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Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid review

Tranquil and economical on the commute, yet it provides acceleration and handling that defies its weight

For us, the 2013 Panamera S E-Hybrid is something of a conundrum. The S E-Hybrid is an £89,000 luxury car that’ll sprint from zero to 62mph in 5.5 seconds, yet it also has a claimed fuel economy of 91mpg. We’d never expect to get the claimed fuel economy, and certainly not if we’re reaching 62mph in 5.5 seconds from a standing start. Even so, a luxury sports car that provides something close to that claimed fuel economy when you’re not tearing down country lanes would be truly phenomenal.

Pan Front 3/4s

The Panamera S E-Hybrid is certainly powerful. It has a front-mounted supercharged 3-litre V6 engine that drives the rear wheels, along with a 95hp electric motor. The electric motor can either power the car alone or it can be used in conjunction with the combustion engine to produce a whopping 416hp at 5,500rpm and 590Nm of torque between 1,250rpm and 4,000rpm.

You can keep the Lithium-ion battery charged with electricity from household electrical mains or a commercial charging station. Conveniently, you can also use the combustion engine to charge the battery.

Porsche puts the S E-Hybrid’s electric range between 11 and 22 miles depending on factors such as driving style and speed, and while that might not match the high ranges of solely electric cars such as the Renault Zoe, which has a claimed range of 62 to 93 miles, the S E-Hybrid’s range might be enough to get to the office and back, or nip to the local retail park. Given the relatively short distances involved in many journeys, such as picking up a loved one from their workplace or a train station, it’s possible that you could restrict use of the combustion engine to long journeys, or when you want to put the sports pedigree of the S E-Hybrid to the test.

Panamera Side Motion Shot


The Panamera S E-Hybrid performs differently depending on the drive mode you’re using. By default, the S E-Hybrid always starts in E-Power mode, which means only the electric motor is driving the wheels.

This seems the most sensible option, especially if you want to conserve fuel, yet it has the side effect of making ‘ignition’ worryingly silent. Turn the key and nothing happens except for the slight rise of a needle on the instrument panel. There’s no cacophonic roar from the exhaust, not even a burble, just an eerie silence that makes you wonder if it’s started at all.

The performance of the Panamera S E-Hybrid’s electric motor is astounding when you consider that this car weighs 2.1 tonnes. It takes up to two seconds for the car to move when you press the accelerator pedal, but then the S E-Hybrid moves off and accelerates at a rate you wouldn’t expect for an electric vehicle of this weight. We had no trouble accelerating to 30mph, and certainly no trouble keeping up with traffic. Our test routes took us through town centres and villages with a healthy amount of inclines and declines, and the S E-Hybrid handled them all well. Throughout our tests the Panamera performed like a fairly powerful supermini, except quietly.

The Panamera S E-Hybrid also exceeded our expectations when we took it on a dual carriageway. Unsure how the S E-Hybrid would perform, we dutifully tucked in behind someone else at the lights, yet we soon found ourselves overtaking other cars and were lining up in the outside lane at the next red. We’d hoped to keep up with traffic, but we didn’t expect to be able to overtake it so easily. Porsche claims a top speed of 83mph when running on the battery, and while we didn’t put that claim to the test we certainly had no trouble cruising between 60 and 70mph.

Panamera S E-Hybrid Rear Motion Shot


Although the car starts in E-Power mode, you can switch out of it any time. When not in E-Power or Sport modes, the S E-Hybrid’s electric motor and combustion engine work in tandem to provide either efficient fuel economy or sports car power, depending on driving style. This mode will suit most drivers best when commuting or cruising on the motorway. As long as there’s enough charge in the battery, the S E-Hybrid runs on the electric motor unless you press the accelerator pedal hard, at which point the combustion engine kicks in and delivers greater propulsion. This system works well and, remarkably, is mostly transparent to the driver.

If you’ve ever driven a car with an idle-stop feature, you’re probably aware of the sudden silence that descends when it engages, and the cough and engine noise that disturbs the peace when you set off again. You’d expect something similar from the S E-Hybrid when the combustion engine kicks in, but there’s none of that. There’s no cough from the starter motor, no shudder caused by a starting engine, just a faint noise from the exhaust and a tranquillity commensurate with a luxury car.

To ensure you’re driving at your most efficient, Porsche has placed a special power meter in the instrument panel that shows when the S E-Hybrid is recuperating energy and how much power it’s producing as a percentage. The first 30 per cent of the meter is coloured green, and that’s the zone in which the S E-Hybrid is most efficient. If you’re driving around town or on the motorway there’s little reason to demand more power, unless you want to escape from a junction quickly or need to overtake, and keeping within the green zone is easy.

In regular hybrid mode, the car’s setup and performance is geared more towards comfort than high performance and speed. There’s plenty of shove from the supercharged engine when you need it, which makes for painless overtaking, but you can’t escape the feeling that the S E-Hybrid is constrained. If you want to experience the S E-Hybrid at its full potential you’ll need to hit the Sport button.

Sport mode makes the throttle more lively and responsive, and stiffens the suspension. The S E-Hybrid is a heavy car, so although there’s plenty of power on tap, and acceleration is very quick, you’re not thrown back in your seat when your stamp your right foot. Even so, it provides the thrilling drive you expect of a Porsche.

Panamera Centre Console II


The Panamera S E-Hybrid uses the eight-speed Tiptronic gearbox rather than the seven-speed, dual-clutch PDK gearbox. We understand the intuition behind this decision, the assumption being that owners of the Diesel and S E-Hybrid models are more like likely to drive more efficiently and won’t want to change gears in a hurry. We also agree with the decision to a large extent, but having used the PDK gearbox in other Porsche models we can’t help but miss it.


As the Panamera S E-Hybrid is a Porsche, it’s blessed with handling that defies its 2.1-tonne weight whether the Sport button is pressed or not. There’s no escaping that weight, though, and you will find yourself braking earlier than you would in lighter Porsches. Even so, we took corners in the S E-hybrid at speeds we wouldn’t dare attempt in a light supermini. The Panamera S E-Hybrid is equipped with various safety systems such as traction control and Porsche Stability Management that keep it on the road and heading in the direction in which you want to travel. We’ve been lucky enough to drive the S E-Hybrid on the track as well as the road, and in each case it was our head that told us to brake early. The car never gave us cause for concern, and we knew after each corner that we could’ve pushed it further.

The Panamera’s steering is light at low speeds. This makes parking theoretically easy, but the long, wide body of the Panamera makes parking in tight supermarket and multi-storey car parks difficult. Thankfully, the Panamera has excellent visibility through all windows

The steering doesn’t have the lively, enthusiastic feel of the 911 or Cayman, but it‘s pitched exactly right for this car.


In regular ‘comfort’ mode the ride was supremely smooth, and the S E-Hybrid seemed to float along the road. Much of our test environment is strewn with speed bumps so severe that you wonder if they exist to increase road safety or are simply there for malicious intent. There are also massive pot holes, more than you’d think it’s possible for a council to ignore. The S E-Hybrid handled both obstacles with wondrous ease, passing over the sharpest speed bumps as if they weren’t there and eliciting nothing more than a small bump when we drove over pot holes that would violently jolt many other cars.

Panamera Overhead Pier Shot

Indeed, we’re unsure if we can emphasise the comfort, peace and tranquillity of the Panamera S E-Hybrid enough. Road noise is kept to a minimum, even at high speeds, and there’s little noise from the exhaust. When running on battery power around town, the Panamera is silent save for the barely audible tell-tale whine of an electric motor. This has its drawbacks, most notably the fact that people can’t hear you coming and pull out of their drives without checking their mirrors, or step out into the road without looking. It does, however, ensure the calm and quiet expected of a luxury car.

During our time with the Panamera S E-Hybrid we made two five-hour journeys that should have been three hours long. Even in the best cars, that’s the kind of journey that would test our nerves and send our stress levels through the roof, yet we arrived at our destinations annoyed but physically calm and relaxed. Our hands weren’t buzzing because of the constant vibration of the steering wheel, and we didn’t require the swift services of a chiropractor and bartender. If you spend much of your time travelling and need to be in tip-top condition when you arrive at your destination, this is the car for you.

Panamera Rear Seats


Other people may disagree, but we think the Panamera’s interior has something art deco about it. The dashboard and centre console are typically Porsche, but everything’s bigger, with long, graceful lines that put us in mind of the opening credits of Jeeves and Wooster and The Wolseley. In fact, we don’t think it’d look out of place in Fritz Leng’s Metropolis. The Panamera’s taut, purposeful interior certainly provides a good alternative to the fussy interiors of many luxury cars.

There are only four seats, as the rear seats are separated by a centre console of their own. This arrangement suits the Panamera. With a 5’ 8” passenger behind a 5’ 8” driver, there was plenty of room for the rear passenger to stretch out, so even tall passengers should have ample room in most cases.

You’d expect the S E-Hybrid to have one of the best multimedia and satnav systems available. Sadly, the PCM version installed in our review car doesn’t stand up to the best multimedia systems, such as Renault’s R-Link system, graphically or functionally. It’s far from terrible, but it does look tired and PCM makes performing certain tasks more than it should be.

Panamera PCM

As an example, you select a track or album from a specific audio source by first selecting a folder, then the album and then the specific track you want to play. Going through each menu is laborious and requires many button presses and scrolling through menus. Annoyingly, that effort isn’t enough to play the track you’ve chosen, you then have to press the Start Playback button. Bear in mind that if you’re driving while doing this your eyes will be very much off the road.

Thankfully, you can use the customisable information display in the instrument panel to drill down through menus and select tracks, but it’s still a more long-winded process than is necessary.

Annoyingly, PCM’s control buttons are located at the point at which the centre console meets the dashboard, and it’s extremely easy to knock the gear stick into Manual when you reach for them. This immediately disengages E-Power and E-Charge modes, which can be maddening. This problem could be avoided with the use of a smaller gear lever.

Given Porsche’s obsession with precision, it came as no surprise that the audio system had a flat output, with no particular frequency band standing out. From there, you can tailor the sound to your preference with the onscreen 2-band equaliser, or tick the onscreen Loudness button if you want a gentle bass boost. With the Loudness button activated, our test tracks sounded great.

PCM Tracklisting

Perhaps the best feature of the audio system is the Jukebox function. This lets you copy tracks from a media source, such as a USB flash drive, to PCM’s onboard storage. You can then access these tracks whenever you want, so you have no need to keep a mobile phone, USB flash drive or CD inserted. This is a fantastic feature, as it lets you upload your favourite albums to the car so that you can keep the USB port free your passengers.


The Panamera S E-Hybrid has a 335-litre boot capacity, which is 110 litres less than a regular Panamera. Even so, that’s plenty of space for shopping and luggage for a few days away. The boot is deep, and we had no problem getting a suitcase, a few camera flight cases and a microphone boom in the S E-Hybrid. The only problem we can envisage is if you want to load the Panamera S-E Hybrid with many large suitcases for a long family holiday. It’s worth noting that the seats fold down to provide 1,153 litres of storage. There’s also plenty of storage dotted around the cabin.

Panamera S E-Hybrid Boot


To get the best fuel economy you’ll need to keep the battery charged, and there are two methods of doing this. You can either plug the S E-Hybrid directly into a power source, such as your household electrical mains, or you can press the E-Charge button on the centre console and have the combustion engine charge the battery.

The Panamera S E-Hybrid comes with a device called the Porsche Universal Charger, which ensures that the battery is charged correctly. You attach one end to your household mains and the other end to the S E-Hybrid. Alternatively, you could charge the S E-Hybrid at one of the growing numbers of commercial charging stations.

The first method, plugging your car into the mains, sounds the best solution, but we encountered a couple of problems. The Porsche Universal Charger won’t let you charge the battery if it’s plugged into an extension bar, but it wouldn’t work when we plugged it straight into a mains socket either. Porsche recommends having the chargers professionally installed so that everything is tested properly and works correctly.

Panamera S E-Hybrid Electric Plug

We kept the S E-Hybrid’s battery charged by engaing E-Charge mode. The obvious disadvantage with E-Charge is that you’ll consume more fuel, which means it isn’t the best method to use if you want to reduce your fuel bill. With E-Charge enabled, our average fuel consumption dropped to 28mpg. If you buy a Panamera S E-Hybrid you’ll definitely want to keep it charged via the mains.

We drove the S E-Hybrid round town for 9.7 miles in regular hybrid mode. The car ran on electric power for much of the journey, with the combustion engine briefly bursting into life if we put our foot down. Our average fuel consumption for this trip, according to PCM, was 46.3mpg. That’s not bad, but it’s lower than we think it should be. We drove the car as we would any other, as that’s how owners will drive it. At one point, we put our foot down to pull out of a junction quickly, and this one action seems to have reduced the average figure considerably. This reduction seems to be a result of the way the trip computer calculates average fuel consumption, and we think the actual fuel consumption on the journey was better than 46.3mpg.

When driving on the motorway, PCM reported an average fuel consumption of 49.6mpg.

Both of these figures are impressive when you consider the weight and power of the Panamera S E-Hybrid, and there’s no doubt you’ll save money on many journeys. You will, of course, burn more fuel if you engage Sport mode, or race around town. You’ll also have to factor in the cost of recharging the batteries with increasingly expensive mains electricity.

The S E-Hybrid is exempt from the London Congestion charge, which will appeal if you’re regularly in the capital. It’s also exempt from vehicle excise duty, and its low emissions make it a tax efficient company car.

Panamera S E-Hybrid Rear Motion Shot


As for rivals, we like the Jaguar XJ, and if you simply want a high performance luxury car it’s tempting to spend much less on the XJ Premium Luxury model or slightly more on the XJR. We haven’t driven the XJR, but it certainly won’t have the fuel economy of the Panamera S E-Hybrid, while the regular XJ feels heavier in corners and doesn’t feel as sporty as the Panamera S E-Hybrid.

The Panamera S E-Hybrid is not the car to buy if you want to belt up and down the King’s Road with a thunderous roar, but it is the high-performance car to buy if you want peace, tranquillity and great fuel economy during the commute, and superb performance and handling when you fancy a bit of fun.

Book your test drive at your nearest Porsche Centre.

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