Porsche engineers call the result “sailing,” which the Panamera will do at speeds up to 177 km/h. Think of it as freewheeling. Lift off the gas at any speed and the tach needle swings down to the “ready” position while the engine decouples from the drive-train. At this point, the electric motor is acting as a generator, sending charge to the batteries.

Test Drive: 2012 Porsche Panamera S Hybrid car test drives porsche luxury cars hybrids
Test Drive: 2012 Porsche Panamera S Hybrid car test drives porsche luxury cars hybrids
Test Drive: 2012 Porsche Panamera S Hybrid car test drives porsche luxury cars hybrids
2012 Porsche Panamera S Hybrid. Click image to enlarge

If on the highway with a slight downgrade, you’ll sail along until your foot brushes the throttle, at which time the tach swings back into action. The tachometer needle is the only indication of the myriad mechanical and electronic functions that seamlessly perform these tasks in 300 milliseconds – there is no vibration or audible cue.

A display tells how many minutes of your drive the V6 has been resting.

The Pan Hybrid will also motor away from a stop under electric power if you’re light on the throttle. As with all hybrids, this Panamera’s engine stops when the car comes to a rest.

Battery charging is accomplished in two ways. Following the usual hybrid script, regenerative braking, wherein the electric motor acts as a generator during deceleration, reclaims kinetic energy. The second process is unusual – when the electric motor isn’t assisting with propulsion, it is occasionally driven by the V6 in “generator” mode, sending charge to the batteries.

As mentioned earlier, the Panamera S Hybrid is no eco-weenie. With that extra helping of electric torque available from zero rpm, it’s always at the ready. The engine doesn’t sound as sweet as the V8, but it kicks out a convincing growl when caned. The eight-speed gearbox upshifts early to save fuel, but this can be overridden with the paddle shifters, and when Sport mode is selected, a more aggressive tranny map is called up, the steering gets more heft, and the standard air suspension buttons down. This tester had the optional $1,100 Sport Chrono Package Plus that adds an extra degree of aggression to the various systems and lowers the ride height.

The average Porsche leaves the dealership with options adding about 20 per cent to its price, and this specimen was bang on the, er, money. The interior was spruced up with $4,170 “Full Black Leather”, $1,650 Bose Surround Sound and $1,140 Birch Anthracite trim. Park assist with rearview camera added $1,440, the lovely Crystal Green Metallic paint cost $3,590 and 20-inch 911 Turbo design wheels pushed the price up another $3,860. Also listed were rear wheels spacers ($530) that apparently help those dubs fill the wheel arches – perhaps a visual trick to balance out that J-Lo grade derriere? While a multifunction steering wheel is standard issue in the S Hybrid, this tester had a no-cost three-spoke sport steering wheel with paddles.

As with all Panameras I’ve driven, this green tester’s road presence was unassailable. Whether you view Porsche’s first four-door as bulbous or beautiful, this puppy makes a bold statement wherever it rolls. In my observations, most see the Panamera as uber cool.

Now, for a price premium, you can have your Panamera with a complex and very effective hybrid system that, indeed, dramatically reduces fuel consumption but does not detract from the driving experience.

Pricing: 2012 Porsche Panamera S Hybrid
  • Base price: $108,700
  • Options: $17,480 (Sport Chrono Package Plus $1100; Crystal Green Metallic $3590; full black leather $4170; 20-inch 911 Turbo Design wheels $3860; Park Assist F/R and rear camera $1440; Bose Surround Sound $1650; Birch Anthracite Interior Package $1140, rear wheel spacers $530)
  • A/C tax: $100
  • Freight: $1,115
  • Price as tested: $127,395

    Specifications
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2012 Porsche Panamera

    Competitors
  • Buyer’s Guide: BMW ActiveHybrid7
  • Buyer’s Guide: Mercedes-Benz S400 Hybrid

    Crash test results
  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
  • Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)
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