Has the electric Porsche Taycan pushed the Panamera aside? Is the Panamera now redundant, archaic, and possibly even unnecessary? We’re here to say that the Panamera isn’t ready for its last rites.
Evidence of that is the 2021 Panamera 4S E-Hybrid Executive. Like all Panameras, it is undergoing a mid-cycle refresh for 2021. The long name reflects all of the best features of the car. The 4 is for all-wheel drive, S stands for high performance, E-Hybrid tells you that it’s a plug-in hybrid, and Executive denotes the wheelbase stretch. Think of it as a limousine that ate a 911 Turbo, had a Toyota Prius Prime for dessert, and then was itself covered in Hershey’s chocolate syrup. It’s freakishly good.
The internal combustion side of the hybrid system is familiar. Under the hood is the corporate twin-turbocharged 2.9-liter V-6. It’s the same engine Porsche uses in versions of the Macan and Cayenne and that Audi bolts in, among other things, the S6 and S7 sports sedans. A 325-hp version of the 2.9-liter is now the standard powerplant in the base 2021 Panamera. In the new Panamera 4S E-Hybrid it has a more serious 443 horsepower and 405 pound-feet of torque.
Between the new engine and its eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, Porsche crams in the heart of the E-Hybrid system: a 134-hp electric motor. While 134 is a modest number of ponies, the motor also thumps along with 295 pound-feet of instant torque. The combination feeds the V-6 and the electric whizzer directly into the transmission. And it’s all good for 552 horsepower and a thumping 553 pound-feet of torque. If you’re checking our math, the motor and engine outputs don’t add up to 577 horsepower and 700 pound-feet of torque because the motor and engine don’t peak at the same rpm.
Last year’s twin-turbocharged V-8-powered Panamera Turbo had a mere 550 horsepower. The 4S E-Hybrid replaces the discontinued Turbo in the 2021 Panamera line, though the monstrous new Turbo S with 620 horsepower and the even more insane Turbo S E-Hybrid stand at the top of the performance mountain.
The Executive model has a wheelbase that is 5.9 inches longer than ordinary Panameras and stretches out a full 204.7 inches long. But the dimensions that announce the Panamera Executive’s presence are its 78.2-inch width and sleek 56.2-inch overall height. This isn’t a car that’s trying to hide its bulk.
While the Taycan uses a floating gauge panel displaying the instrumentation, the Panamera’s centered tachometer and other gauges are still burrowed into the dash. The riot of control buttons that were a hallmark of the first Panamera’s cockpit were replaced by sleek touch-sensitive controls and a touchscreen in this generation, but even that seems like throwback tech compared to the Taycan.
Though the Panamera is a big sedan, it seems far smaller than its Volkswagen Group chassis-mate, the Bentley Flying Spur, or any big Mercedes sedan. It would be better if the front doors were a bit longer to make it easier to get in and out, some of the controls may as well be marked with hieroglyphics, and in a car as elegant as this, we could do without the E-Hybrid’s lime-green badging and painted brake calipers.
The E-Hybrid system’s battery pack has grown from 14.1-kilowatt hours to 17.9, and that 27-percent boost in capacity should be good for 18 miles of electric range. EPA ratings will be released closer to the on-sale date. That, however, misses what’s best about this hefty brawler. Put the 4S E-Hybrid Executive into Sport or Sport Plus, and all the resources go into the service of high-performance entertainment. Porsche claims it will, using launch control, slam to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds and thunder all the way to 185 mph. The short wheelbase version, says the company, will get to 60 mph a tenth quicker.
With the electric motor’s instant low-end torque combined with V-6’s revving character, this isn’t what you might expect of a hybrid. With all the power funneling into the transmission, it feels like a seamless, heavily muscled battleship. Using the paddle shifters to great effect, the 4S E-Hybrid accelerates and responds like a vehicle weighing about a ton less than it does.
Previous Panameras were always impressive at handling despite their mass but were remote in their feedback to the driver. This one, on the other hand, is nearly sports-car chatty. The revised damping and 21-inch wheels wrapped with Michelin Pilot Sport 4S summer tires, sized 275/35 up front and 325/30 in the rear, transmit just enough of the car’s movement into the driver’s butt to feel the tail tucking in or the nose taking a bite into a corner. It’s best in Sport and Sport Plus modes, but it’s even good when trawling in electric cruise. Porsche has also revised the electronic power steering’s assist map to add more effort just off center when the car is at speed.
This particular example was equipped with adaptive sport suspension, 48-volt active anti-roll bars, and carbon-ceramic brake rotors. That the driver doesn’t notice all the computerized negotiation going on between the Panamera and the pavement doesn’t mean it isn’t going on. Porsche is effectively curating what sensations make it into the cockpit and which are filtered out.
The computers are doing such a good job that sometimes this massive machine can briefly act like a 911. There always seems to be traction available, thrust to order, and chassis reflexes that would send an NFL cornerback to All-Pro. The gigantic brakes could stop aging.
Porsche has done such a good job tailoring the driving experience that you might not want to ever sit in back. Yes, there’s plenty of legroom because of the wheelbase stretch and the command controls in the rear center console will satisfy all of your Jean-Luc Picard “Make it so” fantasies. But do you love your chauffeur so much that you’d hand over one of the world’s best sports sedans? Why would anyone want to deny themselves the pleasure of piloting this starship themselves?
And that’s why the Panamera 4S E-Hybrid remains relevant despite the existence of the Taycan. While the Taycan delivers its own brilliant driving experience, it’s a different and quieter one than the Panamera’s. The Taycan simply can’t match the Panamera for the auditory and visceral joy that comes with its internal-combustion engine.
The 2021 Panameras won’t make it to North America until next year; this Truffle Brown example was an early European-spec example. Look for official pricing to be announced right before the car goes on sale. Judging by the current price of a 4S E-Hybrid Executive, we’d guess that the 2021 model will open at about $150,000. That’s a large outlay of cash, but it slots nicely between the prices of the 522-hp Taycan 4S and the 670-hp Taycan Turbo S.
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