wagging coming onto the short straight. It also relished the rapid changes in direction through a series of sweeps.
We arrived thinking the new Panamera estate, the Sport Turismo (you can read about that in next week’s issue) would be the main event, but it was the Turbo S E-hybrid that stole the show. At R2,931,000 it is nearly half a bar more than the regular Turbo, which will take some serious effort to recoup in electric mode, but it’s well worth the extra outlay. The previous generation Panamera hybrid was a nonevent, but the new one creates a new era in sports car motoring.