Review and photos by Brendan McAleer

2014 Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid
2014 Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid. Click image to enlarge

Naturally, when I spotted the Tesla Roadster, I immediately pulled a U-turn – in a car this big, that ain’t easy.

What followed next was an impromptu game of cat and mouse, with the tiny Lotus-based electric machine understandably fleeing from the all-black Teutonic Titan that thundered along in its wake. Possibly misunderstanding my frantic waving and signalling – “It’s okay! This thing’s electric too! Sort of! In a manner of speaking!” – the little Tesla picked up its heels and blasted the big Panamera into the weeds. Weighing about half as much as the big German, and with considerably more instantly available torque, the roadster receded into the distance to the point where I could no longer read its vanity plate: “NV MY EV”.

2014 Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid
2014 Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid. Click image to enlarge

Eventually, I caught up and together, in convoy, we hurtled through Oregon’s winding countryside, the Panamera in an electric-only E-power mode so that we were both running on pure electrons. Over hill and dale we went, hound and hare, until finally the Tesla pulled over at an organic farm (figures, no?) where I was finally able to introduce myself and explain why I’d been following along. The owners were locals out on a Sunday drive, EV-angelists who’d driven their car from BC to the Baja peninsula and back. As they plugged into the farm’s solar panels, the elephantine Porsche dwarfing the tiny Tesla, we took a good look-over of each other’s rides.

Mine was a pre-production plug-in-hybrid version of the Panamera, the S E-Hybrid. It’s a hefty beast, weighing in at 2,095 kg (4,619 lb), and outfitted with both a unique gasoline powertrain and improved capacity battery. When it’s running on dino-juice, the E-Hybrid uses a 3.0L supercharged V6 making 333 hp, and an eight-speed conventional automatic transmission.

2014 Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid
2014 Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid. Click image to enlarge

Sandwiched between the gas motor and transmission is an electric drive now capable of 95 hp and an immediately available 229 lb-ft of torque. Now fuelled by a lithium-ion battery pack that’s grown in capacity to 9.4 kilowatt-hours, the Panamera can run entirely on electric power up to a theoretical 36 kilometres, at a top electric-only speed of 135 km/h. Playing tag with the Tesla burned through the electric range in a still-respectable 24 km.

With a fully charged battery, the rear-drive Panamera Hybrid can reportedly sprint to 100 km/h in around five and a half seconds. As experienced, this isn’t quite enough to keep a Roadster in sight, but both powertrains working together give a solid shove despite the car’s solid weight: a total of 416 hp and 435 lb-ft of torque.

In electric power mode, a driver pushing on the accelerator will feel noticeable resistance about halfway down – push past this point and the gasoline engine will re-engage. If switched into normal mode, this warning pressure point disappears. Instead of a regular analog speedometer, you also get a gauge to the right of the large central tachometer that tells you how much of the blended power you’re using, or whether you’re recharging the battery. The centre screen used for navigation and the like also displays information on where the power’s coming from and going to.

2014 Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid2014 Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid2014 Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid
2014 Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid. Click image to enlarge

In Sport or Sport+ mode, the E-Hybrid isn’t quite transformed into a backroad-burning sports sedan, but the handling gap between it and the Panamera S isn’t as large as you’d think. Some slight low-speed numbness of the helm comes as a result of the comfort-enhancing “Power Steering Plus”, where most Panameras have simply normal variable-ratio steering. The added weight is also something of a detriment, and as well programmed as the eight-speed transmission is, it’s not the excellent PDK you get in other Panameras.

When the battery pack is fully depleted, incapable of delivering extra electric shove, the hybrid Panamera feels its weight. For comparison, a Quattro-equipped and loaded-up Audi A6 sedan with the same engine would weigh a couple hundred kilos less. It’s not exactly slow, it’s just that the feel of a massive inertial load suddenly becomes that much greater.

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