The 2021 Porsche Panamera 4S E-Hybrid Addresses Efficiency Quickly

Porsche updated the Panamera for 2021, changing up some powertrains and adding more output. The Panamera above is the recently revealed 4S E-Hybrid version, which Porsche showed at the same time as the new, 620-hp Turbo S.

Those two launching together is more fitting than you might initially think. The new Panamera 4S E-Hybrid works with a 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6 and an electric motor to deliver a combined 552 hp and 553 lb ft of torque. That makes it more powerful than the 2020 Panamera Turbo. With launch control, it can get to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds and on to a top speed of 185.

And yet, the Panamera 4S E-Hybrid also has an estimated all-electric range of around 34 miles. That’s based on our own what the instrument cluster told us data, as it is not an EPA certified number. But that sounds reasonable considering that the battery pack has grown some 26 percent when compared to previous models, now 17.9 kwh. And driving all-electric is but one of several ways to move about in the 4S E-Hybrid.

There’s Hybrid Auto mode, where the Panamera 4S E-Hybrid keep things as efficient as possible but will let loose all 552 hp when necessary. There’s E-Hold mode, that runs solely on the V6 and holds the battery charge until you want it—like to silently roll through your subdivision. There’s E-Charge mode, which uses the engine to move the Panamera and simultaneously charge the battery up, to be used later. And finally, E-Power, which is what Porsche named its electric motor only driving.

The standard driving modes of normal, sport and sport plus are available in addition to those battery modes and accessible via a dial on the steering wheel. The 4S E-Hybrid also has a button at the center of the dial, called the Sport Response Button, which switches everything to max output for 20 seconds. Consider it like the turbo button in the video game Burnout.

You will have to reset your brain as you get used to initializing the 4S E-Hybrid. More times than once, I tried to restart it only to realize while the engine wasn’t running, it was ready to go. Once used to it, I loved sliding through my neighborhood silently before flattening the gas pedal and kicking on the V6 once I hit the main street.

And the electrically boosted acceleration in this new hybrid makes the 4S feels wickedly fast. The already teeny gap in peak torque as the eight-speed switches gears is seamlessly filled in by electric thrust. More than just achieving 0-60 mph in 3.5 seconds, the 4S needs only 11.9 seconds to cover the quarter-mile from rest. When in sport or sport plus modes, if you smash the gas around a corner, it’ll hold the gear for a couple seconds even after you let off, because it thinks you’re about to do some spirited driving. If you don’t keep on it, it’ll change up to more efficient gear. Dig it.

The sound of the twin-turbo V6 is fine, though not as good as a 911 horizontal opposed six, or an American V8. More importantly, it makes 434 horsepower on its own. The electric motor contributes an additional 134 horsepower, though not at all engine speeds, and 295 lb-ft of torque. It also adds a little, futuristic whooshing/whirring sound.

Dynamically speaking, if you consider steering wheel feel (both assist and ratio) and the way Porsche tuned the suspension, the Panamera feels like a big 911. It doesn’t have as much road feel, but the same responsiveness and accuracy. And you do get a good sense of how much grip you have left before reaching the limit.

It shows when you take a cloverleaf interchange quickly. The 4S feels flawless. Furthermore, it’s surprisingly controllable on the low-grip and unpredictable dirt roads near my cottage. The tires are wide enough to skip over most of the potholes and the ones too big to avoid get soaked up well. Impressed.

Inside, there’s a ton of tech, but it’s all easy to learn and use. The temperature control is via switches, meaning if you want to go from 68 to 72 you must press it four times, which is annoying, but the mode buttons are easy read and the touchscreen works quickly. The flanks of the gauge cluster are also customizable, to view whatever you need at that moment. The seats are a little stiff, but supportive, and also massively adjustable. I put the kids in the back with no problems and there was enough room that they couldn’t kick my seats without stretching.

The Porsche Panamera competes with the other big German sedans like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and CLS-Class, the BMW 7- or 6-Series Gran Coupe, and the Audi A8 or A7. But none of them have a hybrid quite like this. It has power to rival big V8s and 30 or so miles of electric driving. My commute, when I had a commute, is 17 miles, with an electricity top off at work, I would never need to fill up with gasoline. And it drives like a big 911.

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