The lower end of the Porsche Panamera range is already a confusing place. There’s the entry-level Panamera, the Panamera 4, the 4S and the 4S Diesel down here, sub-£100k options all, powered by no fewer than three different engines between them. Into that mix enters the four-wheel-drive 4 E-Hybrid, adding V6 petrol-electric power to the existing choice of V6 petrol or V8 diesels – and that’s not counting the V8 petrol or V8 petrol-electric options on offer if you spend upwards of £100,000 on a Turbo. This hybrid slots in between the regular Panamera 4 and the pair of 4S models, being slightly slower -accelerating than both on paper despite having more power.
Given that you’re getting an extra 22bhp and 110lb ft and freeing up nearly £10k on what you might have spent on a 4S petrol, might this be the range’s sweet spot? Maybe. Real-world performance is better represented by in-gear acceleration than standing-start times, and in manual mode, picking up from humdrum speeds in a high-ish gear, the E-Hybrid is muscular and brisk. There are Electric, Hybrid, Sport and Sport-i- driving modes, with a range of about 25 miles on a full charge in the first of them. Electric mode provides plenty of performance for city motoring. The contrast when you move to Sport is a big one: the twin-turbo V6 growls angrily and conjures a distinct performance flavour. When punting around at urban speeds, the eight-speed dual clutch gearbox can struggle to make the car feel at once responsive and smooth, but when you’re accelerating hard out of town, it works quickly and blends the dual sources of torque very well.
Another advantage over the more expensive 4S petrol is adaptive air suspension as standard, which makes the Panamera ride and handle with an impressive mix of suppleness, isolation and body control. The weight penalty of the hybrid drive battery presents under high lateral loads but isn’t a barrier to enjoying the car at normal speeds. It feels agile for a car of this size. Few luxury GTs beat the Panamera on outright driver appeal, but this one still ranks behind a Turbo and a 4S Diesel for us. If you’re looking to make your money go farthest, though, the E-Hybrid has plenty of appeal – and it’s vastly better to drive than its immediate predecessor was.