Test Drive: 2018 Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid

Often, when starting up a big-horsepower car early in the morning, there’s worry that you’ll cause a racket. Perhaps a dull, building-penetrating roar will stir your neighbours from their slumber, trigger nearby birds to go silent in assessing the sound, or wake up any sleeping infant within a few hundred feet.

This machine is about as big-power as big-power cars get, but since it’s a hybrid, it starts in silence just before driving off without making a peep.

Once, my neighbour told me that the cold-start exhaust blast from a Dodge Challenger T/A 392 rattled the toothbrush off of his bathroom counter at 6:45 am. I said I was sorry (a lie).

Just last week when firing up the Camaro SS via remote start a moment before getting in, the snarly blurt from the tailpipes caused two nearby canines to engage alert mode, barking loudly at 5:45 am. Sorry again, neighbours! (PS, get the sports exhaust).

But with more big-power cars making the shift to electrification, these exhaust-noise shenanigans may soon be a thing of the past – and the 2018 Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid is one example of why.

Make no apologies (to the neighbours)

This machine is about as big-power as big-power cars get, but since it’s a hybrid, it starts in silence just before driving off without making a peep. If you’re listening closely, you might hear a few relays clicking, and motors whirring with muted restraint on the other side of the firewall. Still, it’s incredibly discreet – and totally apt for making early-morning getaways in silence.

The Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid is presently the most cutting-edge car Porsche builds. It’s a machine of firsts, a rolling showcase of the latest Porsche technologies on offer in their finest form, and arguably their most convincing display of advanced performance firepower.

This hybrid-propulsion Porsche four-door slots in above the Panamera Turbo S in the product portfolio – marking the first time that the highest-performing version of a mainstream Porsche has been hybrid-powered.

Though the 918 Spyder did Porsche hybrid performance first, it was a nearly-million-dollar supercar, and only a handful were made. I drove the 918 once. It was terrifying – so fast and expensive, they wouldn’t even let us drive it on public roads. That machine is now out of production, though it was, among other things, a promise of things to come. Today, the brand is making good on that promise.

Porsche is whetting the appetites of electric performance buffs with the Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid. Are plug-in hybrids like this a bridge between old-school gas propulsion and a future where all vehicles are electric? Maybe so, maybe no – but there’s a new, all-electric sports car coming from Porsche soon, and today, this new range-topping rocket-Panamera Turbo E-Hybrid is here to tide us over.

Hang on to your pants (and your licence)

Under the hood is a 4.0-litre V8, twin turbocharged for an absurd 550 horsepower.

But wait, there’s more.

A 14 kWh battery and electric motor hooked up to that engine jack power output to a combined 680 horsepower, backed by 626 pounds of torque. There’s all-wheel drive (AWD) and a dual-clutch transmission that shifts in a blink, enabling 0–97 km/h in just 3.4 seconds. That’s fast enough to flatten your lungs, tie a 911 GT3 in a drag race, and pin this electrified Panamera very firmly amongst the world’s very fastest four-doors.

The full-throttle acceleration, even from the first foot or two of movement, is almost startling. It’s so sudden and abrupt – thanks to the electric motors filling in during that moment when the turbochargers aren’t quite breathing yet – that you’ll wonder if you’ve been rear-ended. Wheelspin? Electronic torque management on the throttle? Drama? A wait for a build up to maximum thrust?

Naw.

The combination of instant electric torque and nearly instant twin-turbo V8 torque means this machine just goes, right now. Hammer it from a stop, and the forces imparted on your body are, I’d imagine, similar to being hit by a speeding bus.

Do be careful: you’re never more than three quick upshifts away from a deep dive into demerit point territory, and that’s even if the trash-can-lid-sized ceramic brake rotors and telltale acid-green calipers reduce your speed even faster than it piles on.

You’re in charge (of the battery charge)

On the other side of the equation, you can plug in at your convenience to recharge the battery, and drive about 45 kilometres per charge using no gas at all. Not a drop. (If you want a charger cord to bring with you while travelling, you’ll have to cough up an extra $960, though).

There’s even a special drive mode that holds that all-electric battery charge for later if you like, and another one that’s intended to recharge the battery slowly as you drive around on gas power. The gist? You’re the boss of this Panamera’s hybrid system.

You control it all via the preset drive modes, toggled via a pleasant little dial on the steering wheel. Set it to E for all-electric (the default), and you’re clear for a few dozen kilometres of driving, using no fuel. Twist it into H, for Hybrid, and a constantly optimized blend of gasoline power and electricity moves the car along, like a regular plug-in hybrid. Engage S for SPORT and you get more power and response, and feel a tension build in the car as the steering and suspension firm and heavy up.

Or, call on S+ for Sport PLUS where the “Turbo S” side of the Panamera’s nomenclature comes to life. Here, it’s all systems go, maximum performance – 680 instant, electric-boosted horsepower – and AWD for off-the-line acceleration that’ll nearly see your lungs squish out of your eyeballs. In the process, as is appropriate for a luxury flagship, the sound is tastefully restrained: a potent snarl that’s not ghostly-quiet, but almost. Some drivers will wish for more noise, but keeping things quiet is a good thing, as getting carried away on the throttle in this machine can be lethal for your driver’s licence.

The technology works. After 1,200 kilometres, I’d managed a combined (measured by hand) 8.8 L/100 km. I’ve literally put more fuel through a Honda Accord, and this has as much horsepower as nearly four of them combined.

On the handling front, Panamera feels more impressive for how well it handles given its size and weight, than for the handling itself. This isn’t Porsche’s ultimate driver’s car, but you’ll marvel regularly that they’ve made something this big and heavy move the way it does. It seems a triumph of go-fast engineering over size and mass, and as Porsches tend to, handling and grip and braking and acceleration are all matched perfectly to one another, with nothing overwhelming anything else. You’ve got the full toolkit here.

Room with your zoom

Thing is, in addition to being the second-most-powerful Porsche you can buy, it’s also a Panamera. This means you’ve got a full-function luxury flagship with a great ride, lots of space, and all of the feature content you’d expect at the price-point, wrapped up on one of the most striking cabins going.

Swanky touches are deployed alongside plenty of high-tech, ultra-modern flair. This cabin, just like the powertrain, is out of this world – proudly flaunting tech and posh with equal force, and making you feel like you’re at the helm of the USS Enterprise. That’s appropriate since there’s basically a warp-drive under the hood.

Don’t miss the gloss-black backlit touch pads running up the centre console, or the gorgeous instrumentation, or the numerous additional displays and lights that help you keep track of what the hybrid system is up to via flitting LED indicators, on-screen animations, and the frequent grin-inducing drop of the tachometer needle to 0 RPM, even while cruising at highway speeds.

This is a tricky machine to sum up. It’s one of the highest-performing Porsche models ever made and one of the fastest sedans in the world. But despite its ability to almost literally peel your face off (and use very little fuel to do it), it does the comfortable cruiser thing so well that you can just ooze along, smugly, enjoying the tranquility and quiet, again using tiny amounts of fuel, and all while knowing you could pass an 18-wheeler in the time it takes you to stuff your sneaker to the firewall.

And, given the thrifty mileage, you’re clear for well over a full day’s cruising with, perhaps, 1,000 kilometres or more available on a full tank and a full battery. Used as a touring car, the ride quality is far more forgiving than the performance may suggest, the high-end stereo is vivid and potent, and it’s a great place to unwind and decompress and socialize on the open road. I find the Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid a relaxing, world-class, all-weather tourer with an absurd amount of firepower in its back pocket, rather than an all-out performance plaything that’s happy to settle down and play nice on a long highway drive.

Gripes? It’s incredibly expensive, for one. Heck, my tester carried over $5,000 in add-on costs simply relating to seats, and seatbelt colours. And though Panamera is now a sleeker-looking and more cohesive-looking machine than its first-generation predecessor, the looks still aren’t for everyone.

What’s the ask for one of Porsche’s fastest cars, and right now, their most cutting edge? My tester, with options, clocked in at $230,000. Interestingly, that’s $50,000 more than the BMW i8 Roadster I drove a few weeks prior (review coming soon). If you’re wondering, for that premium over the i8, you get twice as many seats, about eight times the cargo volume, and a much, much faster car.

Machines like these won’t save the atmosphere with their cutting-edge tech, since they’re priced so far beyond mass acceptance that their impact will be minimal. Still, take the Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid as a strong signal of things to come, and one of the market’s most stunningly advanced (and fastest) sedans. I’m off to buy a lottery ticket.

2018 Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid
Engine Displacement: 4.0L
Engine Cylinders: V8
Peak Horsepower: 680 hp @ 5,750 rpm
Peak Torque: 626 lb-ft @ 1,400 rpm
Fuel Economy: 4.8 Le/100 km
Cargo Space: 405 L
articles_PricingType 2018 Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid
Base Price $209,800
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,250
Price as Tested $231,790
Optional Equipment $20,640 – Bordeaux Red Leather $610; Heated Multifunction Steering Wheel $600; Power Memory Seating $2,630; Power Rear Sunshade $450; Carbon-Fibre Interior Package $1,140; Park Assist $1,360; LED Taillamps with Adaptive Brake Lights $960; Bordeaux Red Seatbelts $750; On-Board Charger $960; Premium Package Plus $3,180; Massage Multifunction Seats $2,320; Assistance Package $5,680
Optional Equipment
10 0
Scoring breakdowns 8.6
7 Styling
9 Powertrain
9 Quality
8 Comfort
9 Practicality
8 Drivability
9 Usability/Ergonomics
10 Fuel Economy
9 Features
8 Value