Porsche's Panamera e-Hybrid is worth the hype

The charger (above) takes less than four hours to fully charge the batteries of the Panamera e-Hybrid. -- PHOTO: PORSCHE
The charger (above) takes less than four hours to fully charge the batteries of the Panamera e-Hybrid. -- PHOTO: PORSCHE
The charger takes less than four hours to fully charge the batteries of the Panamera e-Hybrid (above). -- PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER TAN
The charger takes less than four hours to fully charge the batteries of the Panamera e-Hybrid (above). -- PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER TAN

Porsche's Panamera e-Hybrid is not only green, but it also brings on the grins with its sheer driveability

The main problem with electric cars is their generally limited performance and range, which can cause drivers to have palpitations and hypertension.

Hybrids overcome this, but their pure- electric mode is usually limited to very short jaunts at a crawling pace.

Plug-in hybrids, on the other hand, are a happy compromise between the two types of cars.

As the name implies, a plug-in hybrid's batteries can be recharged via an electric socket.

With this external power source, plug-in hybrids offer emission-free motoring over a reasonably long distance and with decent performance.

At least that is the case with the Porsche Panamera e-Hybrid, the first plug-in hybrid car in Singapore.

Alongside its 3-litre 333bhp supercharged V6 is a 95bhp electric motor powered by a 9.4kWh lithium-ion battery pack.

Its default drive mode is electric. In this mode, Porsche says the car can cover 36km, with a top speed of 135kmh.

Our test-drive shows both are achievable, although not concurrently.

It does not feel sluggish when running on battery power alone, which is completely unexpected of a 2.1-tonne car propelled by a 95bhp motor.

When battery power falls to the last quarter mark, the V6 kicks in.

When the engine is employed, the batteries are recharged, as is the case with conventional hybrids. Power is recovered when braking too.

This makes the Porsche an ideal vehicle for Singapore, as most drivers clock only about 50km a day.

Hence, most of them will be able to drive the Panamera e-Hybrid to work without producing a whiff of exhaust along the way.

Park and plug in and, by lunchtime, the batteries are fully charged - it takes less than four hours to do so, compared with up to 12 hours for full-electric cars.

One can drive to the other end of the island for a meeting and call upon the V6 for part of the journey back to the office. By the end of the work day, the car should have enough juice for an emission-free commute back home.

Utilised thus, with a power cable attached whenever it is parked, the Panamera is said to be capable of achieving an eye-popping economy of 3.1 litres/ 100km.

Besides being a perky performer, the e-Hybrid also does not suffer from the ills of cars equipped with green functions, such as weak air-conditioning.

The luxurious cabin of the Panamera is kept crisp and chilly all the time, even when the car is idling in the afternoon sun.

Its brakes do not feel wooden either - a common trait of early-generation hybrids - and neither is its coasting ability hindered. In fact, the Porsche hybrid is a coasting champ.

What Porsche could have done to improve efficiency is to do away with frills such as soft-closing doors, illuminated door sills and a retractable rear spoiler.

It could also have devised a way for cruise control to be usable in electric mode. When used properly, cruise control is usually more fuel-efficient than "foot control".

Lastly, the transmission does not seem capable of going beyond fourth gear in electric mode. This may be a peculiarity of the motor-gearbox configuration, but if the benefits of higher ratios can be harnessed, so much the better.

Nevertheless, the e-Hybrid is still a marvellous piece of engineering.

Not only that, it remains a true Porsche. When push comes to shove, its V6 and electric motor come together to produce the sound and fury you associate with a performance limo.

Its sprint to 100kmh, while not the quickest among Panameras, is still pretty decent at 5.5 seconds. For the record, that is noticeably better than the six seconds posted by the non-pluggable Panamera Hybrid.

Top speed is a respectable 270kmh, but that is largely academic here.

Its most awesome aspect is its sheer driveability in electric mode.

The magic lies with its motor's immense torque of 310Nm. And you do not have to drive it gingerly to conserve battery power either because the V6 is at hand.

All cars should be made this way, at least until full-electric vehicles get up to speed in terms of range, performance and cost.

christan@sph.com.sg

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