2018 Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo First Drive Review


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Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo: It might be the longest make/model name in automotive history, but the marketing guys at Porsche want you to know exactly what you’re getting when you shell out almost $190,000 for the company’s fastest, most powerful, ultra-luxe wagonoid thingy. Arno Bögl, director of powertrain for the Panamera lineup, describes it another way, however: “The 918 Spyder for the whole family.”

The Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo is … Hold up. Before we go any further, how about we adopt military practice and use an acronym instead? Our hardworking Motor Trend copy editors, Jesse and Mary, would appreciate wrangling fewer words. So how about P-TEST? Yeah, there’s an S missing, and pedants would probably want the H in there as well, but the folks in the Pentagon’s acronym department don’t let awkward letters get in the way of their mission. Let’s go with P-TEST. It’s close enough for government work.

Now, where were we? Ah, yes … The P-TEST is Porsche’s idea of a plug-in hybrid family hatchback, combining the company’s new 550-hp twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 with a 136-hp electric motor mounted between the engine and the eight-speed PDK transmission to create a driveline with a system output of 680 hp from 5,750 rpm to 6,000 rpm and 626 lb-ft of torque from 1,400 rpm to 5,000 rpm. Although it has room for five, and more load space than its sedan counterpart, Porsche’s idea of a plug-in hybrid family hatchback is clearly a little different from Toyota’s.

Plug-in hybrids are supposed to be all about fuel efficiency, and although we don’t yet have official EPA numbers, the P-TEST is sorta, kinda fuel-efficient in the sense that you can drive it up to 30 miles, at speeds of up to 86 mph, without burning a drop of gas. But to Bögl, this is almost a fringe benefit: “We regard the hybrid system as a performance system,” he says, “the performance system of the future.” Philosophically, the Porsche P-TEST’s hybrid powertrain is similar to that of the 918 Spyder—the 214-mph, 887-hp hypercar that once held our production car lap record at Laguna Seca. Bögl says the P-TEST will hit 60 mph in 3.2 seconds and zoom to 192 mph, making it—along with the standard wheelbase Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid sedan—the quickest and fastest of the 16-model Panamera lineup.

In that sense, the P-TEST is indeed a 918 Spyder for the whole family. But that’s about as far as the analogy goes—for despite all the electrons whizzing around under the skin, helping deliver those the impressive acceleration and top speed numbers, getting all donner und blitzen on a tight and twisting canyon road is a strangely uninvolving experience. Although loaded with the latest in Porsche dynamics technology—all-wheel steering is about the only option—this turismo is simply too big, too heavy, to drive like a sports car.

Switching to Sport or Sport + modes—Porsche’s Sport Chrono package is standard—stiffens the P-TEST’s sinews, keeps the twin-turbo V-8 fired up at all times, and switches the electric motor to DEFCON 1, ready to instantly assist the internal combustion engine to deliver maximum thrust on demand. Thus configured, the big Porsche indeed makes rapid progress. But despite the test track data, from behind the wheel it doesn’t feel as thunderously fast on the road as, say, a Mercedes-AMG E63 wagon or even the bigger AMG S-class sedan.

That’s the downside of having to haul around a 14.1kWhr lithium-ion battery pack. Tipping the scales at a hefty 5,125 pounds, the P-TEST weighs 456 pounds more than an E63 wagon and 319 pounds more than an S63 sedan. Although the Porsche still has a marginally better power-to-weight ratio than either AMG car, the hybrid powertrain’s delivery is much less melodramatic, and the big V-8 seems oddly reluctant to be taken to its 6,800-rpm redline. And—despite all-wheel drive and a torque-vectoring e-diff at the rear, plus massive tires (275/35 ZR21 up front, and 325/30 ZR21 at the rear)—there’s no disguising the effect of that extra mass in the twisty bits, even in cars fitted with the optional rear-wheel steering.

No, the P-TEST does its best work as … a hybrid. Leave the steering wheel mounted Sport Chrono controller switched to Hybrid mode, and P-TEST comes into its own as a fast, relaxed, efficient grand touring car. The height-adjustable three-chamber air spring suspension and active anti-roll bars deliver a comfortable yet controlled ride (though, as with the Panamera sedan, the aggressive wheel/tire package means more road noise and impact harshness on less than perfect roads), and the software controlling the hybrid powertrain seamlessly integrates operation of the internal combustion engine, e-motor, and eight-speed PDK transmission to deliver the best mix of performance and fuel economy.

The standard 3.5kW on-board charger replenishes the P-TEST’s battery in 6 hours when plugged into a Level 2 charger, and an optional 7.2kW on-board charger drops that time to 2.4 hours. In Hybrid mode, with the battery at a normal state of charge, the P-TEST automatically drives off under electric power, with the internal combustion engine firing up only when the computer decides it’s required to meet load demand or battery charge parameters. However drivers can choose to activate an E-Hold mode to maintain battery’s state of charge, ensuring there’s adequate charge left for zero-emission e-driving at their destination, or an E-Charge mode that gets the V-8 engine to develop more power than is actually needed for driving so the battery can be charged on the fly.


The P-TEST is the second-most expensive Panamera you can buy, topped only by the extended wheelbase Executive sedan with the same powertrain, which stickers for about $195,000. Porsche is clearly positioning hybrid as a premium powertrain, laying the groundwork for further electrification of Porsches over the coming decade and the forthcoming launch of the all-electric coupe-like four-door based on the gorgeous Mission E concept.

Technically, the smooth and fast 2018 Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo is an impressive piece of work. And that mouthful of a moniker pretty much tells you exactly what you’re driving, though we’d argue it’s more ‘turismo’ than ‘sport.’

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