The Porsche Panamera 4E holds a wagon-load of hybrid technology
Porsche Panamera 4 E-Hybrid, from £79,715 (as tested £106,867)
Porsche’s Panamera 4 E-Hybrid represents the summit of today’s auto technology. Its list of achievements is impressive, fusing a twin-turbocharged V6 engine with a hefty battery pack, the E-Hybrid is a true sports saloon that tops out above 170mph, hits 62mph in just over four and a half seconds, carries four grown adults and their luggage and can also slink around the city centre on pure electric power for up to 30 miles. Oh, and it has four wheel drive as well. This combination makes the newest variant of the Panamera some sort of automotive miracle worker, a way of having your high-performance cake and eating it. A literal wagon-load of technology lets you allocate spare kinetic energy to charge the battery. Or of course you could always plug it in.
The current Panamera is a handsome piece of car design, albeit a generously sized one. There are only a few downsides. At over 5m long it’s not ideally sized for regular urban forays and like any slice of cutting edge technology, it doesn’t come cheap. Being a Porsche makes it dearer still – the company has an extensive options list for you to boost the price. There’s also the faint worry that a car this complex is in danger of driving itself into rapid obsolescence, with potentially worrisome upkeep further down the line.
Porsche Panamera 4 E-Hybrid's panoramic widescreen interface
Box fresh and fully fuelled, these thoughts are far from your mind. The big Panamera rides supremely well on its air suspension, and the invisible switching between fuel, hybrid and electric modes is deftly handled. Porsche’s current cabin architecture is second to none, with a panoramic widescreen interface for navigation and information. Press on, and the car effortlessly conceals its massive mass. You can even swap out the V6 for a V8 if you want to ramp up the performance quota (although by this point we’re no longer convinced that a true sports car can have four doors and four seats, and Porsche makes a brace of much better contenders).
Alternatively, you could wait for the forthcoming Sport Turismo, a handsome shooting brake variant of the Panamera designed to take even more luggage. Or most importantly of all, you could hang on for the imminent arrival of Porsche’s all-electric Tesla challenger, previewed by the 2015 Mission E concept. This promises to be a game-changer for the sector, bringing the brand lustre Porsche has built up over decades into the nascent sports electric market. Already, Porsche's hybrid models make up more than half of all Panamera sales (and around 90% of sales in Scandinavia). The E-Hybrid is not only a superb machine in its own right, but a sign of exciting things to come.