I don’t know if Porsche does irony but releasing the fastest mainstream hybrid car within the same week as announcing the company’s withdrawal from LMP1, as defending World Endurance champions, is about as incongruous as decisions get. The 919 LMP1 racer with the V4 hybrid system did spawn the 918 hypercar. The 918 has brushed off on the fastest Panamera to date, the cosmic Turbo S E-Hybrid. Competition in Formula E from 2018 will bring the Mission E road car into focus.
If you like preferential parking bays, occasional zero emission motoring with a sub 3.5 second 0-100km/h and carbon emissions that undercut a VW up! then Porsche has, as far as we can tell, the car that’s capable of converting all hybrid cynics while staying true to the brand’s ethos of performance. This is not the first Panamera hybrid but that previous V6-powered unit came at a time when hybrid tech was more sentiment than substance. Performance ‘wasn’t a thing and you could never complete 20 kilometres in EV alone – despite what the book said. Difference here is that this was conceived to be the fastest Panamera, positioned above the Turbo S model.
Hybrid in a format suited to TopGear, suited to Porsche and above all else, suited to motorsport. So here’s the basic breakdown across its widest arc of engine modes; stupendously fast where it neither feels turbo charged or battery powered but some new kind of energy propulsion or silent, rev counter lifeless, but still capable of speeds south of 140km/h. And to be entirely honest with you I don’t know which I find better. Okay, the performance. It has to be, but a 50 kilometre EV range that works on a 2 tonne car tickles another part of my brain. I’m unsure that green lettering and calipers is the best look for a Panamera (opting for a traditional colour surely defeats the purpose) yet the rest of the visual cues are toned down dramatically so it apes the Turbo S with no glaring differences at a surface level.
Prod underneath the body to discover those 918 trinkets responsible for another 100kW to the existing 404kW that never felt like a dull moment in the Panamera Turbo. All very well but there’s 300kg of pendulum swinging mass to counter, most of it slung over the rear axle for ‘911 type behaviour.’ On the road I defy anybody to notice the heft so we turned into a tight hilly circuit on the island of Victoria which I sense was imagined around the nimbleness of a Clio RS but becomes rather eye-popping in this. I previously criticised the Panamera for overdoing the sportiness in what is essentially a 4-seater GT but around here it’s not just fast on the straights but on the tricky infield section connecting them. There’s no body roll, brakes continue to bite hard, steering is the answer you give when someone bemoans electric systems. And the weight? I don’t think 300 kilos has ever been this easily absorbed.
The other inescapable certainty of hybrid power is cost and in the E-Hybrid it’s a fat amount of R500 000 which in mitigation includes additional standard equipment compared to the Turbo. Start working out how much EV driving needs to be done before that premium pays for itself – the claimed consumption versus likely consumption being the first problem – or marvel at the bigger picture, one that says in accordance with Porsche’s strategy that hybrid will become the range-topping model in all lines barring the 911 and 718.